Paramount chiefs in South Sudan hailing from the Nuer community have issued a joint statement disowning the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, who on 24 July replaced Riek Machar, another Nuer fellow, in a controversial process contested by opposition faction.
In a statement bearing names of 14 paramount chiefs representing Nuer communities in the 14 greater counties in the states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, inhabited by the Nuer, they rejected what they said was an illegal replacement of Machar.
“The above communities do not support the illegal move by Pres. Salva Kiir replacing Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the First Vice President of South Sudan with Gen. Taban Deng Gai,” partly reads the statement issued on Monday.
“The Naath communities believe that Gen. Taban Deng Gai defected from the SPLM-IO and joined the SPLM In Government (IG). So, we take Gen. Taban Deng Gai treacherous maneuvers as a mere propaganda played by the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) to prolong the suffering of the people of South Sudan for the selfish and tribal interests,” it reads.
“Therefore, we stand strong behind the able and wise leader Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon, the undisputed First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan,” the statement further asserted.
The chiefs also condemned the continued attacks by government forces “on civilians in Upper Nile Region, Equatorial and Northern Bhar el Ghazel”, including what they said was the “earth scorching searches” to eliminate them and Machar.
“So, we reject the defected Gen. Taban Deng Gai from our Nuerland and do not support him. We also condemn President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Gen. Taban Deng Gai government for violating the peace agreement (ARCISS) signed by both leaders in August 2015.”
The traditional leaders also called on President Kiir to resign, charging that his leadership has been a reason for the prolonged suffering of the people of South Sudan.