August 11, 2014 (JUBA) – A South Sudanese official from the country’s rebel SPLM in Opposition faction has denied meeting president Salva Kiir, describing the reports as “lies and baseless”.
- Ezekial Lol Gatkuoth (far right) sits with other former senior SPLM officials (from left) Oyay Deng Ajak, Pagan Amum Okiech, Majok D’Agot Atem detained in connection to an alleged plot to overthrow the South Sudanese government (Photo: Charlton Doki/VOA)
Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol, a former South Sudanese ambassador to the US and UN, said he had been forced to respond to false claims circulated on social media.
“Please just respond by dismissing this as lies and baseless and I will not and never will betray the cause of the freedom fighters and those massacred in Juba by Kiir and cohorts,” Lol said in an emailed response, calling on the spokesperson for rebel leader Riek Machar, James Gadet Dak, to formally refute the reports.
Lol was reacting to widely circulated news reports claiming that he had met with president Kiir during his recent visit to the US to participate in a US-Africa summit on trade and investment.
Earlier, Gordon Buay, a member of a former rebel movement now allied to the government, circulated pictures on Thursday showing former presidential secretary and now special envoy for peace Akot Lual Arech with Jonglei rebel leader David Yau Yau and Lol in a group photo.
It remains unclear under what circumstances and in what context the group were able to meet.
Lol was among a group of senior officials from the ruling SPLM who 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 Kiir-led government. The charges were later dropped and the group set free.
Following their release the group of detainees indicated that they would not be aligning themselves with either the government or rebel faction, instead opting to remain a separate bloc, however, in June Lol announced he was joining Machar’s opposition movement.
Buay has claimed that Lol met with the president on 7 August during which the former ambassador allegedly expressed a desire to return to the government in his former role, which the latter accepted.
However, several rebel officials denied their colleague had met the president, with some challenging Buay and government supporters to produce evidence of the alleged meeting.
“No-one should [be] deceived by this cheap propaganda to believe that Ambassador Lol intends to join the rotten government of Salva Kiir and the cohorts. If Ambassador had that intention, he could have easily joined the government immediately after his release from the detention cell or while he was with the government of the former detainees,” Deng Khoaryom, a supporter of the opposition movement, said in an email.
He claimed that Lol and Arech met by chance during which the latter asked to have a photo taken together.
“That happened and it is a fact,” said Khoaryom.