April 16, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s former defence minister, Majak D’Agoot, has denied playing any role in an alleged coup plot to depose president Salva Kiir Mayardit, saying that regardless of the outcome of the court case, the country has been irrevocably changed.
- South Sudan political detainees (from left to right) Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Majak d’Agoot, Pagan Amum and Oyai Deng Ajak listen to court proceedings at their trial in Juba on 11 March 2014 (Photo: AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)
D’Agoot is one of the four officials currently facing treason charges and is the third defendant to speak in court, following testimony from former secretary-general of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Pagan Amum Okiech and former national security minister Oyai Deng Ajak. Former diplomat Ezekiel Gathkuoth Lol is yet to take the stand.
The four officials have been accused of conspiring with former vice-president Riek Machar to overthrow the government by force.
Violence erupted in South Sudan in the capital, Juba, in mid-December before spreading to other key areas across the country.
The fighting has pitted forces loyal to the Kiir administration against rebels fighters aligned with Machar.
Speaking before Tuesday’s court session, D’ Agoot denied taking part in any plot to overthrow the government.
“Whatever verdict this court will take, South Sudan will never be the same. This marks the end of impunity, rule of man and the rule of law shall prevail,” he told the court.
Meanwhile, Amum expressed optimism that the four officials could together with President Kiir and vice-president James Wani Igga to resolve the rift.
“I am still optimistic that we will sort out this issue of ours with president Salva Kiir,” Pagan told the court. “I will even work with him, work with Wani – [the] vice-president – and sort out all these issues with Riek and we [can] build our nation,” he added.
Machar and former Unity state governor Taban Deng Gai have also been charged in absentia.
Seven other senior officials also detained in connection to the plot have since been released. The so-called SPLM-7 had been taking part in peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but have since been excluded following demands by the South Sudanese government to restrict negotiations to the parties directly involved in the conflict.
A tenuous ceasefire deal brokered on 23 January by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is mediating talks, has so far failed to halt the violence.