Yambio commissioner Hussein Enocha told Radio Tamazuj that a team from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), which investigates and reports on ceasefire violations in South Sudan, were expelled to Juba on Thusday 17 March after Governor Raphael Patrick Zamoi alleged they had come at the wrong time.
They were arrested the day before on Wednesday 16 March and held overnight.
“Yes it happened, and the issue was under state authority not under county authority, but the information I received was the governor was expecting visitors from presidency for special meeting and the CTSAMM arrived at wrong time and that why the governor was annoyed,” Enocha said.
Enocha said he could not comment on whether the arrest and expulsion of a ceasefire monitoring team was a violation of South Sudan’s ceasefire because the decision was taken at the state not the county level.
CTSAMM did not make any public comment on the arrest and expulsion of their monitoring team from Yambio until questioned by Radio Tamazuj today Thursday 24 March.
CTSAMM said: “The events of 16 March in which five CTSAMM personnel were detained and subsequently expelled from Yambio have been condemned both by the CTSAMM and the Government of South Sudan. CTSAMM are working with the Government to ensure the situation is resolved and have been been given assurances that the Yambio [monitoring team] can return to the area. The CTSAMM subsequently launched an investigation into last week’s events.”
However, Radio Tamazuj is unaware of any public condemnation of the arrest and expulsion to date by CTSAMM or the government.
The monitoring group did not respond to Radio Tamazuj’s query regarding what incidents their teams were investigating in Yambio, but in a press conference held last Wednesday in Juba, a CTSAMM spokesperson said their teams had confirmed two violations of the ceasefire in Western Equatoria state since late December.
At the press conference, which took place the same day as the arrests in Yambio, the spokesperson pointed out that CTSAMM has a close working relationship with both government and opposition, but made no mention of the arrests.
Last week’s arrest and expulsion is not the first time CTSAMM has faced harassment by government authorities in Western Equatoria. In December, an SPLA officer threatened to shoot a CTSAMM monitoring team if they tried to investigate alleged helicopter gunship attacks in the Mundri area.
File photo: CTSAMM Chairman Major General Molla Hailemariam. Credit: UNMISS/JC