August 18, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese opposition faction led by the former First Vice President, Riek Machar, said they have cut off Taban Deng Gai, the new First Vice President, from all the areas controlled by the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), including from its headquarters of Pagak in Upper Nile region.
“Honourable Taban Deng Gai will not set foot in the SPLM/SPLA (IO) controlled areas across the country, including the General Headquarters of Pagak,” said James Gatdet Dak, official spokesperson for Machar, the leader of the opposition faction, SPLM-IO.
“Let him deceive President Salva Kiir in Juba by claiming that he is also a leader of the organization called SPLM/SPLA (IO). He may get away with the deception in Juba because the two of them seem to be so desperate and are comfortable with mutual deception. The President may not bother to ask him about who is actually in charge of the SPLM-IO controlled territories in the country, including the General Headquarters, Pagak. But the reality is that he is alone leader with no grassroots support or base. He is a defector to President Kiir,” he added.
He said Gai can only visit President Kiir’s controlled areas, adding he is in reality part and parcel of the faction led by the President after his recent defection from the SPLM-IO.
Dak added that a directive was already issued by the leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, dismissing and cutting off Gai, not only from his previous contacts with the SPLA-IO army, but also with the civil administrations of the SPLM-IO in the states and counties they control.
He said Machar is in full control of the civil administrations and the entire army of the SPLM-IO faction, and that Gai only "defected" with his bodyguards and some of the SPLM-IO politicians “who were only after positions in the government and not for the reform agenda in the country.”
SURRENDER NOT COHESION
Dak also described the current working relationship between the new First Vice President, Gai, and President Kiir as based on “surrender and conspiracy to avoid reforms in the country” but not about the claimed cohesion in the presidency.
“Their working relationship now is based on the fact that Honourable Taban Deng Gai has surrendered while President Salva Kiir has embraced him for a mutual conspiracy to avoid reforms and accountability in South Sudan. It is about compromising and abrogating the August 2015 peace agreement. So it is never based on cohesion to do the right thing as they claimed,” he claimed.
The opposition leader’s spokesman was responding to comments from the presidency that their working relationship had gone well without Machar in the implementation of the peace agreement.
He further argued that with the current situation to destroy the peace deal by scrapping its important provisions, the country would never implement reforms, further claiming that the two leaders have already begun to dismantle some of the mechanisms that are crucial for ensuring that reforms are implemented.
The declaration to immediately begin integration of SPLA-IO, although Gai has no force to integrate, he said, is an indication of the desire to avoid implementing security sector reforms which was necessary before the amalgamation of the forces can take place.
For instance, Dak further argued that Gai has surrendered to President Kiir the position of the speaker of the transitional national legislative assembly which was very crucial for driving the reform agenda among the lawmakers in the country.
This came after President Kiir insisted that he was the one to select the speaker of parliament. Previously, Riek Machar wanted the position to be contested by the two factions and the winner takes it.
“See how he has surrendered the position of the speaker. We in the opposition wanted to contest for this seat because it is crucial for driving the needed change and passing reform laws in the parliament. We would have won the speakership position if it was contested democratically. We had huge support from within President Kiir’s members of parliament who wanted us to spearhead the change. This is the reason President Kiir did not want democratic election for the position. But now Honourable Taban Deng Gai has simply surrendered this important position. It means he is not for change but only interested to maintain the status quo,” he said.
“We will not however become magnanimous at the expense of scrapping provisions in the peace agreement and nipping reforms in the bud. We will ensure that the situation is corrected and the country goes for reforms in various sectors in order to move forward,” he added.
He also said Machar remains the legitimate First Vice President of South Sudan, despite his recent “illegal” replacement by President Kiir.
The opposition leader has reportedly relocated to another neighbouring country after a month of fighting with President Kiir’s forces who reportedly hunted for him in the bushes around Juba, following clashes in the capital which involved his small number of forces.
Dak claimed that Machar was relocated for his safety and in order to have access to the rest of the world and the media.