August 5, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, has dispatched a high level delegation on Friday to attend a regional summit at which its political and security situation tops the agenda.
- President Salva Kiir (R) embraces Taban Deng Gai after his swearing-in ceremony as FVP at the Presidential Palace in the capital of Juba, July 26, 2016 (Photo Reuters Jok Solumun)
However, the delegation led by the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, has reportedly been denied access to the official IGAD summit of the Heads of State and Government.
The government sanctioned delegation, confirmed in a statement from the office of the president, is being led by Gai, who has replaced the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.
“The First Vice President of the Republic Taban Deng Gai is travelling to Addis Ababa to represent South Sudan at the emergency IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit. The summit is being convened to discuss the recent fighting that broke out in South Sudan. The meeting is also scheduled to discuss a regional response, including the issue of intervention force,” the statement reads in part.
This comes after armed opposition leadership under Riek Machar issued a strong statement criticizing the manner in which international community and guarantors of peace process have acted at the time amid violations, accusing them of being passive to the political turmoil in the country. The guarantors include Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and other African countries in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) trade bloc.
“There is a serious lack of support from the international community and the guarantors to the peace agreement,” Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) said in a statement Wednesday.
According to the statement, “the daily violation of peace by the government followed by illegal appointment of Taban Deng Gai resulted in the collapse of the peace agreement.”
Machar fled Juba in July and went into hiding after new clashes broke out between his forces and government soldiers, saying he would only return when a third-party force is deployed to act as a buffer.
On July 25, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir sacked Machar as first vice-president, replacing him with Gai. The move threatens to split the armed opposition into two factions: one backing Gai in Juba to support implementation of the peace implementation, and another faction that only recognizes Machar as the first vice-president according to the peace accord signed in August 2015.
East Africa’s eight-nation trade and security bloc, IGAD, is scheduled to meet in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Friday to look into the crisis in South Sudan, which has been a growing concern for the region. The latest statement comes after Kiir, acting on advice from his new vice president dismissed about half a dozen ministers representing the SPLM/A-IO.
On Monday, a prominent opposition figure who had held ministerial position in the Transitional Government of National Unity announced his resignation, saying the government in Juba was “dead”.
“We are not surprised by the steps being taken by President Kiir and Taban Deng changing IO ministerial position and Transitional Legislative Assembly,” the SPLM-IO statement said.
“We are just waiting for the deployment of the regional force [a third-party intervention recommended by the IGAD and the UN] …so we can take further steps towards putting an end to the suffering of the people of South Sudan,” it added.
Gai, the new first vice president, is reportedly denied attending the official IGAD summit of the Heads of State and Government as South Sudan was not invited to participate in the matter discussing its conflicts.
Observers however said Gai may only meet IGAD officials in the corridors to argue his position, but not in the official deliberations on South Sudan. The SPLM-IO delegation loyal to Machar will equally do the same.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following 50 years of Africa’s long-running civil war.
Two years later the country slide back into chaos after Kiir accused his longtime rival Machar of a coup attempt which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people and displaced 2.4 million others.
Machar dismissed the coup narrative as false and a way by President Kiir to silence the voices calling for democracy in the country.
The ongoing fighting between forces loyal to the two leaders threatens the peace deal itself.