Two South Sudanese aid workers have been freed amid calls for rebel leader Dr Riek Machar to be blacklisted in connection with the earlier abduction of two Indian oil employees.
The American aid group Samaritan Purse, employer of the freed workers, said the two were released on Tuesday, a day after being detained by “armed personnel” in the Mayendit area of the oil-rich Unity state, about 680km northeast of South Sudan’s capital Juba.
Meanwhile, Juba has called for the blacklisting of rebel leader Dr Riek Machar, who is currently residing in South Africa, on the grounds that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition (SPLM-IO), which he formerly headed, was involved in an earlier abduction of two Indian oil employees.
The Sudan Tribune reported on Wednesday that Samaritan Purse had received no ransom demand for the kidnapped workers. No details of who was thought to be behind the kidnapping were given either.
Mayendit has been declared a famine area, with about 100 000 people at risk of starvation.
Aid agencies say that at least five million people, or more than 40 percent of the country’s population, are in urgent need of food assistance and have pleaded for access to the area.
The call for rebel leader Machar’s blacklisting came from the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) of the Republic of South Sudan, which said it had “learnt with dismay” of the kidnapping of two Indian nationals.
The TGoNU statement was in response to a statement released by the armed opposition in which they claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the oil workers.
The South Sudan government added that the rebels were demanding a ransom of U.S.$1 million, which they were refusing to pay. “TGoNU is bound by international law and UN resolutions to counter terrorist financing. The government is not ready to pay a ransom that encourages terrorist acts,” the statement stressed.
The TGoNU said the two were on duty at Adar oil fields on March 8 when the car they were travelling in “was stopped by outlaws and terrorist elements belonging to renegade Riek Machar, who is operating in Maiwut state”. The two Indian nationals, known only as Edward and Ganesh, were kidnapped, it added.
“The TGoNU calls upon the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to condemn Riek Machar and his followers and blacklist them as a terrorist negative force. The IGAD should ensure the safety and unconditional release of the oil workers,” the statement added.
– African News Agency (ANA)