March 9, 2012 (BENTIU) – Men dressed in South Sudanese police uniforms shot dead four students in their homes in Bentiu, capital of Unity State on 7 March, eyewitnesses have told Sudan Tribune.
On Friday Unity State’s minister of information, Gideon Gatpan Thaor, told Sudan Tribune that the suspect – a drunk policeman – was arrested on Thursday by South Sudan security forces.
The Unity State government has apologised to the families of the dead students. According to government officials one of the boys had completed a university degree, while the three others were due to take their secondary level exams this month.
Thaor said that Unity State’s security advisor has made a serious apology to the family of the deceased for the delay in capturing the culprit.
The funerals for the students at Bentiu cemetery, held on Thursday, was attended by representatives of the Unity State government as well as the families. Unity State’s minister of information, said that the death of the four students was a great loss to the government not just the families of those killed.
Speaking on Bentiu FM – the state radio station – on Thursday, before the policeman was arrested, Thaor called for calm while his government hunted for the culprit. The minister urged people to work with government to investigate the shooting. The “government need[s] everybody to live in peace rather than chaos”, he said.
Gun crime is not a new issue in Bentiu. In December last year a trader from Rubkotna, James Mabor Malual, was shot on the hand by an unknown gunman, while switching off his generator in the town centre. Authorities failed to find the person responsible for the shooting.
Unity State civilians accuse the state government and police of failing to protect the citizens from crime. South Sudan is awash with small arms as a consequence of decades of civil war and the failure of various disarmament campaigns since a peace deal in 2005 granted the region self-rule.
In July last year South Sudan seceded from Sudan but still has to resolve a host of internal security issues. Cattle raiding, banditry, and child abductions are an ongoing problem in many poor rural areas, where livelihood structures still rely heavily on cows and owning a fire arm.