Sudan Tribune

S Sudan's FVP designate Riek Machar, arrives in his General Headquarters, Pagak. He was received by SPLA-IO's Chief of General Staff, 1st Lt. Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, 12 April, 2016 (courtesy photo of SPLM-IO)

July 24, 2016 (JUBA) – The leadership of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), led by First Vice President, Riek Machar, said their party and its leadership had remained intact despite recent “illegal” attempt by outsiders to snatch and claim it.

“The leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) is intact. The illegal attempt by outsiders to claim it has been aborted,” said James Gatdet Dak, Machar spokesperson.

“What happened in Juba in a hotel on July 23, 2016, organized by a dismissed member, Honourable Taban Deng Gai, was an act of terrorism, during which three senior officials of our party were held hostage in their Crown Hotel and were intimidated and forced against their will to nominate him as acting First Vice President of the Transitional Government of National Unity and Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLM (IO), or else President Salva Kiir’s security operatives would have dealt with them,” he added.

He said their party’s secretary general, Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol, was severely beaten a week before in the hotel when his position was known to have been against activities of Gai, adding this has made the SPLM-IO ministers and officials remaining in Juba to fear for their lives.

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, a supporter of Taban Deng Gai, announced on Saturday that President Kiir was going to appoint Gai on that Saturday as acting First Vice President and take oath of office on Sunday and start his official work on Monday.

Machar’s spokesperson, Dak, said President Kiir has made a wise decision by not acting to also illegally appoint Taban Deng Gai as acting First Vice President to replace his recognized peace partner, Riek Machar, saying appointing Gai would have shown to the world that President Kiir meant to destroy the peace agreement and was part of the conspiracy which Gai was used to implement.

He said President Kiir should further act in accordance with the request from his first deputy to relieve Taban Deng Gai for his position as minister of Mining, saying the agreement has provided powers to the First Vice President to recommend to the President to replace any of his ministers he nominated to the transitional government.

Dak argued that as the head of state whose responsibility is to protect institutions and abide by the peace agreement, President Kiir should not be trapped into condemnation by allowing for illegal and fraudulent replacement of his first deputy, as this would destroy the peace deal.

“I believe that if President Salva Kiir respects institutions which his government has created as well as the transitional leadership of the transitional government and wants the peace agreement to be implemented without hiccups, he should relieve Honourable Taban Deng Gai as requested by the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar,” he added.

He seriously condemned the process carried out at Crown Hotel in Juba to “fraudulently” replace Machar, saying the process only amounted to “a hotel good time party by random invitees” and not an institutional process of the SPLM/SPLA (IO).

The opposition leader’s spokesman narrated that Gai was dismissed from the party by his chairman a day before forging the meeting, and therefore was no longer a member of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) as he already defected to President Kiir’s faction by his own actions.

He also argued that even if Gai were to remain a member of the party, there was no quorum of the leaderships of the political bureau or the national liberation council in Juba to convene a meeting, adding that Gai got only one member willingly and forced other three senior officials out of 23 members of the political bureau.

Over 90 percent of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) leadership bodies, he said, have been dispersed by the recent fighting, and are either with Machar in the bush, or in United Nations camps in Juba, or in the other parts of the country, or in the neighbouring countries.

He further explained that the peace agreement has not also provided for a temporary replacement of the First Vice President or the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLA.

“The peace agreement has instead given powers to the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, to delegate one of his ministers to temporarily act on his behalf in his absence if need be. It is like when the vice president acts when the president is absent. This does not need replacement, or appointment or taking oath of office in order to temporarily act. We also have our deputy chairman, General Alfred Ladu Gore, who is in Juba,” he added.

A senior official who is loyal to President Salva Kiir told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that the “smartest way” President Kiir should behave now is by not appointing Taban Deng Gai to replace Riek Machar as First Vice President so that he distanced himself from the internal power struggle within the SPLM-IO and to avoid being condemned by the international community for either being behind the conspiracy or supporting Taban Deng Gai to destroy the peace agreement.

He said the President is likely relieve Gai from his post as Minister of Mining in show of acting as the head of state who respects the agreement and decisions made by his first deputy who is mandated by the peace agreement to replace his party’s ministers in the cabinet.

“President Kiir himself said he saved Machar at the palace during the fighting two weeks ago. This has clearly indicated that he wants to continue to work with him. He should continue to show this to the world by maintaining him as his first deputy, otherwise if he acts contrary to this the reading will be different,” the official said.

Machar fled the capital two weeks ago and said he relocated to outside of Juba due to fear for his safety and to avoid further clashes between his forces and those loyal to President Kiir after four days of fighting in Juba.

He said he will return to Juba immediately after a third party force is deployed in the capital to separate rival forces and provide security and protection for the leadership and the citizens exposed to danger.