General Paul Malong Awan, Chief of General Staff of South Sudan’s national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), has said the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, will never become President of the new country in his presence.
- The comment has renewed uncertainty and suspicion about commitment of President Salva Kiir’s government to implement the peace deal which it signed in August 2015 with the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by Machar and other stakeholders to end more than 21 months of violent conflict in South Sudan.
Speaking in a meeting while briefing his supporters about the ongoing implementation of the peace agreement during a visit to his home village of Malualkon in Northern Bahr el Ghazal on Tuesday, General Awan said he will ensure that Machar will not get chance to become president.
“I will wait to see how he would be the president in this country in our presence,” General Awan, a member of ethnic Dinka where President Kiir hails, vowed to his supporters.
“He would be a president in my absence,” he said.
The country’s top army chief is one of the senior government officials who are not happy with the peace agreement and its implementation.
General Awan, also an ally to the President, has publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the peace agreement, saying it has given a lot of responsibilities to the opposition leader and First Vice President, Machar, making him a co-president of the country because there are issues which the president cannot decide on without consulting and agreeing with the First Vice President.
Also, elections will be conducted at the end of 30 months of transitional period and Machar, like in 2013, will again contest for the presidency against President Kiir, who has already expressed readiness to stand for elections in 2018, or against any other candidate, thus the fear of return of the 2013 crisis between now and the election year.
General Awan also detested the provision in the peace deal which has stipulated that the First Vice President should act as President in the event that the President has travelled out of the country, saying he would not entertain such a situation.
The army’s top General is one of the senior military figures and government officials who have been rejecting use of Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria regions as cantonment sites for the SPLA-IO forces and the army has continued to attack the opposition forces in the two regions.
Awan was in the operational tour of the states of Bahr el Ghazal, his home region, where he oversaw the launch of new attacks aimed at blocking the armed opposition forces from organizing themselves before going to assembling points in Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal states in accordance with the terms of the provisions of the interim security arrangements.
The opposition leader, Machar, has confirmed to arrive in Juba on 18 April if arrangements go as planned.
Observers however fear that lack of commitment to implement the deal by elements from the rival parties may ruin the process, coupled with the continued ceasefire violations.