July 19, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudanese information and broadcasting minister has confirmed on Tuesday reports that the the country’s First Vice President, Riek Machar, could be replaced from his position by another official from his faction in accordance with the provision of the August 2015 peace agreement, which ended 21 months of civil war.
- South Sudanese information minister Michael Makuei Lueth attends a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 5 January 2014 (Photo: AP/Elias Asmara)
Minister Michael Makuei Lueth who doubles as the official spokesperson for the government, and loyal to President Salva Kiir’s faction, is the first senior government official to confirm the speculations which have been widely circulated on social media and which the multiple sources at the presidency hinted that Machar could be replaced if he fails to come out from his hiding and report to Juba.
“Riek Machar can go and the agreement continues. In accordance with the provisions of the agreement, the SPLM/A-IO is supposed to appoint someone to act on behalf of Riek Machar until that time when he comes back and in case the position falls vacant, then the IO would be required to nominate a candidate to fill the position of the first vice president,” said Lueth on Tuesday.
He was speaking during an interview with the US sponsored eye radio at which he confirmed Machar has been in contact with the president and that his absence does not translate cancellation of the peace agreement.
“The fact that Riek Machar has gone does not mean that the agreement is gone. We are hopeful that Riek Machar will come back,” he added.
Machar’s spokesperson also said his leader was going to return to Juba, but after a third party force is deployed in the capital to restore security and ensure protection of the leadership and officials as well as critical government installations.
“The First Vice President is coming back to Juba soon. He only waits for the deployment of additional regional troops in Juba as proposed by the IGAD, the AU and the United Nations Security Council,” an opposition source told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
He said there was no reason to replace Machar who simply relocated from the capital in order to avoid further military confrontations in Juba as President Kiir could not control his forces, adding that the “lawlessness” which exploded at the very palace was a clear manifestation that the capital needed a third force to manage its security.
He also said it would be a clear violation of the peace agreement if Kiir’s faction would unilaterally replace Machar with their “stooge”, saying there are institutions in the SPLM-IO who nominated Machar to take up the position as First Vice President.
Reports suggest that the former chief negotiator for the SPLM-IO and current Mining minister, Taban Deng Gai, assisted by Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, have been leading a campaign to replace Machar, but other opposition officials have refused.
It was speculated that the SPLM-IO secretary general and Energy minister, Dhieu Mathok Diing, was beaten on Friday last week by President Kiir’s security personnel, allegedly because he is one of those who refused the campaign to replace Machar, as the group resorted to intimidating the opposition officials in Juba to endorse Taban Deng.
Taban Deng is reportedly not happy with Machar for not having appointed him as petroleum minister and Ezekiel Lol has grievances for being left out without a government portfolio.
Observers with knowledge of the peace agreement however said it would be difficult for President Kiir to replace Machar as this would attract condemnation from the regional and international partners in the peace agreement.