By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
June 30, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – A former South Sudanese political detainee officially declared on Monday that he was joining the rebel SPLM in Opposition led by former vice-president Riek Machar.
- Ezekiel Gatkuoth (ST)
At a press conference on Monday, ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth said he had decided to join the rebels because the group of the 11 former detainees (G-11) shares same platform with rebels in regard to political reforms that are believed to bring about changes in South Sudan.
The former detainee pledged to work for peaceful resolution to the conflict as it was stated by the agreement signed on 9 May by the two rival SPLM leaders, president Salva Kiir and Riek Machar.
However, Gatkouth said that just because he had elected to join the rebel faction didn’t mean the other former detainees were also switching sides, adding the group would continue to champion the reforms.
“[I] am sure my colleagues who are in the category of former detainees, we are one and we will continue to be one. We will work together to bring changes in our country,” he said.
He said the former detainees will work together for changes with SPLM in opposition over the political reforms they have long been calling for.
Gatkouth added that working jointly was the only bridge to achieve national reconciliation in South Sudan.
He stressed a need for changing the nature of the state and political dialogue requires major change in attitude and changes in political leadership.
Gatkouth also said the G-11 were not neutral and the third bloc was in a same platform with the SPLM rebels except that they were not part of the war because they were inside.
“Now when we are outside we are going to work for peace, the same reforms that we were calling for, it is actually the same reform that Dr. Riek was calling for,” he said.
“The only thing added was the issue of federalism and for your information federalism has been demanded by South Sudanese since [the] 1940s,” he added.
The former ambassador went to say that the armed conflict frustrated South Sudan’s partners and regional countries that supported South Sudanese in their long struggle to establish an independent state.
Gatkouth was detained along with 10 others on 16 December 2013, one day after president Kiir accused his former deputy of staging a coup, an allegation the latter denies.
After spending 130 days in jail, he was freed on 24 April following an initial peace agreement signed in January between the South Sudanese government and rebels.