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Former South Sudan army commander denies link to coup attempt

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April 8, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army’s (SPLA) former chief-of-staff, Oyai Deng Ajak, has denied court testimonies he was involved in an alleged coup attempt to depose president Salva Kiir from power through military means.

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Former army chief-of-staff Oyay Deng Ajak (far left) with co-accused Pagan Amum Okiech, Majok D’Agot Atem and Ezekiel Lol Gatk listen in court during their trial for treason (Photo: Charlton Doki/VOA)

Ajak is among three senior officials from the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) charged with treason in connection to their alleged role in the violence that swept the country in mid-December last year.

The claims were made in court on Monday by witnesses testifying for the prosecution at the trial of the four officials, some of whom presented incriminating telephone recordings allegedly containing the voices of some of the four accused.

TESTIMONY “COOKED”

Ajak, who also served as the former minister for national security, has described the prosecution testimony as being “cooked” by dishonest security officers.

“All the audios that were claimed to be my voice have been edited. It is the world of technology and the dishonest department of national security manufactured them as evidences. They cooked them with the ministry of interior. I know very well, in my life, I have never failed to make changes in anything I do but I failed to do anything in national security as a minister for two years because they (security) complicate everything. Even the two officers who said they recorded the audio are not from the department of interception. I know all personnel in that department,” an emotional Ajak told the packed court room.

He told the judges that the testimony presented of his involvement in the alleged failed coup attempt contained no tangible evidence.

RISING TENSIONS

However, Ajak has confirmed that former unity state governor Taban Deng Gai, who fled Juba for the bush after the eruption of violence and is now leading rebel negotiations, informed him on the morning of 15 December that tensions were building as a result of an attempt to disarm guards loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar by some armed units within the presidency.

The former military officer gave a detailed account of his movements on 15 December, the day clashes erupted in the capital, Juba, between rival factions of the presidential guards, triggering violence across the country as government forces battled Machar-aligned rebels for control of key areas.

Ajak said he was at his home with Gai when the latter received a phonecall, during which he became visibly agitated.

He said Gai, who was speaking in the Nuer language, interrupted his conversation with the person on the other end of the line to inform him that guards of the former vice-president had called to ask for help because they had been surrounded by armed units and were already unarmed as their weapons were in the stores.

“Taban advised me that the problem has to be resolved now otherwise Riek’s officers are going to cause problems and Taban gave me the phone and I talked to them simply telling them to be calm,” said Ajak

SECURITY FAILED

He described South Sudan’s security apparatus as the “main problem” in the country, accusing Thomas Duoth, the director general for external security, for failing to adequately communicate the situation with Kiir, who could have influenced the guards to remain calm.

“He (Thomas Duoth) failed to reach the president within [the] shortest time possible but took almost 10 hours to tell the president what was going on. These dishonest personnel are the problem,” he said “All what has been said is not true.I served as chief of general staff of the SPLA and did not overthrow the government, why now?”

According to Ajak, at about 11:45pm (local time) the same day his body guard informed him that shooting had erupted at the Gaeda military barracks.

After hearing the news he immediately jumped in his car and drove to the house of James Hoth, the army’s current chief of general staff. However, after his friend assured him the situation was under control, he decided to return home again.

“I returned to the house and when I arrived home, Taban immediately called me and said the guards of Riek Machar are under pressure and Riek had given them [the] OK to take their guns. This is what happened. And as you can see, I did not initiate any communication as it is being alleged. I was only receiving calls,” he said.

MAXIMUM SENTENCES SOUGHT

As well as treason, Ajak and his co-accused – former secretary-general Pagan Amum Okiech, former deputy defence minister Majak D’ Agoot and and former diplomat Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol – are facing charges of incitement of the masses, causing disaffection among police or defence forces, defaming the government and undermining the authority of the president.

Both Machar and Gai have also been charged in absentia.

The South Sudanese government has called on the court to impose maximum penalties against the four political detainees, despite mounting international pressure for their release.

Meanwhile, observers say the treason case highlights the challenges that exist between the three power centres: the executive branch of government, the fledgling judiciary and parliament and the army, widely viewed as fragmented and ethnically divided.

