JUBA (19 Aug.)
Security personnel in Juba are seeking to prevent publication of news about the safe escape of First Vice President Riek Machar from South Sudan, according to media sources.
SPLM-IO officials say that troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his chief of staff tried to kill Machar in attacks since last month in and around Juba.
Machar is now under the protection of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to SPLM-IO sources. He announced his escape on Wednesday, the one year anniversary of the peace agreement that made him first vice president.
The president has stripped Machar of his position as first vice president and appointed Taban Deng Gai in his place, a move that SPLM-IO considers a violation of the peace deal. His troops bombarded the house where Machar was staying in Juba and pursued him and his bodyguards as they fled Juba and beyond.
Today in Juba security prevented circulation of the newspapers Al Maugif and Nation Mirror, reportedly because of news about Machar, sources said.
Pre-publication censorship is rare in South Sudan but print runs of newspapers are sometimes seized and a regime of self-censorship is enforced by summoning or arresting journalists deemed to have crossed any red lines.
The escape of Machar to Congo is likely to be a sensitive issue in Juba because he still claims to be the legitimate first vice president.
His departure from Juba together with several other ministers represents the collapse of the main element of the power-sharing agreement between SPLM-Juba and SPLM-IO, the country’s two warring parties in 2014-2015, according to some opposition politicians who are meeting in Nairobi yesterday and today to work out a new coalition.
Some other members of the SPLM-IO, however, including Taban Deng Gai and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, have remained in Kiir’s government and claim that the power-sharing agreement is still in place, only without the presence of Riek Machar.