July 4, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan vice-president, Riek Machar has spoken about “time for change" and a need to avoid "authoritarianism”, while indicating his desire to become South Sudan’s next president.
- A crowd looks up to see the rod (dang) of the Nuer Prophet Ngundeng Bong as Riek Machar holds it up on, Juba, May 16, 2009 (ST)
However, Machar, the UK’s The Guardian newspaper reported, said his president has not performed well, citing the latter’s failure to address issues of nation-state.
He specifically said Kiir had failed to tackle rampant corruption, rising tribalism, overwhelming insecurity, dwindling economy, poor international relations and that the south-ruling party (SPLM) was losing vision and direction.
Machar stressed the need to tackle such tough challenges while in the driver’s seat; a clear expression of his intentions to challenge Kiir’s current position as the chairperson of the ruling party ahead of the country’s elections in 2015.
This is the first time South Sudan’s second most powerful man has given an interview about his desire to take over country’s top leadership, although has been quoted before in public statements made.
“When a president has been in power for a long time, it becomes inevitable that a new generation arises," Machar told The Guardian.
"It is a natural process, it is best to move that way. It is not that the incumbent is at all bad."
"To avoid authoritarianism and dictatorship, it is better to change. Our time is limited now. I have been serving under Salva Kiir. I do my best serving under him. I think it is time for a change now."
He added: "Our president has a good legacy. He took us through a very difficult interim period and that was managed successfully under his leadership. The CPA was implemented, a referendum was conducted, independence was declared, and now we are in a transition. This is a good legacy for Salva Kiir."
President Kiir has led South Sudan since August 2005 following the death of then rebel leader John Garang de Mabior in a helicopter crash six months after the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Machar, who then became Kiir’s deputy is widely credited for having played a key role in the implementation of the CPA, which led to the conduct of the January 2011 referendum. He was for instance the chair of South Sudan’s delegation that negotiated the CPA implementation with Khartoum.
In 2010, Machar, who was Kiir’s running mate in the country’s general elections, called on the party’s leadership to embark on the process of transition so as to maintain the confidence and support among the southern population it fought to liberate.
Last year, the SPLM dispatched its most senior members to various states and carried out a country-wide performance assessment based on the party’s policies and activities at the grassroots. However, results from these assessments shockingly showed the party had lost its sense of direction and vision.
Party officials are now worried that the historical party may not win the upcoming 2015 elections, after it appears to have lost the confidence of the people as the country’s ruling party.
Many, however, blame the party for alleged failure to deliver the much-needed service to the people, while others say the SPLM has performed below peoples’ expectations.