Jailed SPLA-IO soldiers die in DRC prison

Jailed SPLA-IO soldiers die in DRC prison
Photo credit: Al Jazeera

At least five people have died out of the 20 SPLA-IO soldiers and civilians jailed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About 20 SPLA-IO officers and civilians were sentenced to 3 to 5 years imprisonment for carrying firearms and cross-border theft between 2017 to 2021.

A 12-year-old boy was also arrested on February 9, 2020, at the border of the DRC in Aba and was convicted for five years for stealing.

Speaking to The City Review yesterday, the Anglican Bishop Alfred William Lasu and the general overseer of Four Square Gospel Church in South Sudan revealed that the convicts were in a dire condition.

He said their condition in the facility is deteriorating due to a lack of food and medical care.

According to the new update he shared with The City Review, out of the 20 South Sudanese convicts, 15 of them are currently in Dungu Prison.

The convicts include seven SPLA-IO officers and eight civilians. But four of them are said to be seriously sick.

“Those people are just crying they sent me a message that they are suffering. There is no food for them and that [they should] let authorities here speed up their release,” said Bishop William.

The cleric said he had presented the details to the minister of the Cabinet of Affairs, Dr Martin Elia Lomuro, the speaker of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Jemma Nunu Kumba, and the Central Equatoria State minister of cabinet affairs to follow up on the issue.

Efforts for help

“I went to the minister of cabinet affairs the day before yesterday because he is a member of IO. He said they are working on it and, according to him, they have been sending money to those boys, but the money did not reach them,” William told The City Review.

He added that the minister said the money was sent through some individuals who acted as conduits.

Meanwhile, Bishop Martin Malish, who visited the prison facility where the soldiers and civilians are being imprisoned, said the condition of the prison was not good.

He said more prisoners would die if they are not helped to come out from the facility.

Malish stressed that among the 20 people who were jailed five of them had already died at the facility due to hunger.  

“They were 20 but five died in the prison. They are now 15 but their health is not good because Congo prison is not like ours here where some people will sympathise with you and come with bread, so their situation is not good.”

“We are trying to get them away because it hurts more like a bishop and you know the life of the people.” So, I felt there should be a way of getting them out from there. Others their sentence will end in January but to still stay in that prison up to January is another hard thing,” he added.

He said the church is trying to find a way of getting those out of prison because their cases are not related to criminal activities.

“We need to get away from getting those people out, their cases are not big it is just because they had entered into the country when they were in combat. They do not have other criminal cases. So, I did not get the details of their files because they told me to go to the court but they were taken to court and they just read the names and there is nothing more than that,” said Bishop Malish.

Last month, the clergyman told The City Review that some of the prisoners died at the facility and that their figure and identity were not disclosed.

 “The list is fifteen people in the number who are in the prison and the list of those who were not in the list but five died in the prison according to them,” he said.

The Bishop said he will continue to coordinate with the government to ensure that those people are attended to by authorities in South Sudan.

The last time The City Review contacted SPLA-IO Spokesperson Col. Lam Paul about the issue, he said he was not aware of the report but pledged to follow up on it and front for a possible solution.

“I did not hear about the report of SPLA-IO members being arrested but I got a report that some South Sudanese are being detained in DRC. If they are SPLA-IO members then we would need to find out from the government of DRC,” Lam told The City Review.