September 2, 2014 (WAU) – South Sudan’s vice-president, James Wani Igga, said on Tuesday that he will not step down again to accommodate his predecessor Riek Machar.
- South Sudan’s vice-president, James Wani Igga, speaks at the opening of the national reconciliation and peace conference in Wau on 2 September 2014 (ST)
“Our people have been saying I made a mistake for accepting to step aside for Riek [Machar] to become the second deputy chairman in 2002 when he returned to us in the movement (SPLM), following his defection in 1991,” he said.
“I did it so for the sake of peace and out of patriotism, but if he comes back this time and wants to return to the same position, I will stand with our people to not step aside again,” he added.
Igga, who was addressing the opening ceremony of a national peace and reconciliation conference in Western Bahr el Ghazal state capital Wau, said he previously stood aside for Machar after the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended more than two decades of civil war between north and south, paving the way for South Sudan’s secession in 2011.
“This is a third time now for Riek with his similar behaviours of switching side to side,” he said.
“He did it to Dr John Garang when Garang was leading [the] liberation struggle of South Sudan from Sudan,” he added, referring to the founding leader of the country’s guerrilla movement turned ruling party (SPLM).
Machar served in the Sudanese government until the signing of the CPA after which he returned to the SPLM, with Igga subsequently agreeing to vacate his post.
“Instead of him (Riek Machar) waiting for the struggle to achieve its objective first, he went to Khartoum with the same claims that there was no democracy and human rights and joined the same Arabs we were fighting with. But what happened, did he achieve anything in Khartoum? Did he achieve democracy, human rights? No. His group actually committed more atrocities than what he claimed he wanted to promote,” said Igga.
“He became the worse human right abusers and when he realised he was not making any progress, he decided to return to us in the same the movement he stabbed at the back and we welcomed him back because our people wanted peace,” he added.
However, observers have argued that Igga’s decision to step aside was in line with the leadership’s line of succession, as determined by each individual’s seniority in the movement’s political-military high command council, then led by Garang.
At the time Igga was placed 12th behind Machar, who was in ninth position.
Igga’s comments come after South Sudan’s warring parties agreed on the formation of a transitional government and signed the protocol of agreed principles in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in front of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is mediating peace talks.
The agreement proposed offering Machar the position of vice-president and the creation of a prime minister post in the country.
The document was presented as a guideline for discussions aimed at ending the country’s political crisis.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since mid-December last year after an internal rift in the SPLM party turned violent.
The fighting has pitted government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir against pro-Machar rebels.
Igga has welcomed the IGAD’s decision to support Kiir as head of the transitional government until the planned 2015 elections take place, criticising Machar over his refusal to sign the protocol agreement on the transitional government.
“We, the Government of south Sudan, are very keen to make peace, that is why we agreed on all principles proposed [by] the international communities and [in] the interests of our people to restore peace in the country,” he said.
“But now the problem will be between and international communities and Riek Machar who refused [to] ink the paper,” he added.
Igga called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, saying it was unnecessary for the people of South Sudan to continue fighting among themselves for the sake of Machar’s political interests, saying there was no place for nepotism, tribalism and corruption.
“Let us hold our hands together to bring peace back to our nation,” he said.
“South Sudan is our country; let us all be equal before law,” he added.
Igga was appointed vice-president after Kiir sacked Machar last July.