South Sudan armed opposition (SPLM-IO) has accused Jieng Council of Elders of attempting a coup against Riek Machar by elevating Taban Deng Gai as First Vice-President.
Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, the SPLM-IO’s deputy chairman of national committee for information and public relations, told Sudan Tribune that Machar was still the legitimate leader of the armed opposition faction.
He said the action of the group is tantamount to an internal coup within the SPLM/A (IO) saying SPLM/A-IO, like all other political parties, has a constitution and internal regulations, which provide for the conduct of party affairs in the temporary absence of the leader.
He said the deputy chairman, Gen. Alfred Lado Gore and Secretary General Dr. Dhieu Mathok Wol were “coerced into accepting Gen. Taban Deng Gai as the leader against the party norms”.
Manawa accused Gai of having a hand in the 8 July clashes between the country’s rival forces next to the presidential palace where over 300 soldiers died.
“The SPLM/A (IO) political Bureau condemns in the strongest terms possible the attempt to destabilize the SPLM/A (IO) and destroy the IGAD brokered peace agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) spearheaded by Gen. Taban Deng Gai out of personal vendetta against Dr. Riek Machar for not recommending his appointment as Minister of petroleum in the Transitional Government of National Unity,” Manawa said in a statement.
He said the action fits into the grand scheme hatched by president Salva Kiir and Jieng Council of Elders, to divide, weaken and destroy the SPLM/A-IO in order to entrench himself in power, perpetuate the kleptocratic regime and maintain Jieng hegemony and domination.
On reports of the split within opposition, James Gatdet Dak, Machar spokesperson, said the “leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) is intact. The illegal attempt by outsiders to claim it has been aborted”.
“What happened in Juba in a hotel on July 23, 2016, organized by a dismissed member, Honourable Taban Deng Gai, was an act of terrorism, during which three senior officials of our party were held hostage in their Crown Hotel and were intimidated and forced against their will to nominate him as acting First Vice President of the Transitional Government of National Unity and Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLM (IO), or else President Salva Kiir’s security operatives would have dealt with them,” he told Tribune.
According to Dak, Machar was in 2013 removed from his position as Vice President on July 23, 2013.
“So the devil’s conspiracy yesterday again attempted to repeat the same date, July 23, 2016, to unconstitutionally remove H.E. Dr. Riek Machar from position as First Vice President, then to subsequently dismantle the August 2015 peace agreement and return South Sudan to the dark days. July 23, 2013 and July 23, 2016, is that a coincidence or a planned conspiracy to match the dates?”
He said their party’s secretary general, Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol, was severely beaten a week before in the hotel when his position was known to have been against activities of Gai.
Dak praised President Salva Kiir for making a “wise decision by not acting to also illegally appoint Taban Deng Gai as acting First Vice President to replace his recognized peace partner, Riek Machar”.
He asked Kiir to relieve Taban Deng Gai of his position as minister of Mining, saying the agreement has provided powers to the First Vice President to recommend to the President to replace any of his ministers he nominated to the transitional government.