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Aweil - 6 Nov 2021

Aweil North authorities free 10 suspected looters of UN compound

Ten people who were accused of looting the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) compound in Gokmachar on Monday were freed mid this week, government authorities in Aweil North County, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State have said.

The developments came days after the UNISFA withdrew its last contingent from Aweil North County. Sources who preferred anonymity blamed the interim security force for evacuating their compound without handing over the properties they left behind to the government or the local community.

The looted materials included bags of cement bags, beds, mattresses, and refrigerators among others.  

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj Friday, the Aweil North County Commissioner, Victorino Ken Akoon, confirmed that the ten suspected looters were arrested on Monday and freed later after the recovery of what had been stolen.

“Ten people were detained temporarily because it was an embarrassment to the government and we consider it as a conspiracy against the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei because they (UNISFA) would have come out to respond by saying that they did not hand over nothing to the community nor informed the government to safeguard the compound so that the government would be free from blame,” Commissioner Ken said.

One of the freed community suspects, William Wel Deng, said he was arrested after the county commissioner misunderstood his nine Facebook posts where he was intending to mobilize the communities to turn out in large numbers to give a last farewell to the UNISFA but not to loot.

“In my nine Facebook posts which are politicized by the county commissioner, I intended to call the community to turn out and give farewell to the UNISFA, but the commissioner misinterpreted that I was instigating the community to loot the deserted camp,” Wel said.

However, Wel added that only three cartons of sports materials were handed to them officially by the UNISFA.  Deng vowed to file a court case against the commissioner and the local military brigade commander.

Another young man who was set free, Manyang Anyuon Ngong, said he will maintain his silence because he has no authority to question the government over his unclear detention.

“I will just keep quiet because I do not have the power to question the government authorities over my illegal arrest. I am not okay as of now because I am sick since they arrested me and I was not sick before they arrested me,” Ngong said.

The UNISFA peacekeepers had earlier been deployed across the northern parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State to ensure security and maintain peace between Sudan and South Sudan. The local communities recently accused UNISFA of annexing their lands in Kiir Adem and Gokmachar areas of Aweil North and War Abar area of Aweil East to neighboring Sudan and on 11 August carried out a series of peaceful demonstrations demanding the withdrawal of the UN troops from their areas. 

The first batch of UNISFA troops withdrew in late August after the communities blocked the transportation of their supplies including food items, medicines, and blocked them from carrying out security patrols and other activities.