Retired SANDF colonel on release from jail: 'My memories of South Sudan will always be positive'

2018-11-02 18:59
William John Endley, right.  (AFP)

William John Endley, right. (AFP)

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South Sudanese authorities on Friday released rebel leader Riek Machar's former spokesperson as well as a South African adviser, a move seen as a gesture of goodwill in an ongoing peace process.

The spokesperson James Gatdet and retired South African colonel William John Endley were sentenced to death earlier this year by President Salva Kiir's regime for treason and conspiracy.

Endley had also been charged with espionage and illegal entry into South Sudan.

"We are here to implement the orders of the president to release these two guys," Interior Minister Michael Chiengjek told journalists at the national prison headquarters in Juba.

READ: Sisulu welcomes release of former SANDF Colonel William Endley

"Their release comes as part of the peace implementation," Chiengjek said, adding "they are now free."

While Endley was expected to be deported immediately back to South Africa on Friday, Gatdet was expected to travel to Khartoum where Machar has been living.

Gatdet had fled to neighbouring Kenya where he had been granted refugee status. He was deported back to South Sudan in November 2016 against international law in a move widely condemned by rights groups.

"I want to express my happiness that I'm free again after two years in detention and prison," said Gatdet, dressed in a bright orange prison uniform.

'It's like a dream come true', says sister about looming release of ex-SANDF colonel jailed in South Sudan

Uncontrolled jubilation washed over the sister of a former South African National Defence Force colonel William Endley who will be released after being imprisoned in South Sudan for more than two years.

Both men appeared smiling and healthy.

"I want to thank the President Salva Kiir for ordering my release. I am very happy that this will enable me to reunite with my family members and my friends after a long period of time," he added.

Endley was arrested in August 2016 shortly after an outbreak of renewed fighting between Machar and Kiir's forces in Juba.

According to court, he was a political adviser to Machar - who had fled the country during that fighting.

He welcomed his release and praised the "hospitality" of most South Sudanese.

"Unfortunately in all walks of life in all countries you will get the good people and the bad people and my memories of South Sudan always will be positive."

South Sudan's civil war broke out in 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup.

The fighting has killed an estimated 380 000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced nearly two-and-a-half million into exile, and triggered bouts of deadly famine.

The latest in a series of peace deals was inked in September, and saw Machar return to Juba this week for the first time since he fled in 2016, although only for a few hours.

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