South Sudan’s National Security Service monitored several phone calls of former Unity State Governor Taban Deng in the days and hours leading to the 15 December violence but voice recordings of these calls do not contain evidence of an attempted coup d’etat, according to the African Union Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission members said that they listened to the voice intercepts of Taban Deng from December 2013 and found no evidence in these tapes that he was plotting a coup.
“From all the information available to the Commission, the evidence does not point to a coup,” concluded the AU Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission explained in their final report published Tuesday that their members met with National Security Director General Akol Koor during their inquiries in Juba, during which he revealed that he had begun “mobilising his officers” prior to the killings of December 2013 and he “informed the Commission of intelligence in their possession regarding the moment when Taban Deng and Riek Machar ordered the fighting to start.”
The top NSS official blamed Taban Deng for the start of the violence, telling the AU Commission, “When the fighting started, it was because Taban Deng had communicated with one of the senior officers saying ‘the Big man has said you should start.’”
Akol Koor claimed that the alleged coup plotters wanted to undertake their activities on the 16th but they knew their activities had been intercepted and changed the plan to start on night of the 15th instead. “He confirmed the existence of voice intercepts of Taban Deng manning the situation, and asking those with whom he was in contact if they had accessed the guns….the Director General said: ‘He even asked the youth, “have you got the guns’?”
On reviewing the tapes referred to by Akol Koor, however, the AU Commission of Inquiry found no evidence of an attempted coup. “The Commission was provided with tapes of the interception at the meeting, listened to them thereafter but could not detect information relating to a coup from the intercepted conversation they listened to.”
This revelation follows the release last year of the alleged “Group of Four” plotters – Pagan Amum, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, Majak d’Agoot and Oyai Deng – against whom the National Security failed to produce sufficient evidence during a treason trial. The defense dismissed the tapes played at that trial as irrelevant and showing no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the defendants.
Separately, the AU Commission report revealed that Salva Kiir fled to the National Security building on the night of 15 December at 9:00 p.m.
“The Commission learnt that that when the gunshots began ringing at around 9.00 p.m. the President who had been in the palace left and was escorted to the National Security building. It was alleged further that the soldiers who accompanied the President were Dinkas only,” the AU report states.
South Sudan’s government has not yet responded to the claims in the AU Commission of Inquiry report. Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek yesterday told Radio Tamazuj that he could not comment until after a cabinet meeting on Friday during which the report would be discussed.