July 26, 2016 (JUBA) – The former chief negotiator for South Sudan’s armed opposition, Taban Deng Gai was on Tuesday sworn-in as First Vice President, replacing Riek Machar who fled the nation following the recent clashes between rival forces in the capital, Juba.
- Head of the rebel delegation, Taban Deng Gai, attends the opening ceremony of South Sudan’s negotiation in Addis Ababa, January 4, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
Gai, appointed on Monday by President Salva Kiir in a decree, vowed to work with the former to restore ,, address economic crisis and ensure return of civilians displaced by the conflict to their homes.
He said ending the war required cooperation with the international community.
“To achieve this [peace] Mr. President, we must cooperate with the international community provided that they respect this country,” said a rather emotional Gai.
In what appears to be a shift from the provisions of the peace agreement that requires two armies for a period of 18 months, Gai suggested that this provision be scrapped.
“This country has a constitution, this country have a president and have a law to be followed. Your Excellence Mr. President, as I said, you are my commander in chief. The country cannot have two armies,” he said.
Gai was nominated by armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) in Juba over the weekend as replacement for Machar, who is the chairman of the SPLM-IO. President Kiir formally appointed Gai as First Vice President in a decree announced on Monday.
Kiir, however, said he did not influence the decision to replace Machar with Gai.
“Comrade Taban Deng Gai was selected by the SPLM/A IO to replace Dr. Riek Machar whose whereabouts are not known to all of us,” said the South Sudanese leader.
“I have been appealing to him [First Vice President Riek Machar] to come back to Juba so that we continue with the implementation of the agreement. Of course this agreement cannot be personalized that if X is away, the agreement can be shelved until when that person comes. That cannot happen,” he added.
Machar has said he would only return to the capital, Juba when a third force proposed by regional countries and approved by the African Union is deployed in the young nation.