July 17, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, has given his first deputy, Riek Machar, ultimatum to return to the national capital, Juba, and resume his duties or risk being replaced with someone from his faction, an official told Sudan Tribune on Sunday
Machar fled from Juba on Monday, 11 July, following a deadly armed confrontation at the presidential palace, resulting to the death of more than 300 rival soldiers and civilians, with 37 soldiers reportedly from Machar’s side.
President Kiir, according to a presidential source, said he started consultations with some of his confidants and some officials from Machar’s faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in unity government about the matter.
“The transitional government of national unity cannot be held hostage because of Riek. If he does not want to come out from his hiding despite all the assurances of protection, even with the president coming [out] himself to declare to chairman of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and special envoy of the African Union that he will stay together with him if he feels unsafe staying alone, then the president has the right to appoint anyone from SPLM-IO to replace him,” a presidential source told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
The official said there were several senior members of Machar’s armed opposition faction from which a nominee could be found to replace him to continue with the implementation of the peace agreement as well as rendering services to the people instead of waiting for other negotiations.
“There are many members of the SPLM-IO here in Juba. The minister of Mining, Taban Deng Gai, who was chief negotiator during the peace talks can be appointed,” he revealed.
Also, Bol Makueng, Secretary of Information in the SPLM faction of President Salva Kiir on Sunday revealed in a statement over the South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) that if Machar did not return within a given time, he will be replaced with alternative leader.
He said this was resolved in the SPLM political bureau meeting under the leadership of President Kiir.
Sources said Taban Deng Gai and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth are leading a campaign to replace Machar, but other SPLM-IO officials have reportedly refused.
Taban Deng has been a controversial figure in the SPLM-IO, with allegations since last year suggesting that he was recommended to President Kiir by the Jieng [Dinka] Council of Elders (JCE) to replace Machar.
But others said Deng has no popularity among the Nuer and his ascending to the senior government position may drive away President Kiir’s Bul-Nuer allies who disliked him.
The South Sudanese president this week dismissed the deputy minister of foreign affairs and regional cooperation, Cirino Hiteng. The official is from the former detainees and the decision to remove him was seen as a violation of the peace agreement.
In the agreement, President Kiir has no power to replace an official from another partner in the transitional government of national unity unless recommended to him by the top leader of that particular party.