October 31, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s current First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, has accused his former boss, Riek Machar, of running a parallel cabinet meetings that "rewinded" decisions made in cabinet meetings chaired by President Salva Kiir, a situation, which he said, eventually led to the 8 July fighting at the presidential palace in Juba.
- South Sudan’s former FVP Riek Machar, speaking to visitors at his residence in Khartoum, on 1 September 2016 (courtesy photo of SPLM-IO)
Machar’s opposition faction however said Gai’s interpretation of the opposition party officials’ meetings was a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of how coalition governments work worldwide.
Taban Deng Gai replaced Machar in controversial process after the violence of July when Machar and his bodyguards were chased out of the national capital, Juba, by president Salva Kiir’s forces. He was the opposition’s chief peace negotiator. Gai’s appointment by President Kiir has been described as illegal and conspiracy by Machar’s faction but he insisted his working relationship with Kiir is boosting the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August 2015 between Kiir and Machar.
“The days when Riek Machar was in Juba, we witnessed strange relationship between him and the government (of President Kiir),” said Gai, speaking to reporters after meeting foreign diplomats in Juba on Monday.
“He (Machar) was parallel by the way in that he was promoting generals in the army. He was appointing ambassadors; he was appointing directors of police," he added to support his claims.
He said the working relationship between Machar and Kiir was not good because Machar used to call his 12 ministers in the cabinet for separate meetings apart from the official cabinet meetings.
However, Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said there was nothing wrong with Machar consulting separately with his party officials in the cabinet, arguing that this is how coalition governments normally work worldwide.
“Unless the illegal new First Vice President is not well acquainted with how coalition governments work worldwide, there is nothing wrong when cabinet members belonging to a different political party consult with their leader at the party level on how to approach policies in cabinet meetings,” said Dak.
Dak said the peace agreement itself has recognized Machar as the Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA-IO as a separate co-national army for a period before amalgamation of two armies after implementation of security sector reforms.
He also said as the Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA-IO army, Machar had the right to appoint or promote and deploy his army and police generals, in the same way President Kiir had the equal right to appoint, promote and deploy his officers.
“Why would he miss this simple logic that a Chairman of a party in coalition government consults with his cabinet members, as well as a Commander-in-Chief of an army appoints, promotes and assigns his or her officers,” Dak said.
He said what was happening with the SPLM-IO leadership consultations were not separate “cabinet meetings” to pass partial resolutions for the coalition government to implement as “misrepresented” by Gai, but were rather party leadership consultations on how to approach matters in the coalition cabinet.
He revealed that the consultative meetings were mainly on how to initiate reforms in the cabinet in accordance with the requirements of the peace agreement.
Dak charged that Gai refused to attend those leadership consultations because he already had started the conspiracy with President Kiir to harm or replace Machar in the government.
Gai has failed to order SPLM-IO army to stop fighting government forces in war that spread to Equatoria regions which hosts the South Sudanese capital, Juba.
However, Gai, who was a minister of mining in Machar’s 12 cabinet slot as per the August 2015 peace agreement, said the former first vice president was acting as a co-president.
"He was running a parallel of ministers of 12 ministers. For example, if we have a council of ministers meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir, immediately after the meeting, he would collect his 12 ministers to his house to reverse and rewind all things which were agreed," he said.
The peace agreement, however, made Machar a powerful first vice president with his army having a separate chief of general staff, police and members of cabinet as well as majority opposition in the national parliament.
He, per the peace deal, was also to nominate governors for the country’s oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, which raised eyebrows within President Kiir’s camp.
Dak said Gai has simply surrendered to President Kiir to compromise the peace deal by scrapping its vital provisions which Machar was pursuing for full implementation and would have effected a real change in the country.