July 26, 2016 (JUBA) – In response to the Monday development in South Sudan in which President Salva Kiir issued a republican decree relieving his peace partner, First Vice President, Riek Machar, opposition’s officials said the “illegal” action was a long time planned conspiracy to destroy the August 2015 peace agreement signed by the two top factional leaders.
- Riek Machar, left, first vice president of the Republic of South Sudan, and Salva Kiir, the president, at the first meeting of the new transitional coalition government in Juba, South Sudan, in April, 2016 (Jason Patinkin/AP)
Machar’s spokesperson said the situation had been suspected for a long time only that his leadership thought President Kiir and Taban Deng Gai, the newly appointed First Vice President, were going to abandon their conspiracy for the sake of peace in the country.
“This illegal action by President Salva Kiir to dismiss his peace partner, Dr. Riek Machar, who chairs the SPLM (IO) party and commands its army, the SPLA (IO), does not only violate the August 2015 peace agreement, but is also a long time planned conspiracy to put the last nail on the coffin of the peace agreement itself,” James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s spokesperson, told Sudan Tribune on Monday evening in response to the event.
He said since February 2016, the plan came to surface while Machar was still in Pagak, his headquarters before returning to Juba in April, adding that President Kiir with the Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders (JCE), a tribal group from President Kiir’s ethnic Dinka, designed this plot to destroy the peace deal using Taban Deng Gai.
Dak said he had to cover up for Taban Deng when this accusation came out, in order not to expose him at the time, with the hope that he was going to change and not allow himself to be used by President Kiir and JCE to return the country to war.
“I had to cover up for Honourable Taban Deng Gai. I had to dismiss his suspected conspiracy as baseless in the media many times because I did not want him exposed. I thought he was going to change,” he added.
He said President Kiir and JCE are implementing their “reservations” in the agreement using Gai and that the peace agreement is currently in “very serious danger.”
Dak said the newly appointed First Vice President does not command the opposition army, adding that they disliked him and wanted him removed long time ago, but Machar could not act. He also said over 95% of the political leadership of the SPLM-IO are with Machar.
The opposition’s spokesperson added that President Kiir was aware of the fact that Gai is never popular in the SPLM-IO political and military establishments, but liked his unpopularity so that the peace agreement can die.
KIIR’S FORCES ON OFFENSIVE
Dak also accused President Kiir’s forces of carrying out offensive on Monday as he was appointing Gai to hunt down Machar around Juba with the aim to kill him.
“As we speak, thousands of President Salva Kiir’s forces are on the move towards the areas where they suspected Dr. Riek Machar to be situated. Also their helicopter gunships have been bombing randomly in the forests, trying to locate him. Their aim is to kill him so that he never returns to Juba,” he said.
“But this will never happen. Dr. Riek Machar will someday return to Juba whether they like it or not, whether they will be there in Juba to receive him or not,” Dak added.
The opposition’s spokesman also accused some members of IGAD of being behind the President Kiir’s conspiracy to destroy the peace agreement using the “illegal” and “forced” replacement of transitional leadership of the government and the party.
He said even the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which is supposed to monitor and safeguard the peace agreement has been “dumb founded” and could not know what to do.
He said Machar did not flee Juba out of his own will but was forced out after he nearly got killed at J1 palace by President Kiir’s forces, adding that only that they could not get chance to murder him inside the palace as his close bodyguards would have also killed president Kiir.
Machar, he said, due to the incidents at the palace and the attack on his base where his house was also bombed, was simply asking for a third party force to be deployed in Juba to guarantee his safety so that he would return to Juba.
“What Dr. Machar was simply asking was for the deployment of a third party force before he would return to Juba. This is what IGAD and AU have also endorsed. So why replace him with the unconvincing pretext that he was away from Juba when all knew why he has been away from Juba?” he asked.
He also said the agreement did not allow for temporary appointment of an acting First Vice President by the President, but instead Machar should have been the one to delegate one of his officials to act if need be.
Dak said he believed that some players in the region and in the international community have taken part in the conspiracy to make South Sudan ungovernable by supporting President Kiir’s illegal actions so that the situation can be used as a pretext for the country to be taken over by the United Nations under a trusteeship.
He said under the current situation where SPLM-IO and SPLA-IO are no longer part of the peace agreement, coupled with the ongoing military offensive by President Kiir’s forces, it would be difficult for Machar to return to Juba any time soon.
He said President Kiir’s faction and their ally led by Taban Deng Gai have been busy trying to track Machar down by monitoring phone conversations and its GPS and bombing his suspected locations around Juba.
It is the second time that Machar has been forced out of Juba by President Kiir’s forces, fleeing for his life. He also fled Juba on 15 December 2013 and his house was bombed.