Officials of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) have defended the recent appointment of Angelina Teny, wife of the South Sudan’s opposition leader, Riek Machar, to head their national committee for security and defence, saying there was no reason for critics to be “sensational” about it.
After her appointment became public on Tuesday, the topic dominated discussions in various social media groupings with proponents congratulating the SPLM-IO leadership while opponents criticizing it, arguing that the opposition leader should not have appointed his wife to the top defence position in the movement.
Critics, some of whom are supporters of the SPLM-IO, raised concern that there would be “conflict of interest” if she heads the important security and defence national committee while her husband is the commander-in-chief of the SPLA-IO forces.
Machar’s media official, James Gatdet Dak, responded to the circulated criticism, saying Angelina’s appointment was not based on being wife of the opposition leader.
“There is no reason to be sensational about it. Madam Angelina was not appointed to the position as wife of our chairman. She qualified as South Sudanese citizen, as active member of the SPLM/SPLA. And not only as active official of the SPLM/SPLA (IO), but also as somebody who represented the movement during the peace negotiations which led to the peace agreement,” Dak told Sudan Tribune when contacted on Tuesday.
“She played a leading role in the negotiations, and particularly on the security arrangements,” he further explained.
Dak further reminded critics that Teny negotiated the peace agreement without conflict of interest.
He said she is knowledgeable in the security sector reform in the peace agreement, adding she is an “outright politician” whose capacity to effectively contribute to the welfare of the nation should not be denied just because she is wife of the leader of the opposition faction.
Teny served for years as deputy minister of petroleum and mining in the then Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in Khartoum before South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011 while her husband, Machar, was at the same time serving as the vice president of the then Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS).
She also contested in the April 2010 elections for the position of governor in her home state of Unity, but narrowly lost to the opposition faction’s current chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, at the same time when her husband was also serving as vice president.
He also said the British educated woman was instrumental in organizing women in the SPLM-IO, by playing a leading role in establishing their women league in the movement.
It is for the first time that the opposition faction has appointed an official to head the defence national committee which had been vacant for the past two years of the war.
The security and defence national committee will be responsible for formulating and initiating security and defence policies of the opposition army, pending reunification of the two separate armies after 18 months of the would be transitional period of 30 months.
It will oversee the implementation of the security arrangements as well as ensure adoption of security and defence policies in the reform and transformation agenda of the country’s security sector.
A peace agreement was signed in August between president Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Machar, to end 21 months of brutal war which erupted on 15 December 2013 when differences emerged over democracy and reforms within the leadership of the ruling SPLM.
Tens of thousands have been killed and millions others displaced either internally or to neighbouring countries, with the country’s economy on the verge of collapse.