South Sudan has ruled out the release of the 11 detained political figures linked to Dr Riek Machar, raising questions if the ceasefire signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will hold.
The government now says it never agreed during negotiations on their release. Presidential adviser Telar Deng said they would be released only if they are acquitted in court after being tried.
Addressing the media in Khartoum at the weekend, Mr Deng stressed that the release of the detainees, who are accused of being involved in a coup attempt, should be in accordance with the constitution and laws of South Sudan.
“The recent agreement on cessation of hostilities was aimed at determining the position of the accused persons, but not to release them,” Mr Deng said after handing a message from president Salva Kiir to his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir.
“The agreement includes releasing the persons in accordance with the constitution and laws of the government of South Sudan after referring them to trial,” he emphasised. “Anyone who commits a crime shall be punished according to the law.”
“We are committed to the agreement for cessation of hostilities which we signed in Addis Ababa, under auspices of Igad.”
The mediation committee has set February 7 as the date to resume negotiations between the two parties on other political issues. The release of the political detainees was one of the main obstacles to the finalisation of the peace negotiations in South Sudan.