Otim David Okot addressing the press in Juba on 15 November 2022. [File photo: Radio Tamazuj]

Acholi community questions commissioner’s detention amid bribery claims

Otim David, the Acholi community leader, described the situation surrounding the detention of Commissioner Otto as “very complicated.”

Otim David, the Acholi community leader, described the situation surrounding the detention of Magwi County Commissioner David Otto Remson in Juba as “very complicated.”

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday, the community leader revealed that the complainant in the case is demanding assurance of over 80 million SSP and $19,000 for Commissioner Otto’s bail.

Otim emphasized that his community rejects these demands, asserting that Commissioner Otto was not the suspect but rather a victim of mob justice, resulting in the tragic death of two businessmen.

Last week, Commissioner David Otto, who also serves as the SPLM chairperson for Magwi County in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State, was reportedly picked by state security operatives and driven to Torit. Otto is accused of involvement in the killing of two businessmen in Agoro last year.

In August last year, two businessmen seeking to purchase bamboo in Agoro payam of Magwi County were killed, while two others managed to escape. An arrest warrant for Commissioner Otto was issued recently, but it couldn’t be executed earlier due to his immunity, a privilege associated with his position as commissioner. However, Governor Louis Lobong Lojore of Eastern Equatoria State has since lifted Otto’s immunity.

Following the revocation of immunity, the commissioner was transported by Governor Louis Lobong’s vehicle to Torit before being transferred to Juba to face charges related to the alleged involvement in the killing of the two businessmen.

 “The main complainant, backed by his group within the judiciary, is resorting to a lot of intimidation. They insist on us paying the demanded SSP 85 million as bail. I questioned the feasibility of such a high bail amount. I proposed a more reasonable approach – let’s engage in dialogue with the community to find a fair resolution. This incident resulted from mob justice, a regrettable but not unprecedented occurrence. The communities of Agoro and Acholi are willing to address this for the sake of peace, and we are eager to find a resolution through peaceful dialogue,” Otim said.

“But the main complainant is pressuring us to pay over SSP 80 million, along with USD 19,000, for the commissioner’s release. This is unprecedented and completely unacceptable. It amounts to bribery, and as the Acholi community, we categorically reject such demands. It is because of his involvement that the Agoro community is facing this hardship. Our community is not naive,” Otim added.

“At present, we are rallying everyone affected by the complainant, those who have lost property or lost relatives, to unite with us in filing a case against the complainant in Magwi County. The suffering of the Agoro community is directly linked to his actions. Since the incident of mob justice on August 18 until today, there have been no reported problems in the area.”

In his reaction to the story published by Radio Tamazuj about the commissioner’s detention in Juba, the Minister of Information in Eastern Equatoria State, Elia John Ahaji, held a press conference in Torit on Tuesday and said: “Hon. David Otto voluntarily travelled to Juba in response to a case opened against him. Two businessmen accused the commissioner of murder, which purportedly occurred in Agoro Payam of Magwi County. The state government became aware of this murder case after receiving three letters requesting the lifting of the Honourable Commissioner’s immunity.”

“Subsequently, a letter arrived from the National Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, directed to His Excellency, the Governor of Eastern Equatoria State, urging the lifting of the commissioner’s immunity. This action would enable him to address the accusations in a court of law,” explained Ahaji.

He continued, “After receiving the letter, the governor presented the case to the state council of ministers for further discussion. The council concluded that the governor should collaborate with the judiciary, considering it as one of the arms of government. Consequently, we cannot obstruct or intimidate the judicial system in the country.”

He went on to clarify, “Contrary to misinformation, the Honourable Commissioner, upon accepting to attend to his case, requested security from the governor to accompany him, fearing interception on the way. As a result, security was provided to ensure his safe journey to Juba.”

“I want to reassure the people of Eastern Equatoria State and specifically the community of Magwi that this court case follows standard legal procedures and should not cause any concern. There is no reason for it to jeopardize the peace of Magwi County,” Ahaji emphasized.

Multiple sources told Radio Tamazuj that the complainants in the case involving the commissioner are SPLA-IO Major General William Kuot, and another person who survived the attack in Agoro Payam. The survivor is reportedly attached to the SSPDF Tiger Division.

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