September 5, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, has reiterated his congratulations to his successor, James Wani Igga, saying the latter was his long-time comrade in the struggle for the independence of the new country.
- South Sudan’s new vice-president, James Wani Igga (Photo Moses Lomayat)
This is the third time Machar had publicly expressed his congratulations to the former speaker of parliament who was appointed as new VP on 23 August; a month after he was relieved by the president of the republic, Salva Kiir Mayardit, after eight years in office.
Machar on Wednesday remarked to the press that he has known James Wani Igga as a comrade since 1985, when Igga joined the struggle, which was championed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
“I was the one who received him in Addis Ababa,” Machar said, referring to the time when his colleague joined the struggle while he [Machar] was in charge of the SPLM/A office in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The former VP before joining the movement in 1984; a year ahead of Igga, was a political activist while pursuing his engineering studies in the United Kingdom where he obtained his PhD in Strategic Planning in Industry.
After joining the movement, the late chairman of the SPLM, John Garang de Mabior, put Machar in charge of the movement’s head office in Addis Ababa before he was given a military training and deployed at the rank of major as a zonal commander in 1985 in Western Upper Nile.
Machar quickly rose to the rank of Alternate-Commander and then to the rank of a Commander before he then disagreed with late Garang in 1991 on how the movement was being run.
The issues of contention centred on his call for self-determination, democratisation of the movement and respect for human rights, while the late chairman wanted the movement to maintain its objective for a new Sudan; secular democratic and united.
Igga who was a junior to Machar in the movement’s hierarchy by then rose in the mid-1990s and became the third in command after the late Garang and current president of the republic, Salva Kiir Mayardit. This promotion followed the 1991 split in the SPLM/A and the death of many senior officers and founders of the movement.
In 2002 when the movement reunited under the Nairobi Declaration, Igga accepted to step down for Machar, partly in respect of the original hierarchy which prevailed in 1980s.
Between 2002 and 2005 before the untimely death of the late chairman, Garang, Kiir became the SPLM/A deputy chairman for military affairs; Machar became the movement’s deputy chairman for administration while Igga was tasked with political affairs in the third deputy position.
After a regional power-sharing arrangement between the SPLM/A and the Khartoum government in 2005, Igga became the speaker of the southern Sudanese national legislative assembly, a post which he held until 23 August this year when Kiir appointed him as Machar’s replacement as South Sudan’ vice-president.
Machar said that, if he had been invited, he had been ready and willing to personally attend the handing over of the vice presidency to Igga at a ceremonial event in Juba on 26 August.