Let that Great Tree Grow: Free James Gatdet Dak from Jail (Part 1)

Posted: April 1, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, Mayen Ayarbior

By David Mayen Dengdit, Colorado, USA


James Gatdet Dak, former IO spokesperson of Dr. Riek Machar, who is currently sentenced to death for treason and serving jail time in Juba, South Sudan

April 1, 2018 (SSB) — I read the news in the media that my good friend James Gatdet Dak is sick in detention in Juba. This news touched me because I remember how Gatdet offered his assistance to me when I was appointed Press Secretary in the Office of the then incoming Vice President H.E. James Wani Igga. He talked to me and we exchanged emails where he sent me formats of the various documents that I would need to write or prepare.

His civility, graciousness, and willingness to help me put my feet into the big boots he left behind were amazing. In the country that is South Sudan of today, it is rare to find an outgoing officer helping the one who is taking his office and the immense privileges therein – at least at that time.

From my exchanges with brother Gatdet I came to a conclusion that I was talking to a man who was more educated, more experience, and more nationalist than I was. Even though we may be of the same age bracket, I honestly appreciated his demeanor and nationalist spirit and listened to his advice as I would with an older leader.

Having read the news about Gatdet’s sickness in detention, I just decided to strike my keyboard and say something about such a potentially great leader of South Sudan who is being made to carry a heavy cross which is not for his crucifixion.

Who does not know that Gatdet’s cross is for his boss, Dr. Riek Machar Teny who is now in exile? Whatever he wrote or said, whether he fully agreed with its content or not, were written and said in his official capacity as Press Secretary of Dr. Riek.

That is the nature of what Press Secretaries do. They are sometimes ordered to respond to a criticism of their boss even when that criticism might be right. They are not fully masters of their thinking or decisions to respond.

It is therefore not right for Gatdet, who was trying to work according to his job description and, thus, argue for the benefit of his boss, to face a death sentence for what he said, not what he did- there is a big difference between the two.

To me, Gatdet strikes me as more nationalist and far more educated and articulate than his boss, Dr. Riek, yet was forced to do what he did (bad or good). If incitement to violence was a crime, then so many people should face the death sentence before Gatdet.

The war in South Sudan was a power struggle between H.E. President Salva and H.E. Dr. Riek, Cde. Ateny Wek and  Cde. James Gatdet are mere associates of both men and should not be made to carry those crosses.

I cannot imagine that an argument (a legal one for that matter) is out there claiming that the abrogation of the peace agreement through the J1 dogfight of July 2016 was a consequence of Gatdet’s writing on Facebook.

The fault was in the “Security Arrangements” that brought two antagonistic forces together before genuine peace was achieved.

To turn it around and claim that the fault was Gatdet’s is an absurdity and travesty of justice which I have never come across throughout my study of law, not even in cases of serious miscarriages of justice.

Please, please, please take responsibility for the deaths and destruction in South Sudan. My brother and friend James Gatdet Dak is a patriot, a potentially great nationalist leader whose time to be blamed for anything has not come yet.

Let that great tree grow.

The author, David Mayen Dengdit, is a South Sudanese commentator who can be reached at mayen.ayarbior@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. T.Ngundeng says:

    James Gatdet Dak is a victim of a brutal regime. Let us all speak out and use your title as a banner: “Let That Great Tree Grow: Free James Gatdet Dak.” Thank you brother Mayen Dengdit. Thank very much for those touching words. I dont normally cry, but I am now crying after reading your message to free my cousin Gatdet. There is hope when people like you and your friend Gatdet are still alive in South Sudan.


  2. David says:

    Very good article brother Mayen, this man didn’t do wrong thing rather than follow his job descriptions, they should let him go like other politicians who get away with the crime that deserve death penalty. I personally I don’t agree with what he was doing but he shouldn’t be penalized that way, he was doing what he told to do. That’s very touching article, if we have people like you in Ethiopia negotiating peace, we would have a hope for peace in the country because what you have written is a writing of a peace loving person. Keep it up and we will pray for him to be released.


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