South Sudan’s information minister Michael Chiengjiek said a standoff at a notorious detention center in the capital Juba had been resolved peacefully.
More than a dozen inmates had disarmed prison guards and seized part of the National Security Service (NSS) headquarters on Sunday.
The hostage situation was orchestrated by a detained NSS officer, Keribino Wol, who is in administrative detention awaiting trial, according to a statement released by NSS.
The NSS statement added that Wol overpowered a guard at the entrance of the Blue House compound and disarmed him.
After opening the prison gate by firing shots at the locks, Captain Keribino Wol then “mobilised” 15 detainees and with 32 seized guns and knives, “took over one part of the prison”.
“We’re fed up and we’re protesting systematic injustice and oppression. All political prisoners and detainees need to be released or given fair trial. The lack of trials is illegal,” Wol told Reuters via phone from inside the prison.
Chiengjiek told South Sudan TV that Wol had been compelled by his relatives to give up his arms, effectively resolving the standoff.
“We reached an agreement with the government to lay down our weapons…we are asking for access to lawyers and to fair trials. We are afraid now we will be tortured,” Wol said.
He said he was detained in April and had been held without charge ever since.
Human rights violation center?
The jail is part of the headquarters of the NSS. The prison has repeatedly drawn condemnation from human rights organisation over the alleged illegal detention of prisoners, torture and suspicious deaths.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, broke away from Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody independence struggle.
But just two years later, fresh conflict broke out when President Salva Kiir accused rebel leader Riek Machar of plotting a coup.
The civil war has killed more than 380,000 people and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Last month, Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in an attempt to end the unrest, which is often fought along tribal lines and characterised by massacres of civilians, rape and looting.
But international observers remain sceptical of the agreement, saying that entrenched distrust between the two men was likely to hamper peace efforts.