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SPLM-IO accuses Aweil Centre Commissioner of intimidation, restricting political activities

SPLM-IO accuses Aweil Centre Commissioner of intimidation, restricting political activities
Aweil town, South Sudan Credit//Anthea Fisher/MSF blogs

Some members of the SPLM-IO in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state are accusing the Commissioner of Aweil Center of curtailing their freedom of association.

They say Commissioner Peter Natali Okech has interfered with their meetings and political activities in the County.

On Wednesday, the Commissioner allegedly intimidated officials of the SPLM-IO as they were returning to Aweil town in the evening hours.

Those who were reportedly harassed by the Commissioner include; Bol Akuar Gamar, State Minister for Youth and Sports, Deng Nyiwel Dhieu, Minority Chief Whip in State Parliament, and legislators Bol Lual Unguec and Achol Benwal.

“Representatives of the SPLM-IO are being humiliated. There is lack of political space in Aweil. The SPLM-IO condemns the assault and intimidation of the opposition officials in Northern Bhar El Ghazel State and calls on the government to investigate this incident,” said Deng Nyiwel Dhieu, Minority Chief-whip in the state legislature.

He, however, did not disclose the nature of assault and intimidation experienced by his party officials.

In response, Commissioner Peter Natali Okech of Aweil Center County denied assaulting the officials.

“I have some eyewitness who have seen us during our argument with the SPLM-IO members,” he stated.

Commissioner Natali said he only asked the officials to seek security clearance for any activity they conduct in the area.

“I am the security focal point in the areas, (and) if there is a political rally or social rally, I should know to provide security to protect those who attending the meeting,” he stated. “But our partners turned like am restricting their meeting which brought about a disagreement.”

A few months ago, the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar asked President Salva Kiir to pronounce himself on the issue of political freedoms and freedom of assembly in the country as part of allowing civic space to flourish.

President Kiir on his part urged state officials to cooperate and jointly implement the revitalized peace agreement.

“I know the President has allowed political space to all partners who are signatories to revitalized peace agreement, but security matters is our concern,” Commissioner Natali argued.