July 23, 2016,
South Sudanese president Gen Kiir Mayardit has held meetings in Uganda’s capital Kampala with his longtime friend and mentor Gen Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe.
Gen Kiir whose Kampala meeting was kept a top secret by both two nations was received at Entebbe International Airport by Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kahamba Kutesa and the meeting was also attended by Uganda’s defense minister Adolf Mwesige among many officials both from South Sudanese government and Kampala.
President Museveni in a statement after the meeting said the two leaders held meetings which focused on regional issues but importantly how to ensure that peace and stability returns to South Sudan.
Kiir’s meeting in Kampala came at the same time the members of the South Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition sat at Crown Hotel in Juba in which they unanimously agreed to replace their chairman also First Vice president under Transitional Government Dr Riek Machar Teny with mining minister Deng Taban.
According to local FM , the Saturday meeting of SPLM-IO leaders who survived the recent fighting in Juba voted in favor to have Taban Deng Gai the ‘acting’ first vice president in spite of a directive from SPLM-IO Chairman Riek Machar yesterday removing him.
Machar in a letter yesterday said that Taban Deng has ‘defected’ to the SPLM faction headed by Salva Kiir, therefore dismissed him from the movement.
The move came after Kiir issued an ultimate to Machar to return to Juba or else face removal from his position as first vice president, and it was clearly aimed at preempting the meeting by Taban’s supporters in Juba today.
Kiir’s officials have been hinting at backing Taban Deng to replace Machar for several days now, also saying that Machar’s bodyguards will not be allowed to return to Juba. Many of them were killed last week in fighting.
According to video of the event now on social media, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of external affairs for SPLM-IO, told members at the event that Taban Deng would be the new ‘acting’ vice president until Machar returns to Juba.
“The leadership has nominated General Taban Deng Gai to act as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. In our resolution also General Taban Deng Gai promised all of us and he will say it to you all, ‘I will be the First Vice President of The Republic of South Sudan and if [Riek Machar] returns, he will step down,” said Ezekiel Gatkuoth.
This move threatens to split the SPLM-IO into two factions, one faction that recognizes Taban Deng as a valid member of the movement and the new first vice president, and the other faction remaining behind Machar.
South Sudanes’s Radio Tamazuj also reports that today’s meeting was described as a meeting of the SPLM-IO ‘National Liberation Council’, but it is not yet clear how many liberation council members actually attended.
Two of the most senior SPLM-IO members present were SPLM-IO Secretary-General Dhieu Mathok and Deputy Chairman Alfred Lado Gore. This suggests that some of Machar’s own top appointees are backing or at least tolerating the move to sideline him at least temporarily until a deal can be reached on his return to Juba.
However Machar’s press secretary James Gatdet Dak also in a statement said the hotel meeting in Juba convened by a non-SPLM/SPLA (IO) member – who was already dismissed Friday by the top leadership, was illegal.
“How can a dismissed person convene a meeting and claim leadership from a leader of a party he does not belong to any more? Also there were no leaders to constitute a quorum of the so-called “endorsement for First Vice President’s position”, only a handful of two or three senior officials with the rest of the attendees mainly collected from the streets of Juba. They are simply being used by President Salva Kiir’s faction to dismantle the peace agreement. The action is illegal and a forgery.” Dak said.