June 29, 2014 (JUBA) – A group of former South Sudanese political detainees announced on Saturday that one of their colleagues had joined the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Opposition under the leadership of former vice-president, Riek Machar.
- Ezekial Lol Gatkuoth (right) sits with his co-accused (from left) Oyay Deng Ajak, Pagan Amum Okiech, Majok D’Agot Atem at their trial for treason in Juba (Photo: Charlton Doki/VOA)
Former justice minister John Luk Jok said the leadership of the former detainees held a meeting on Friday to approve ambassador Ezekial Lol Gatkuoth’s request to join Machar’s group.
“He (Gatkuoth) expressed his genuine desire to go and assist the SPLM/A [in Opposition] politically,” said a statement released by the former detainees and extended to Sudan Tribune.
Jok denied there were any division in the camp, saying the groups remains united and fully committed to the agenda of achieving peace, stability and democracy in South Sudan.
“There is no division ... The meeting unanimously endorsed the request of ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth to join [the] SPLM/A in Opposition since this is his individual wish at this critical juncture in which the people of South Sudan are yearning for peace and democratic change,” the statement adds.
Jok said the group held no ill-feelings towards Gatkouth and hoped that he would pursue the cause of their grievances in a manner consistent to their calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“We trust that Ambassador Ezekiel will pursue the struggle for just peace, democracy and justice in South Sudan and add political value to [the] SPLM/A in Opposition,” said Jok.
“Having shared in the common experience of the struggle for independence of South Sudan and the fight against despotism, we can only wish him well in his new political endeavours,” he added.
The group of senior officials from the ruling SPLM were detained following the outbreak of violence in South Sudan in mid-December last year on charges related to an alleged coup plot to overthrow the government.
Seven members of the group of 11 were subsequently released on bail and left the country for Kenya after the country’s rival factions reached a ceasefire agreement in January, while the remaining four were freed in April after charges of treason were dropped and their trial was aborted.
The seven political figures went on to take part in peace negotiations being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, participating as a separate bloc after deciding against allying themselves with Machar’s group.