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Aid Group’s Leader Detained in South Sudan

FILE - A U.N. protection of civilians (POC) site is shown in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, where approximately 29,000 IDPs stay, Dec. 8, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
FILE - A U.N. protection of civilians (POC) site is shown in Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, where approximately 29,000 IDPs stay, Dec. 8, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)

Officials with Wau’s Unity Cultural and Development Center, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, said security operatives arrested its executive director and have yet to provide a reason for his arrest.

An official with the organization, who spoke to South Sudan in Focus, said Angelo Bensencio Mangu was detained two weeks ago and his colleagues have been contacting security operatives to try to find out the reason for his arrest.

Detained two weeks

His wife, Leticia Simom Adriano, says she has visited the security detention facility in Wau where he is being held but has not been allowed to see or speak to him. She says she worries about her husband’s welfare.

“We are really afraid for the past two weeks. I have been cooking and taking it to (the) detention (center) but I have never seen him. So how would you guarantee if he is there or not? Whenever I go there I cry,” she said.

Yhohanna Philip, program coordinator for the organization, also is concerned.

“Unfortunately, the director continues to be in detention for two weeks now without any charges or official investigation. Our office also confirmed that his close family members were denied access to see him after visiting the detention twice, and together with the family, we are also concerned about his health status,” he said.

Philip said the same day Bensencio was arrested, security operatives stormed their office and confiscated two vehicles, five laptops, a printer and files.

He said the office has been paralyzed since.

Humanitarian aid suffers

“UCDC is one of the lead agencies in food assistance distribution in six IDPs sites including Cathedral, Lokoloko, Nazareth, Sikka Hadid, Abunybuny and South Sudan Red Cross compound in Wau. We definitely regret the suspension and the consequences that it is already having on the vulnerable communities that we serve in Wau,” Philip said.

Philip said some of the assets confiscated by security operatives in Wau are being used by the military, which is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

“Surprisingly, it has come to our notice that the detained Land Cruiser pickup plate No. SSD 822 G- was seen last Thursday moving in and around Wau town carrying armed soldiers and supplies. Notes that it was also seen late Friday evening between Kwajok and Gogirial town. And as we speak now it is also seen on the way moving to Awiel,” Philip said.

Philip and Bensencio’s wife are urging the Wau state authorities and rights groups to intervene and secure his release.

Stephen Robo Musa, who heads a civil society network in Wau, is condemning Bensencio’s detention, saying it will hamper the important humanitarian work among the communities in Wau. Robo is calling on the security operatives to release Bensencio or have him tried him in a court of law if he has committed any crime.