The recently released detainees accused of plotting to overthrow South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir are ready to meet both the country’s leader and former vice president Riek Machar as part of a bid to help resolve the crisis, according to Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, a released detainee.
The released detainees include Pagan Amum, former Secretary General of the governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Majak D'Agot, Oyai Deng Ajak and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
Gatkuoth, who was a former liaison officer at the embassy of South Sudan to the United States, says the government in Juba seized their travel documents –thus preventing them from traveling abroad to seek medical checkups in neighboring Kenya following their five months in detention.
In an interview with VOA Gatkuoth denied plotting with others to overthrow the government in Juba, saying the released detainees now want to help resolve the ongoing conflict that has left the country seemingly divided around ethnic lines.
“In the first place there was no case. Of course I’m innocent I did not commit any crime, and I do not believe even that there was a coup from the beginning,” said Gatkuoth. “Of course the case was collapsing right in front of our eyes because… the court was about to acquit, and this is when the government intervened, and stayed the proceedings,” he said.
The government released the four accused political detainees saying the move could expedite the peace negotiations in Ethiopia and help end the conflict. The release of the detainees was one of the key demands of the rebels allied to former vice president Machar at the peace talks.
Gatkuoth says the group seeks stability and reconciliation to end the conflict.
“The mission now is to first make sure that there is peace in this country. This is our number one priority. We need to cease hostilities and have a permanent ceasefire so that the guns must be silent and then from there we address the root causes of this conflict, and the problems that we are facing in this our beloved country,” said Gatkuoth.
He says he and his colleagues are willing to meet both warring factions to end the violence. South Sudan’s violence erupted after the government in Juba accused Machar of plotting with others to overthrow the administration.
“We are going to meet the president of the republic General Salva Kiir and we are going to meet Dr. Riek Machar, and basically our agenda is to bring this country together,” said Gatkuoth.
The government says the released detainees should stay in the country to help work for peace. But Gatkuoth says they need to seek medical treatment following their detention.
“We were trying to go to Nairobi for medical checkups. Nobody wants to leave the country,” said Gatkuoth. “We are also appealing to the government that they should not take this as if we are trying to go away from the country and we will not come back and we will complicate the process. Nobody will complicate this peace process because we are committed to peace.”
Clottey interview with Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, South Sudan SPLM member