October 16, 2016 (JUBA) – The recent remarks uttered by the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, against his peace partner and political rival, Riek Machar, are not surprising at all, claims an official of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO).
This came as the opposition’s reaction to President Kiir’s recent comments on Saturday published by Sudan Tribune on Sunday in which he rejected the expected return of his former first deputy, Machar, to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, in order to assume his position as First Vice President and to continue with the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) which the two leaders signed in August last year, but which has been interrupted by the renewed violence which erupted from 8 July, 2016, in the country.
President Kiir on Saturday said he would better work with his new deputy, Taban Deng, who replaced Machar after the violence, which the opposition has described as “illegal” and a violation of Articles 6.4 and 6.5 of the agreement. The President called on Machar to denounce violence or stay away from South Sudan in exile or to simply return to the country as a “normal citizen” without involving in politics, at least during the transitional period until 2018.
President Kiir also called on the region and the international community at large to allow him to instead work with his new deputy, Deng, who is Machar’s former chief negotiator, whom the President described as someone “cooperating” with him.
“The region should stand with the Transitional Government of National Unity to implement the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. This was the agreement they [regional leaders and friends] made themselves despite our [re]servations but we accepted because we wanted peace and stability in this country," said President Kiir in his residence in Juba, on Saturday, in the presence of his senior government officials and senior army officers.
"And I believe the events of July should themselves be proof of concerns which South Sudanese were raising. If they want this agreement to be implemented, they should allow the current First Vice President [Deng] and his team to work with me and other leaders ready to cooperate to implement this agreement," he added.
Media official for the ousted First Vice President, Machar, however said the comments from the President rejecting Machar’s return to Juba were not surprising, saying they were in line with his earlier attempt to eliminate Machar on 8 July at his Republican Palace in Juba and the subsequent attack he also ordered on Machar’s residence and base on 10 July with tanks and helicopter gunships in order to kill the peace agreement.
“What would one expect from the President who in the first place attempted to assassinate his deputy and peace partner at his Republican Palace on July 8, and also ordered his forces with tanks and helicopter gunships to again attack him in his residence, as confirmed by the United Nations, with the aim to kill him? What would you expect from President Salva Kiir who persistently attacked and pursued his deputy in the bushes for 40 days and forced him into exile? Definitely not only did he not want him as his first deputy despite the peace agreement’s power sharing arrangement, but also he did not want him alive,” Machar’s official spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
“So his anti-peace comments against Dr. Riek Machar are not surprising. He does not want him as peace partner, because Salva Kiir does not want the peace agreement to be fully implemented. He wants a yes-man to worship him and cooperate with him submissively in avoiding implementation of the most crucial provisions in the peace deal, such as the needed reforms, and to help him return the country to war so as to continue to dictatorially maintain the power through the violence,” he added.
The official said it was not necessary for President Kiir to ask Machar to denounce violence when the opposition leader is only “resisting the violence”, arguing that it should instead be the president to denounce the violence since he is the one who allegedly renewed the violence from 8 July and his forces have continued to attack the opposition’s forces.
He further claimed that President Kiir did not want Machar as his deputy because Machar wanted the peace agreement to be fully implemented with all the various reforms as provided for in the agreement, adding that Kiir wanted Taban Deng who would be cooperating with the President to only implement what they wanted and avoid what they did not want in the agreement.
Dak dismissed the complaints that Machar was acting like a co-president and making Kiir’s life difficult, saying those who complained about the executive status of Machar per the peace agreement did not either understand the power sharing provisions in the agreement or simply disliked the powers given to Machar by the peace agreement.
“Well, they should understand that by the virtue of his offices as First Vice President of the Republic, as the Chairman of the SPLM (IO) party and as the Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA (IO) co-national army, and the powers vested in him by the peace agreement, of course one would say, yes, Dr. Riek Machar was like a co-president. And this was to try to ensure checks and balances in implementing the agreement, particularly that we were dealing with a dictator who even reluctantly signed the agreement with countless reservations and also warned not to implement some of the provisions,” Dak said.
The fact that Machar had to nominate 10 national ministers, 3 governors, a huge number of parliamentarians, an army he commands and he was put in charge of supervising the implementation of the agreement and coordinating its implementation with the rest of the partners in the region and beyond, he said, was what made President Kiir’s regime to describe him as a “co-president.”
Dak described President Kiir and his “regime” as lucky for violating the peace agreement with impunity as those who mediated and guaranteed the agreement have not acted to stop him from the violations and the continued rejection to work with Machar again.
“I would say President Salva Kiir’s regime is lucky, although I don’t know for how long they will continue to be gambling. You cannot attempt to assassinate your deputy and peace partner, killing his bodyguards, and then attack his residence and force him out of the capital, replace him illegally, pursue him in the bushes and into exile and continue to attack his forces as well as innocent civilians across the country and yet you get away with these serious violations and crimes,” he said.
He said there are some players in the region and the international community who do not read the situation correctly.
The current “new regime” in Juba, he claimed, has already returned the country back to the civil war, saying fighting has continued in many places in Equatoria, Upper Nile and in Bahr el Ghazal regions, further claiming that Kiir’s forces are on offensive against the opposition’s army, the SPLA-IO, and against the civilians too.
He however said it was not up to President Kiir to determine whether or not Machar would return to Juba, saying the opposition leader will be in Juba any time soon to save the nation from the “corrupt and warmongering dictatorial regime” whether the president liked it or not.
Dak claimed that the government has been targeting civilians which it was supposed to protect by instead killing, maiming, torturing them, raping women and young girls and displacing people from their villages, and “exposing them to extreme hunger and poverty and die from curable diseases as well.”
The SPLM-IO, he explained, was committed to the full implementation of the August 2015 peace deal, which he said, President Kiir interrupted with violence from 8 July, and warned that the opposition will be forced to end the ongoing mess and bad leadership in the country using other means.
“We are for peace. We are for resuscitation of the peace agreement. But if resuscitating the peace agreement will not come to light, we will be forced to use other necessary options to get to Juba and liberate the people from this violent, failed leadership,” he said.
He however added that the opposition’s leadership has been calling on the region and the international community at large to help revive the peace deal.