South Sudan opposition leaders have nominated Gen Taban Deng Gai to act as the first vice president in the place of Riek Machar.
The endorsement was made at a meeting held in the capital Juba Saturday.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, head of external affairs for SPLM-IO, told members at the event that Taban Deng would be the new ‘acting’ vice president until Machar returns to Juba.
“The leadership has nominated General Taban Deng Gai to act as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan,” Ezekiel Gatkuoth, is quoted by Radio Tamazuj as saying.
He added: “In our resolution also General Taban Deng Gai promised all of us and he will say it to you all, ‘I will be the First Vice President of The Republic of South Sudan and if [Riek Machar] returns, he will step down.”
The meeting of the SPLM-IO ‘National Liberation Council’ was attended by the SPLM-IO Secretary-General Dhieu Mathok and Deputy Chairman Alfred Lado Gore.
This leaves opposition split into two factions; one backing Deng and another still loyal to Machar.
Machar dismisses move
Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said the hotel meeting in Juba was convened by “a non-SPLM/SPLA (IO) member – who was already dismissed yesterday by the top leadership”.
He described it as “illegal”.
“How can a dismissed person convene a meeting and claim leadership from a leader of a party he does not belong to any more?”
Dak claims there were no leaders to constitute a quorum of the “endorsement for First Vice President’s position”, as only a handful of two or three senior officials with the rest of the attendees mainly collected from the streets of Juba.
“They are simply being used by President Salva Kiir’s faction to dismantle the peace agreement. The action is illegal and a forgery.”
The voting of Taban Deng Gai as the ‘acting’ first vice president contradicts the directive from SPLM-IO Chairman Riek Machar yesterday, sacking him.
Machar in a letter said that Taban Deng has ‘defected’ to the SPLM faction headed by Kiir, therefore he dismissed him from the movement and recalled him as minister of Mining in the Transitional Government of National Unity.
Kiir’s officials have been hinting at backing Taban Deng to replace Machar for several days now, also saying Machar’s bodyguards will not be allowed to return back to Juba, according to media reports.