South Sudan’s powerful general, Peter Gatdet Yak has died in Khartoum, Sudan. He was 61.
The combative and cagey general significantly changed course of the South Sudan civil war in December 2013, when he became the first Division commander to defect from SPLA to Dr. Riek Machar’s SPLA in opposition.
Officials said Gatdet died of a suspected heart attack on Monday.
SPLM (IO) Director for Information and Public Relations, Cde Puok Both Baluang confirmed the development on Tuesday.
“We have learned with utmost dismay the passing of Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak, Chairman of South Sudan United Movement (SSUM) yesterday 15/4/2019 in Khartoum, Sudan,” said Both.
“On behalf of members and leadership of the SPLM/A (IO), I wish to extend our heartfelt condolence to his family and relatives. Our sympathies are also with the countless family, friends of late Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak and the people of South Sudan at large during this difficult time bereavement.”
Gatdet became the governor of the rebel stronghold in the Jonglei state capital of Bor, where Kiir’s forces suffered numerous defeats.
The fierce rebel offensive in Bor, threatened the government of Salva Kiir resulting to the swift deployment of Uganda People Defense Forces in South Sudan to avert possible genocide in the precarious tribal inclined conflict.
In August 2015 Gen. Gatdet and SPLA-IO Chief of Logistics, Gatkouth Gatkouth left Machar’s rebel movement and formed their own called South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA).
“We are not only grieved at the passing of a brave warrior, revolutionary and a great Leader, but also for the loss his family suffers,” said Both.
Peter Gatdet Yak (or Gatdet) is a former Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) general who is now the leader of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), a rebel movement in South Sudan. He was born between 1957 and 1959 in Mayom County, South Sudan.
General Gatdet was a member of the South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) during the Second Sudanese Civil War. He joined the SPLA after the Juba Declaration of 8 January 2006, but said that he was marginalized and that the army was dominated by tribal nepotism.
In April 2011 Gatdet emerged as leader of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), a new militia demanding a more broadly-based government. In Unity State, he began an assault on the SPLA, leaving at least 45 people dead. According to the military, 20 of the victims were southern army soldiers.
In August 2011, SSLA’s spokesperson has said that the movement has declared a ceasefire with the government. Gadet integrated his forces into the army and became the 8th Division Commander.
Amidst the South Sudanese Civil War in December 2013, he mutinied again and his mainly Nuer militia claimed control of Bor, South Sudan. Riek Machar claims Gadet has been installed as military governor of Jonglei. In July 2014, the European Union imposed sanctions on Gadet accusing him of leading an attack of the town of Bentiu, in which about 400 people were killed in the 2014 Bentiu massacre.
On 11 August 2015 Gathoth Gatkuoth, the former SPLM-IO logistics chief, and Peter Gatdet, announced that they had split from Riek Machar, believing him to be “seeking power for himself”.
They rejected ongoing peace talks and announced that they would now combat Riek Machar’s forces in addition to government forces, saying, “They (Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir) are symbols of hate, division and failed leadership, both leaders were responsible for starting the crisis.”
Gathoth Gatkuoth stated he wishes for a President who is neither Dinka nor Nuer. Gatkuoth added that he intends to register his group as a political group called the “Federal Democratic Party”. Peter Gadet became Chairman of the Military Command Council of FDP/South Sudan Armed Forces.
He is an ethnic Nuer. His wife is the daughter of Gatluak Gai, a rebel general. He is also on the board of advisers of the US-based Jarch Management Group, which has obtained oil concessions on large areas of land in South Sudan.