Special court to rule on fate of 4 South Sudanese politicians

Judges at a Special Court in Juba presiding over the trial of four South Sudanese politicians accused of treason are reportedly set to pass a ruling on the hearing following the completion of cross examination process on Wednesday.

South Sudan’s former envoy to the United States, Ezekiel Lol Gatkouth, the last of the four to testify, reiterated the stand of his colleagues that the insurrection is the result of division within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and not a coup d’etat.

He also told the court that he is not guilty of complicity in the alleged coup plot. According to Gatkouth, due to the tense situation in Juba between December 15th-16th, he went to the Buluk police station for shelter and “I ended up being arrested until today.”

His co-accused, Oyay Deng Ajak, the former Security Minister; Pagan Amum Okiech, SPLM Secretary General and Majak D’Agoot, the Deputy Defence Minister have all also pleaded not guilty to charges of involvement in the alleged plot to topple the government.

Reports indicate that the hearing has been adjourned until Wednesday, April 30th. Although the defence team is yet to provide their evidence, commentators have noted that the Judges may pass a ruling upon resumption of the trial next week.

The prosecution has struggled to back up claims that the four men were involved in the alleged coup plot. Some defence witnesses surprisingly even testified in favour of the group on trial, while others withdrew.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) has pushed the resumption of peace talks between the warring factions in Addis Ababa to Sunday, April 27th, according to a spokesman for the rebels, Yohanis Musa.

Mr. Musa, however, noted to Sudan Tribune that IGAD failed to provide any reason why the discussions have been pushed forward again. A statement by IGAD states that the postponement is to enable the regional authority make “further consultations.”

Fighting continues to thunder in at least three states of the young country, according to reports.

Army spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer has told the press that the insurgents have deployed new types of ammunition and embarked on a wave of attacks in Unity State, Upper Nile State and Jonglei State.

“Forces of Riek Machar for the last one week have been bombing indiscriminately” he revealed, adding that the rebels have targeted civilians.

Since violence erupted last year, thousands of civilians have been killed and the authorities have alleged widespread human rights abuses. Although a cease fire agreement has been in place since the beginning of the year, fighting continues to rage.

Earlier this month, IGAD’s monitoring team officially commenced their mandate in the war-torn country. While on Thursday, April 24th, the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) is expected to arrive in the country.

In the wake of a worldwide condemnation of the mass killing of Dinka civilians in Bentiu last week, the rebels have denied responsibility for the much criticized incident, according to the group’s spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang.

Photo/Radio Tamazuj