April 16, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan has attempted to clarify the powers president Salva Kiir has removed from his vice president, Riek Machar, following the shock announcement on state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Monday.
The surprise move has created tension and uncertainty at the centre of the south-ruling party (SPLM) government, which officials tried to dispel today after a stunned reaction among the South Sudanese public.
Under article 105 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, the vice president can act as the president in the event that the head of state is out of the country or when out of office. The president can also delegate some powers to his deputy so as to help in executing national duties, due to scheduling issues.
Sources aware of the authority president Kiir had delegated of Machar, claims such powers include representation of the president at high-level international and national meetings.
The speaker of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, said on Tuesday that the president "did not touch" the constitutional powers assigned to the vice president and did not dismiss him. The head of state had only withdrawn powers he had previously delegated to his deputy to help perform other important tasks he could not attend, the senior SPLM official said.
“I read the read decree and looked at the transitional constitution and found that the president did not touch any constitutional powers assigned to the vice president. He [Kiir] had only withdrawn powers he had in the past delegated to his deputy. So let our people understand that the vice president is a still a vice president with all his constitutional powers”, Igga told reporters.
Igga called for South Sudanese to be calm and read the decree to fully understand the meaning of the announcement.
James Kok Ruea, a former minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management, currently a member of parliament representing Fangak county in Jonglei state also said that Machar had not been stripped of any powers not vested in him by the country’s transitional constitution.
Ruea said the decree had been misunderstood, generating confusion and spreading of rumours alleging that the Vice president has been removed from his position by the order of the president.
“There is confusion. People were confused when they heard it. Some people called yesterday to ask whether I have heard [about the] removal of the vice president. These were literate people. They are educated. They reads and write but because they were misinformed they thought all powers of the vice president were removed”, Ruea said.
South Sudan Minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, at press conference organised specifically to make clarifications on the order, called for calm and cautious remarks, saying constitutional powers of the vice president have not been removed.
“Riek Machar is still a vice president with all constitutional powers. General Salva Kiir Mayardit is a still a president with all his constitutional powers. They are all in office. What the president had done is that he had withdrawn powers he had previously delegated to the vice president. It is like you asking me to do some work for you when you are preoccupied. This is exactly what happened and it should be understood in this context”, Marial said Tuesday.
He denied that there were any political differences between the president and his deputy over the organisation and conduct of a peace and reconciliation conference scheduled for June, having only recently been postponed from April.
Machar had been due to head the conference but was removed from this position by Kiir on Monday. Government sources have told Sudan Tribune that the postponement was due to political differences over the agenda and the timing of the process.
However Marial, the governments official spokesperson did not give any reason for the decision as to why Kiir had abruptly suspended the process and Machar’s role in it.
“There is no difference that I know between the vice president and the president. The two leaders have been closely working together on all issues of national value”, Marial explained.
Kiir’s actions may be linked to Machar’s reported intention to run for the chairmanship of the ruling SPLM at the upcoming national convention.
Machar has served as Kiir’s deputy since 2005 when the SPLM’s leader, the late John Garang died in a helicopter crash shorty after negotiating the end of two decade of civil war with the Khartoum government.