July 21, 2016 (JUBA) – The Spokesperson of South Sudan’s First Vice President, Riek Machar, who leads the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), has disowned the statement uttered by Taban Deng Gai, his ex-chief negotiator, that the SPLM-IO was not for a third party.
- Machar speaks on a mobile phone after an interview with Reuters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi July 8, 2015
SPLM-IO leader’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak said Deng was speaking on behalf of President Salva Kiir and not on behalf of his chairman, Riek Machar.
“The SPLM-IO and its leadership are for deployment of a third party force in Juba. First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, has been very clear about this. Even in his cessation of hostilities declaration on July 11, 2016, he put it clearly as a proposal that a third party force should be deployed in Juba to create a buffer between his forces and those of President Salva Kiir,” Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Thursday morning.
“If Honourable Taban Deng is still loyal to his boss, Dr. Machar, he should have known this position and should have respected the decision of his leadership. Unfortunately, it seems he speaks on behalf of President Salva Kiir rather than on behalf of the SPLM-IO leadership. We should ignore his anti-third party statement as not representing the position of the SPLM-IO,” he added.
Earlier, on Wednesday after meeting President Salva Kiir, Mining Minister Taban Deng, flanked by deputy chairman of SPLM-IO, Alfred Ladu Gore, who is the Interior Minister, and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Chairperson for External Relations in the SPLM-IO, gave out a televised statement, saying the SPLM-IO is not for a third force deployment.
“We are against this issue of third party to intervene in our affairs. The president is in control and there is no need for intervention. We have seen the repercussion of these interventions in other countries,” said Gai.
He spoke to reporters after meeting President Salva Kiir, barely two weeks after the country’s main rival forces clashed in the capital, Juba leaving hundreds dead and displacing over 40,000.
Although the deputy chairman of the SPLM-IO, Alfred Lado Gore, was present when Gai gave the statement, it was not clear why such an alleged SPLM-IO leadership position was not relayed by the second person in command, Gore, who also did not mention anything whether they are for a third party force or not.
But Machar’s spokesperson, Dak, said he suspected that some of their senior leaders in Juba have been under immense pressure not to express their mind in fear for their lives after the SPLM-IO Secretary General, Dhieu Mathok Diing, was beaten severely by security personnel loyal to President Kiir.
Dak however said he personally spoke to Machar on phone on Tuesday and confirmed the leadership’s position on deployment of a third force in Juba, saying “this is what Dr. Machar has been waiting for in order to return to Juba.”
“I spoke with the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar on the phone and he confirmed to me the SPLM-IO leadership’s position that a third force needs to be deployed before he could return to Juba. He is happy with the endorsement by IGAD, AU and the United Nations Security Council to deploy the third force,” Dak further stressed.
"Let Honourable Taban Deng speak to his boss and confirm the leadership’s position," he added.
When asked whether the contradicting statements coming from Taban Deng confirmed the widely circulated speculations that he may want to defect to President Kiir or campaign to replace Machar as First Vice President, Dak said he could not confirm what had transpired in the mind of the mining minister, Gai, but added that “his statement does not represent the position of the leadership.”
There have been speculations that Deng, a controversial figure who is widely seen as behind the escalation of the December 2013 crisis, is eyeing for the position of the First Vice President after he was disappointed when he was not appointed as petroleum minister.
However, observers who have knowledge about the provisions of the peace agreement signed between President Kiir and First Vice President, Machar, in August last year, said it would be difficult for Kiir to unilaterally replace Machar as this would be a direct violation of the peace agreement.