Thousands have been killed and more than one million displaced in the conflict, with a tenuous ceasefire agreement signed by warring parties in January failing to halt the violence on the ground.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 9 April 07:01, by Akook

    Everything run counter in my country. It would be good if government sponsored judiciary admit this a trial of mere political opponents duped in the name of coup. Its clear now Kiir plotted a coup against peaceful South Sudanese people. Make no mistake, if those judges recklessly abandon their job and colluded with government to victimise these individuals, both Kiir n them will die in exile

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    • 9 April 07:16, by omoni jr.

      what Oyai Deng said is 100% correct,kiir killed south sudanese for nothing but power,mother fucker got scared Reik machar made a useless coup. idiot,your time is over

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      • 9 April 15:40, by Lotodo Awino Odug

        The word "ultimatum" was used, this word alone could be differently interpreted to mean many things., no person from the position of weakness will give ultimatum to a sitting president who command everything. unless if that person had a secret, worked out plan of actions if the first plan failed.

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  • 9 April 07:26, by Joseph Canada

    Nomatter how much they want to fabricate those guys, Its clear now that Kiir plotted to kill South Sudanese an armed Army , citizens, and the children just to protect his tribe and his leadership. Mr. Ajak, I and other Southerners believe in what you said 100%. Let God be the Judge not those Dinka Pressued.

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    • 9 April 07:37, by Joseph Canada

      the word "Un armed". Salva Kiir is now cleared to be an enemy of Peace unless he is the only ruler. The man who love money, food and bear!!. His clear hate for the Nation of south Sudan is portrayed clearly by giving the Ethiopian man to marry his daughter. He has no Love and care for South Sudanese but himself and his tribe. am disgusted by this cruel leader. Shame on Kiir’s leadership!

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      • 9 April 09:38, by Chol A.

        Joseph slave in Canada, the point is guilty always do not admit his/her guilty unless decide by juries. Because you are stupid and nut enough you wouldn’t believe coup by these thug including your uncle Nyanriek.

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  • 9 April 07:39, by Uncle J

    If Egyptian’s court can evict 539 people to death penalty those accused of treason incitement in Egypt aftermath, then South Sudan court has all rights to evict 4 plus 7 with death penalty. International communities giving pressure about those detainees are behind the unrest in South Sudan. We are not under any colony, we are independent country just like any other country.

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  • 9 April 08:36, by tootke’bai-ngo

    THIS TRAIL WILL MARK THE BEGINING OF THE END. KIIR HAS BEEN TARGETING PEOPLE OF UPPER NILE SINCE 2005.
    MANY UPPER NILE COUNTIES ARE COMPLETELY MARGINALIZED E.G IN JONGLEI & FAR RENG AREA.KIIR ALSO SECRETELY BEEN RIDED UPPER NILEANS IN ARMY, CIVIL BODIES: ATHOR DENG,MAJOK AYOM, DENG AROK THON,ISAIAH ABRAHAM,MAJOK MAMER & MANY MORE. NOW WITHOUT SHAME HE’S EYEING G4. IT’S TIME TO THINK OF AUTONOMY.

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  • 9 April 08:43, by william

    Ajak why are contradicting yourself? You sais the evidences were cooked and again You admitted your conversation with gai on essence of problem! Now the burden lies with prosecution to proof beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, your devil act Will pay in your own coin.

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    • 9 April 15:17, by Lotodo Awino Odug

      Our deputy governor Husein and Duop were already rebels two months pior to December 15, some people must die for what had happened regardless of whether there was a coup or not. the sudden lost of thousands of people will not be like giving amnesty to rebels, politicians should have to pay with their lives if they incite masses in to wars of no gains.

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    • 10 April 02:09, by Nguetbuny de Luelpiny

      The south Sudan very weak leader we have never had in life. Uncle Kiir Mayar make coup against southern politicians in order to stop them from compete for election. I will never accepted as a coup. Rebel are criminal that does not know the rules of law. Kiir get a chance due to their criminal Naath rebellion acts. Both Kiir &Rebel will never last longer. Southerners are fighting for law and order

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  • 9 April 11:06, by Uncle J

    @ Toot ke Baai, people from Upper Nile like rebellion that’s why Kiir have to deal with them in a dictatorship way. If you people don’t learn from your mistakes, your regions would always be the hot spot for rebellion of your kind

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