August 31, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, said there was no need to go back to war over the recent controversial replacement of his former first deputy, Riek Machar.
- President Salva Kiir addresses the nation from the State House on September 15, 2015, in Juba (Photo AFP/Charles Atiki Lomodong)
He said the visit of the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to Juba on Tuesday indicated that the region supported the move to replace Machar with Taban Deng Gai, the opposition’s former chief negotiator.
“The coming of President Uhuru Kenyatta shows that the region stands with us and as the government we will do everything within our capacity to ensure that there is peace and stability. The implementation of peace will be the first priority of transitional government of national unity. Taban Deng Gai and his group have given some assurances and already they have indicated readiness to working together with me and the government. So far, there is a new spirit of cooperation. This was what was lacking before,” said Kiir on Tuesday during the visit of the Kenyan leader.
President Kiir, who spoke to journalists before Kenyan president took to the podium, reminded that the country has struggled for decades to be an independent state with a multitude of ethnic guerrilla groups that have fought against the government for greater autonomy.
He challenged that there was no any reason for the country to return to war over power struggle between him and his political rivals, mainly Machar.
“Peace is the only alternative to war. There is no reason to fight senseless war. If it is power the people who are after it should allow the people to decide who they want. It is not up to some people to say they want to be the leaders. Let the people decide themselves,” he said.
Fighting erupted on 15 December 2013 over differences among political leaders of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). An intra-party election was supposed to take place that year, including contest for the seat of the chairman. This was interrupted by the war as groups led by President Kiir and his first deputy in the party, Machar, disagreed over reforms and future leadership succession.
A peace agreement was signed two years later in August 2015 to end that war. However, fighting reignited on 8 July 2016, at the presidential palace, forcing Machar and his forces to withdraw from the capital after fierce fighting with forces loyal to President Kiir.
There are conflicting reports as to the main reason for the Tuesday visit of President Kenyatta of Kenya. On one hand it was reported that he carried a strong message which urged President Kiir to implement the peace deal, while other claims suggested that his visit was to show approval in the new leadership changes in the country.
Opposition officials loyal to Machar said the replacement was illegal and violated Article 6.5 of the peace deal. They also said Taban Deng was picked by Kiir due to an understanding between the two to scrap provisions in the peace agreement.
IGAD heads of state and government had earlier released a communiqué in Addis Ababa, calling on Gai to step down and Machar to be reinstated. United Nations Security Council also passed a resolution describing Machar’s replacement as “inconsistent” with the peace agreement.
However, leaders of the East African regional body, IGAD, which brokered the peace deal, seem to have been divided as a result of the recent comment by the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, who approved the replacement of Machar during his visit to Kenya last week.
Ethiopia, which chairs IGAD reportedly “questioned” the comments of Kerry over the matter.