President Kiir frees two political prisoners

South Sudan President Salva Kiir declared on Wednesday the release of two political detainees.

James Gatdet, a former spokesman of rebel leader Riek Machar and a South African national William Endley, who had been sentenced to death by a Juba court in February will be freed on Thursday.

President Kiir made the declaration during his speech at a peace ceremony in the capital Juba.

“Today [Wednesday], I declare the release of two political prisoners James and Endley,” he said.

Mr Gatdet was arrested in 2017 after his deportation from Nairobi for allegedly subversive activities against the Juba administration.

Mr Endley, a retired South African army colonel and ex-adviser to Machar, was accused of providing military support to Dr Machar.

“I will release him tomorrow [Thursday] and deport him back to South Africa, Kiir said.

Riek Machar — who returned to Juba for the first time in more than two years to take part in the ceremony— reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of the September 12 peace agreement.

“We come here today [Wednesday] to confirm to you that we are for peace…We want peace and unity,” Machar told the crowd at Freedom Square.

He also announced that the new peace deal will lead to the creation of a federal government.

“The peace agreement will bring you the federal system of governance,” he added.

Notable among the special guests at the ceremony included Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopia’s newly sworn-in President Sahle-Work Zewde, Somali’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into a civil war in 2013 after President Kiir accused Machar — then vice president— of plotting a coup against him.

The five-year civil war has killed an estimated 380,000 people and nearly two-and-a-half million others displaced.

A Mo Ibrahim Foundation report recently ranked South Sudan as the second worst governed state in Africa after Somalia.

Several peace accords have been signed but faltered immediately including the last one in 2016 that forced Machar to flee into exile.

 

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