By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
February 5, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar on Thursday confirmed the release of a senior government official held in captivity, saying their decision was to boost ongoing peace talks.
In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, the rebel’s office of the deputy chairperson for external relations said the chairperson of the national bureau of statistics, Isaiah Chol and two other aid workers had been released.
The trio were reportedly released upon orders from Machar with assistant from the area rebel commander, Gen. Gabriel Duop Lam.
“We are releasing Isaiah Chol Aruai as good will gesture to encourage dialogue’’ said Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoath, deputy chairman for the rebels’ external relations committee.
“The office of the deputy chairperson would like to inform the families and relatives of the detainees are alive and well,” he added.
Gatkuoath further said the detainees were accorded the best treatment by the rebel’s local authorities in accordance with the international humanitarian law with regard to unarmed civilian in arms conflict.
Chol along with the two aid workers were detained by the opposition faction when their humanitarian plane “illegally” landed at Jiech payam area in Jonglei state.
Opposition officials alleged that the plane which was carrying the trio landed at the rebel-controlled territory without any prior communication.
In the statement, the rebels called on the United Nations and all other international aid agencies in the country to abide by the laws, rules and regulations governing the land.
“We encourage all UN and international humanitarian agencies to work in transparent manner with both parties so as to avoid repetition of such incidents”, it stressed.
CAPTIVES ARRIVE IN JUBA
A huge reception of relatives and friends welcomed Chol and the two aid workers upon arrival at Juba airport from the rebel-held territory following their release from captivity.
“In fact we are safe. We are happy to be back. It was a very serious situation where we were in but God works in mysterious situations,” Chol told reporters in Juba.
“We were treated well,” he said.
Chol specifically thanked Lam, the area rebel commander and who previously served as Jonglei’s law enforcement minister, for taking good care of them while in captivity.
“We thank him for his human way of protecting us,” he said during a party at his residence.