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South Sudan Businessman Takes Up Arms

South Sudan
South Sudan

A South Sudanese businessman and philanthropist, Kerbino Agok Wol, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for allegedly leading a riot at the National Security headquarters, also known as Blue House, in Juba on October 7, 2018, has formed a new rebel group.

Wol had originally been detained in April 2018 and held at the Blue House without being charged. After the disturbance that October he was charged with violating sections 67, 72, 79 and 47 of the South Sudan penal code of 2008, but later was released in a presidential pardon in January 2020.

Wol said his new group, the October 7th Movement, which he named after the day he rioted in detention, will fight the government of South Sudan to bring change in his country.

“It is a new movement that is launched in South Sudan. This is a very, very historical day, and I would like to greet my fellow citizens.”

He said membership of his new group is made of young South Sudanese yearning for change.

“The young people of South Sudan that [are] finally awaken by the suppression and the injustices and the failure of the leadership in the country. So they have taken the lead to liberate themselves from the oppression and failed leadership in the country.”

The government of South Sudan was summoned by the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the South Sudan’s Advocates-General, a civil society group, to appear before an East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, on March 25, 2019, over the arbitrary arrest and detention of Wol.

Amnesty International said following the riot at the Blue House detention center, Wol was reportedly put under solitary confinement, after which his health seriously deteriorated.

The UK-based rights group said that several days after the riot, he authorities seized Wol’s properties and froze his personal and business bank accounts.

Wol told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus via satellite from undisclosed location that his group is based inside South Sudan. He said he left the capital, Juba, few days ago.

“I am deep in the sacred land of this country. I am in the home soil of the country standing in solidarity with my fellow citizens.”

When asked about size of his October 7th Movement, Wol says 1,000 young men have joined him in the rural areas of South Sudan.

The new rebel leader said the headquarters of the movement is in the countryside. “We are starting in the countryside and later walk our way [to] the capital.”

The leader of the October 7th Movement said there is violence all over South Sudan and his group wants to bring an end to the suffering of South Sudanese.

“When there is lack of will from the [South Sudanese] leadership, you cannot have peace. Peace [agreements] remain violated, people are dying day and night,” Wol said.

He said thousands of South Sudanese died in Jonglei state, Tonj and Lakes state this year.

“Where is the peace? Peace is not for the elite. Peace must prevail for all South Sudanese. Peace only prevails in Juba while thousands are dying in the countryside,” Wol said.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.