By Yien Gattour Mead
A boat transporting food and passengers from Juba to Bentiu in Unity State has been held by armed youth along River Nile in Jonglei State for the past five days.
According to a crew member the boat was detained on Sunday, November 19th, without any clear explanation.
Laden with food items and passengers, the boat has since remained stationary along the riverbanks in Jonglei State.
Speaking to No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Thursday, John Jal Matiek, the leader of the boat team, said they were asked to pay SSP 900,000.
“The armed youth complained that we had previously used the road to transport our goods and demanded ransom because we were now using the river,” he said.
He said that the incident has been promptly reported to Jonglei State government to take action.
Jal disclosed that he and other detainees were fortunate to have food supplies with them, as the area where they were held faced severe food shortages.
“The positive aspect is that no lives have been lost during the boat detention in Adok River. Only SSP 900,000 and an undisclosed quantity of food items were taken by the armed youth involved in the incident,” Jal said.
Meanwhile, General Elia Costa Augustino, the Police Commissioner of Jonglei State denied an act of armed youth in the boat incident.
“No boat has been detained by armed youths on the river,” he said.
According to the police commissioner, the boat deviated from its intended course along the river after losing direction.
“The boat struck a rock on the riverbed and veered off in a direction less frequented by river users,” stated Police Commissioner Augustino.
Police Commissioner provided clarification that the boat and its crew faced numerous challenges such as water hyacinth, papyrus reeds, and tall grasses, making the river impassable and unnavigable.