June 16, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar, have criticised what they described as inconsistent and self-contradictory public remarks uttered by senior officials of the national and state governments.
- Opposition leader Riek Machar (L) with James Wani Igga after the latter was nominated national assembly speaker (AP)
South Sudan’s vice-president, James Wani Igga, while on a mission to the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Saturday vowed Juba would neither accept President Salva Kiir to step down nor form a power-sharing interim government which would include the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM-in-Opposition).
"We cannot make a mistake neither to accept the rebels demand for president [Salva]Kiir to step down. This is very wrong and can never and ever happen in this world,” Igga told thousands of South Sudanese at the International University of East Africa (IUEA) in Kampala on Saturday.
The vice-president who traveled to Kampala to advance government’s initiative for dialogue, peace and reconciliation among South Sudanese in the neighbouring country’s capital also described as "unwise" any decision by the leadership in Juba to share power with the rebels.
Rebels fighting the government have described president Kiir as illegitimate, accusing him of “administering” massacre of thousands of members of ethnic Nuer community in Juba and calling for him to step down.
However, mediators of the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have tabled a proposal for the two rival parties to negotiate a peace agreement within 60 days that would lead to formation of a transitional government which composition is yet to be negotiated.
Reacting to the remark, Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said the armed opposition group saw the statement coming from the second leader in command as “inconsistent” with the agreed agenda currently on the table as well as the spirit of the IGAD-mediated peace talks in Addis Ababa.
“The remark by the deputy president was inconsistent with what they sent their delegation for in Addis Ababa. You cannot compose and mandate a delegation to discuss a power-sharing transitional government with an opposition movement and at the same time call the decision unwise,” Dak told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
“In this case the regime should simply call it a quit and continue with its normal internal reshuffles if they are not ready to forfeit their dear positions including that of the president,” he added.
REBELS WELCOME SUPPORT TO FEDERAL SYSTEM
The rebel spokesperson further said the leadership of the SPLM/A in Opposition has welcomed the recent declared support to the call for federalism by the governor of Eastern Equatoria state, Louis Lobong Lojore, who was the last top executive in the three states of greater Equatoria to have made his position publicly known on the matter.
Previously the rebel group commended official positions adopted by governments and state governors of Central and Western Equatoria states in full support of federalism which is the core demand of the rebels.
President Kiir while addressing the parliament last week however cautioned the lawmakers against embracing the idea of federalism, saying it was a ploy by the rebel leader, Riek Machar, to split what the South Sudanese leader described as internal front.
Speaking for the first time on the matter, Lojore however said the calls for federalism were not initiated by his greater Equatoria counterparts, but rather a system demanded by citizens in these three regions.
"We [governors] have been saying this even to the president and everybody that Equatorians want federalism and not we as governors because we are elected leaders," Lojore told reporters in the capital, Torit.
"We are representing them. We tell out what the people are saying and we will continue advocating for it”, he added.
Lobong further added that a nationwide campaign in support of federalism would soon be held to convince the population to embrace a federal system of governance.
He added that the former vice president-turned rebel leader was not the right person to demand federalism, further alleging that the ex-VP voted against a federal system when he was a member of parliament in Juba.
But Machar’s spokesperson stressed that the governor was welcomed to join the demand for a federal system.
“We welcome him to the club of federalists,” he said.
Dak, however, dismissed the allegation by the governor, explaining that when the parliament voted for the transitional constitution in 2011, Machar had travelled to the United States of America and had to leave behind his views in writing to the parliament.
He argued that the documented views of the former vice-president were in favour of a transitional constitution which would have ensured and promoted adoption of a federal system of governance, adding that most of his boss’ views were however not incorporated resulting to anti-federal transitional constitution.
He wondered why like-minds would spend time with "self-contradictions" and quarreling over who initiated the idea of federalism instead of joining efforts to realise it, further explaining that federalism has been an overdue demand of the diverse people of South Sudan since 1947 before the independence of the Sudan.
“Leaders who think they are representing the federalist voices of their people in their respective constituencies should begin to practically act on how to achieve a federal system. If they have been truly calling for federalism they should by now ask themselves what they have done over the years or should have done in order to ensure it is implemented,” Dak challenged.
The rebels have demanded to restructure the state on the basis of a federal system of governance, arguing that the crisis had split the ruling party, organised forces and even the South Sudanese society, hence the need to reform all sectors of governance in order to dismantle the hegemony and abuse of power as well as misuse of resources by the centre.
The six-month old crisis which began as an internal conflict within the ruling party (SPLM) on 15 December 2013 has resulted to the death of tens of thousands of people and displaced over a million more.