Gatwech “not guilty” of crimes, Gach tells Yakani

Gatwech “not guilty” of crimes, Gach tells Yakani
Edmund Yakani, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO). [Photo: Courtesy]

The spokesperson of Simon Gatwech Dual of Kitgwang Declaration, Alfred Gach, disputed claims by the Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization that his boss was behind chaos in parts of Upper Nile. 

He claimed that the chairman of the SPLM/A-IO splinter faction could only be prosecuted if those whom he claimed pioneered the 2013 conflict had faced a similar prosecution. 

“It’s my pleasure to respond to your rhetoric statement dated September 10, 2022 in which you described my Chairman and Commander in Chief of SPLM/A-IO Kitgwang Simon Gatwech as a warlord and you even went farther by calling on President Salva Kiir to bring him to book without having committed any crimes,” Gach said in his response shared on social media.

He claimed Kitgwang forces were only present 70 kilometres out of Adhidhiang IDPs camp, adding that their forces were well disciplined and observed international army norms.

“The leadership of SPLM/A-IO Kitgwang strongly ordered its forces to observe the international army norms and only target the military facilities,” Gach continued.

In a statement published by The Dawn Newspaper, Edmund Yakani, the Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), accused Kitgwang forces of committing atrocities against civilians that amount to genocide.

Yakani urged President Salva Kiir Mayardit to serve justice for innocent civilians, adding that Johnson Olony and Simon Gatwech were not above the law.

“The Two rivaling generals of Kitgwang Declaration, Simon Gatwech and Johnson Olony, are not above the law and one day they will be (held) accountable for their forces’ engagement in committing atrocities against the civil population during their forces’ military confrontation,” Yakani said.

“Silence about atrocities committed by their forces against the civil population is not an option and the Juba leadership should not maintain silence about the Gatwech and Olony war since there was a peace deal (which) resulted through the mediation of the Sudan military early this year 2022.”

Last week, both Kitgwang and Agwelek officials showed interest in talks if the government offers to broker talks to end conflict in Upper Nile.

Dr Paul Achot Achobek, the head of Agwelek delegation in Juba, said they had been ready to be part of Kitgwang under Simon Gatwech, but rather stated that embracing peace could not qualify Gatwech to displace people in Upper Nile.

“We’ve never refused to coexist. We insisted, and you know it, that Gen Gatwech was still our leader. Gen Gatwech is free to exist in Lou Nuer not where he’s displacing the civil population right now,” Achot said.

Thot responded by terming Agwelek forces as a “group jeopardising peace.”

“The Agwelek division forces are no longer part of SPLA-IO Kitgwang. The presence of Gen Olony is a threat to any future peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

Gach said Kitgwang was ready for the dispute to be ironed out between the two formerly allied Kitgwang forces of Olony and Gatwech.

“The SPLM/A-IO Kitgwang is committed to peaceful resolutions and welcomes any meaningful engagement with government in Juba through any kinds of talks,” he added.

Clashes surface

Clashes in Adhidhiang and Obyi IDP camps, Panyikang County, Upper Nile State, resulted in the deaths of two people and three others injured.

“Gatwech forces came from the Adil area in which they reside and attacked the Adhidhiang camp, in which a large number of citizens who were displaced from the conflict areas in Tonga,” Mustafa Lual Gai, commissioner of Panyikang County, said.

“A large number of them have fled to different areas, and some of them have taken refuge in the sea, and this is also dangerous because of (floods).”

On January 16, 2022, an agreement signed by Agwelek and Kitgwang forces with the government was named Khartoum Peace Agreement to end conflict in Upper Nile State.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit granted them amnesty and asked them to apologise to the people of South Sudan for wrongdoing.