JUBA – A local court in South Sudan’s capital Juba has found former governor of the defunct Twic state, Atem Madut Yak, guilty of defaming businessman Mariano Ajuet Kuei over cattle raids carried out by armed youth from Unity state’s Mayom county in 2019.
According to Judge Nyang Wol, Governor Madut ‘falsely claimed’ in June 2019 during a fundraising ceremony organized by the Twic Mayardit Community in Juba that businessman Ajuet was collaborating with ex-Special Forces Division commander in Unity state, General Matthew Puljang, to undermine return of all cattle that were raided by armed youth in the area.
Madut, according to the judge, claimed that the businessman was allied to President Salva Kiir’s security advisor Tutkew Gatluak and was conspiring with General Puljang – who for his part is believed to be close to Gatluak – to only return the cattle that belongs to him and in return, General Puljang’s men would not pay compensation for those killed during the raid.
The judge then ordered the former governor to pay a fine of SSP50 million or go to jail for six months, which would make him the first senior government official to go to jail or to be convicted. He has 15 days to appeal the sentence.
However, the former governor’s defense lawyer Peter Malual denied that his client any wrongdoing by his client saying all his speeches were political, vowing he would appeal the sentence at the high court which he said he is sure will have a positive verdict.
“This is unfair verdict and we are going to appeal at the high court because even the procedures by the court were not enough as they didn’t even bother to listen to statements by witnesses who were state government officials at the time when our client was a governor,” he said.