A South Sudan diplomat has told off regional leaders who have been pressing for the reinstatement of the sacked vice president Riek Machar asking them ‘to hear loudly and clearly’ US Secretary of State John Kerry’s endorsement of the changes.
At press conference in Nairobi on Monday, Mr Kerry said the August 2015 peace agreement allowed for replacement of personnel in the transition government.
“I think it’s quite clear that legally, under the agreement, there is allowance for the replacement, in a transition of personnel, and that has been effected with the appointment of a new vice president. And what they decide to do is going to be dependent on them in the context of the implementation of the peace agreement,” said Mr Kerry when asked by the media about the US position on the replacement of Dr Machar with Taban Deng Gai.
Dr Machar is now under UN protection in the Democratic Republic of Congo as he recuperates from injuries believed to have been sustained during the fighting by rival factions at the Presidential Palace in Juba last month.
James Morgan, South Sudan representative to the African Union (AU) told “those who have been calling the changes in the SPLM-IO illegal,” a thinly veiled dig at the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (Igad), a regional security grouping of eight eastern and Horn of Africa countries, that Article 6.4 of the Agreement gives the leadership of the SPLM-IO the legal rights to nominate a replacement for Dr Machar.
“For those who have been calling the changes in the SPLM-IO illegal, let them hear what Secretary Kerry has clearly and loudly stated in Nairobi,” Mr Morgan said.
However, Dr Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdek said that the changes would only be legitimate if made at a full meeting of the SPLM-IO Political Bureau.
“There were only four Political Bureau members in Juba at the time and yet it comprises of 25 members. We call on the individuals to abide by the contents of the peace deal and the Igad resolutions,” said Mr Gatdet.
The US position goes against that held by the Igad which declared the changes as null and void, during a summit in Addis Ababa on August 5, and called for the reinstatement of Dr Machar as the bona fide partner in the agreement. The summit also called for the deployment of regional protection force to act as a buffer to allow Dr Machar’s return.
That message was reiterated by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta last week when Mr Gai led a delegation to Nairobi seeking help in addressing the worsening economic and humanitarian situation facing the country. Sources said President Kenyatta told the delegation that the isolation of Dr Machar would not be in the best interests of stability in the fragile country.
Top government officials in Juba insist Dr Machar is a hindrance to peace and his replacement has brought a new working relationship between the former rebels and President Kiir.