South Sudan: President Kiir won’t relieve New Deputy Taban Deng even if Machar Returns—Spokesman

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South Sudan presidency spokesperson Ateny Wak Ateny said President Salva Kiir won’t let go of new deputy Taban Deng Gai if he declines to step down when Riek Machar returns.

South Sudan last week agreed to a decision by Inter-government Authority on Development (IGAD) to deploy a third party peacekeeping force in Juba to harmonize the security situation for the return of the embattled opposition leader.

Gai who replaced Machar in what many read as a controversial turn of events agreed to step down if he returned to his position as First Vice President.

However, Ateny said the government would not be compelled to remove the new first vice president if he does not want to step down from his new role the Sudan Tribune reported.

“They (regional countries) are urging him (Machar) to return to Juba. What happens if he returns is an internal matter. And this matter lies with Taban Deng Gai to decide whether to step down or does what he thinks is right in the interest of peace. What is clear is that there is no law compelling him to do so. The IGAD has allowed the current setting and it is a matter of Deng to decide if he steps down and go back as minister,” explained Ateny in an interview with reporters on Monday.

Machar had assumed the position of First Vice President in the Transitional Government National Unity in April 2016 following the signing of a peace deal that brought an end to 20 months of civil war. He fled Juba after four days of fighting between forces loyal to him and those loyal to president Kiir.

He has since been replaced by former rebel peace negotiator, a thing which has deeply ripped the opposition into factions.

The opposition faction led by Machar accuse President Kiir of using Gai to divide the SPLM-IO (Sudan People Liberation Movement In Opposition) and destroy the peace deal. They also warned that destroying the peace agreement can backfire on all.

“President Kiir and his group may be excited that they have a yes man through whom to destroy the peace agreement by dividing the SPLM-IO. But this will backfire on them if their goal is to return the country to war. You may not know what will happen next in a situation of war,” said James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s spokesperson.

In an interview with KTN last week, President Kiir said he will only allow his rival to return and provide the security he needs as long as he agrees to live as a normal citizen not as vice president.

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