Published on August 22, 2015
(JUBA) – The speaker of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state legislative assembly has been killed by unknown gunmen in what an officials described as an “assassination”.
Western Equatoria state’s information minister Charles Kisanga said James Bage Elias was shot dead by assailants outside the capital, Yambio on Friday.
“I can confirm as spokesperson WES (Western Equatoria state) Government that the speaker of WES legislative assembly was assassinated this [Friday] evening,” he said.
The state spokesman said the deceased was killed as he drove his car before it was sprayed with bullets on Uze River Bridge a few kilometres from Yambio at about 8 pm.
His bodyguard escaped and ran all the way to break the news to authorities and the family.
“It was not until 12 midnight when youth were able to reach the site and found him dead in the car. His body is now brought to his house and Acting Governor and other senior leadership are in attendance,” Charles narrated.
“More information on the incident will be coming tomorrow [Saturday],” Kisanga further informed.
It is a second time in three days that unknown gunmen killed a senior official after a journalist was killed in Juba on Wednesday.
It also came days after the former governor of the state, Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro was unexpectedly dismissed by president Salva Kiir’s decree and a day later on arrested and detained for four days before his release on Friday.
The killers have not been apprehended and their motive for the assassination of the top state legislator was not clear.
Last month, state authorities announced the disappearence of Bage at a time when tensions were high as fighting pitting members of Dinka and members of the Azande community, from which the ex-speaker hailed, created a national security concern.
He later returned to the town and said he was only visiting his village on Friday and could not return on time due to security concerns. Sources said Bage had informed his fellow colleagues in the state assembly, police authorities and government operatives in the state that some people approached him while meeting some members of his constituents and allegedly threatened to kill him. He did not reveal the identity of those who threatened him, but allegedly accused some people in government of conspiracy.
Other sources claimed the former speaker organised a party at his residence in the aftermath of the decision by presdent Salva Kiir to sack elected governor, Joseph Bakosoro. Although the intention of the party was not clear, some people interpreted this to mean Bage had openly shown support for the newly-appointed caretaker governor.
The deceased, who hailed from Yambio county, was one of the politicians critical of the manner in which appointments were being made as it allegedly ignored people from his area.
He also sought several unsuccessful nominations for the position of the state governorship This, according to many local sources from the area, had annoyed him.
A group of rebels operating separately from the armed opposition faction of former vice president, Riek Machar, also claim to be fighting against president Kiir’s government.
Western Equatoria state has also plunged into tribal conflict pitting youth from the host community of Azande, Moro and the resettling armed pastoralists from the Dinka ethnic group, where deadly clashes occurred in the state last month.