July 3, 2010 (Malakal) -- Four employees of the UK-based aid agency, Tearfund, were detained and bleated by the semi-autonomous army of Southern Sudan – agency officials have said.
SPLA denied the accusations and said “all four employees were arrested on suspicion of helping anti-government militias”.
One employee is a Kenyan, and the other three are Sudanese, according to a statement released by the agency.
The Southern army said they stopped Tearfund employees because some people from Shilluk tribe told them that the four aid workers were transporting medicines to Dr. Lam Akol’s forces believed to be in the area.
"Our staff were transporting medical supplies to medical facilities in the area ... At the roadblock the four staff were detained by SPLA forces and they were accused of having a political motive ... I can confirm they were beaten in detention," said Tearfund spokesman Jonathan Spencer.
“The men were moved to Southern capital Juba later in the week and all four had since been released and told to wait in the city to face more questioning”, he continues.
Tearfund said one of its employees need medical treatment and the other three were badly hurt.
“Soldiers stopped the four men on Sunday at a roadblock near Kodok in the South's Upper Nile state, aid officials told Reuters.
The aid agency said it has launched its own investigation into the incident.
"We detained them and military intelligence was interrogating the Sudanese staff ... asking how relief vehicles are being used to help elements that are hostile to GOSS (the government of south Sudan)”, SPLA spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol was quoted as saying. He calls reports of beating as "a concoction".
In 2009, the former Sudanese foreign minister, quitted South Sudan’s ruling party, accused it of corruption, lack of equality, among others.
SPLM has denied all charges and said Akol was too close to the enemy - a direct reference to NCP.
A senior humanitarian official in Juba, who asked not to be named, said “the men were beaten”, Reuters reported.
The 2005 North-South peace agreement granted the South to keep its own army. It also allows the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to transform SPLA into professional army.