NAIROBI (Reuters) – A Kenyan court said on Wednesday that the state did not have custody of two South Sudanese activists missing from Nairobi, stoking suspicions among other opposition supporters that they may be detained by Juba’s security agents.
Human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak and writer Aggrey Idri Ezibon, both supporters of South Sudan’s opposition, went missing from the Kenyan capital within hours of each other on Jan. 23 and 24.
After they disappeared, their families filed a case in Kenya to stop a possible deportation back to South Sudan after other opposition figures were sent home.
But Kenyan state lawyers said the men were not in Kenyan custody. The judge ruled “the applicants’ disappearance can only be … abduction”.
Oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, plunged into war in 2013, when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Machar fled after a shaky peace deal collapsed in July and fighting has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines. Parts of the country are suffering from famine and more than 3 million South Sudanese have fled their homes.
Many opposition figures, including Luak and Ezibon, sought refuge in other East African countries.
But regional powers became less welcoming to Machar’s supporters after the rebellion split and one of Machar’s former colleagues, Taban Deng Gai, joined the government in July, said Casie Copeland, senior analyst for South Sudan at Brussels-based thinktank International Crisis Group. Continued…