Intelligence officers could be behind the disappearance of two South Sudanese refugees last month, explosive affidavits filed in court claim.
The allegations emerged in an ongoing case in which families of human rights lawyer Dong Samuel and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -In-Opposition political bureau member Aggrey Idri Ezbon want the State to produce them.
In two affidavits filed in court, a man identified as a Nairobi-based South Sudanese military officer sensationally claims that top intelligence officials were holding the two.
“This gentlemen, who is a South Sudanese military officer living in Kenya, says some sections of the Kenyan intelligence community know where they are. He says he had a conversation with Mr John Top Lam, who is believed to be a South Sudanese intelligence officer in Kenya,” lawyer Harun Ndubi for the families told the Sunday Nation in reference to the affidavits.
In one of the affidavits, Mr Michael Kuajian, who had a recorded phone conversation — now part of the court filings — with Mr Lam, claimed that the missing duo were in the custody of Kenyan intelligence agents.
In the affidavit, Mr Lam allegedly claimed the two could be released for a ransom of $10,000 (Sh1 million)
In the other affidavit, Mr Lam spoke with Mr Dong’s brother, identified as Polit James. In their recorded phone conversation, the military officer demanded ransom for the release of the missing persons.
“I can confirm that on January 25 John Top Lam did call me on my mobile and advised me to get $10,000 to facilitate the release of the missing persons,” said Mr Polit.
The families told court on Monday that the State has been unwilling and reluctant to investigate the disappearance of the two.
“Ideally what you have is a denial; why are they not providing alternative information to court, to explain the nature of investigations being conducted with regard to this matter?” Mr Ndubi said, demanding an explanation from the Interior ministry, the Inspector-General of Police, the National Intelligence Service Director- General and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
INVESTIGATE MISSING INDIVIDUALS
Last month, High Court Judge Luka Kimaru ordered the arrest of Mr Lam, who appeared in court and was given Sh100,000 personal bond.
Last week the police, who had been ordered by the court to investigate the missing individuals and ensure they are not deported, said they could still not trace them.
Lawyers Ekuru Aukot and Jemimah Aluda defended Mr Lam and Mr Kuajian, saying that the information presented was mere hearsay.
In their court filing, the DCI in fact, put the blame back on Mr Kuajian who the police accused of having a hand in the kidnapping and deportation, and yet he claims money from families by illegally citing the name of Kenya’s intelligence agents.
“In a way, the court has treated Mr Lam as a key suspect given the way he claimed to have known their whereabouts. But the police have filed their affidavit which, in a way, seeks to absolve him (Mr Lam) and trying to blame Kuajian for deporting the two,” Mr Ndubi said.
The two South Sudanese officials reportedly spoke in Nuer language over the phone when these claims were made. South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar comes from Nuer ethnic community, the second largest after the Dinka, President Salva Kiir’s ethnic group.
South Sudanese former First Lady Rebecca Nyandeng Garang has been present during some of the hearings in this case.
Three weeks ago, Justice Kimaru ordered the Director of Immigration Services to ensure the two South Sudanese nationals are not deported. The Judge also directed mobile phone service providers to provide data on the missing persons’ communications.
The police have maintained they are not aware of the whereabouts of the two individuals even as human rights lobby groups, Amnesty International and Human Right Watch, pressured the government to stop possible deportation. They argued that once deported, the South Sudanese nationals, who have been living here as refugees, would be tortured.
South Sudanese rebels led by former Vice-President Riek Machar said the two officials have already been deported to South Sudan.
“The two governments seem to be in collaboration because we believe nothing can happen in the Kenyan territory without their knowledge,” Dickson Gatluak, spokesman for the rebels, also known as SPLM-IO, told the Sunday Nation.
The rebels say there is a plot to mop up rebels by following up the November deportation of their spokesman John Gatdet Dak who was sent to Juba after he made a snide comment about the sacking of the Kenyan commander at the UN Mission in South Sudan.
But the government in Juba denied the accusation that they were hunting for rebels.
“That is very strange because we have never hunted down anyone. In November, Gatdet was arrested because of his comments on Facebook,” Mr Jimmy Makuach, South Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Kenya, told the Sunday Nation.
He said neither the Kenyan nor South Sudanese governments were aware of the whereabouts of the two refugees.
Last week, it emerged that rebel-held areas in South Sudan were threatening to retaliate against Kenyans living in their regions.
The South Sudanese envoy said that would “amount to terrorism” and claimed his government had no information on that operation.
But Mr Gatluak, who admitted his rebels had initially detained Kenyans when Dak was arrested in November, said the rebel movement had instructed their ground lieutenants not to restrict Kenyans’ movements anymore.
“We decided to cool down and there are no Kenyans being held in our territory. These are people who have nothing to do with what the government is doing. We have told our commanders on the ground not to arrest or detain anyone,” he said.
South Sudan broke into violence in December 2013, pitting soldiers loyal to President Kiir and then Vice President Machar. In August 2015, the two sides a peace agreement. They formed a transitional government in April last year but Machar fled in July when violence erupted.