New deal could reinstate Machar to VP’s position

Saturday June 13 2015
Kiir Machar

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar. PHOTO | FILE |

The government of South Sudan is working on a deal that could lead to rebel leader Dr Riek Machar’s reinstatement to the position of vice-president.

The move, aimed at saving the South Sudan peace process, would see James Wani Igga, who holds the position, become the second vice-president, according to people who attended a consultative meeting between President Salva Kiir and former detainees on June 2.

Mr Igga is reportedly willing to step down from his position on condition that the Greater Equatorial region — where he comes from — gets the position of National Assembly Speaker. This would be the third most powerful position in a transitional government of national unity.

Two commands

President Kiir is understood to support the compromises on condition that Dr Machar does not enjoy any more powers than those in the current Constitution. He is also not ready to entertain the idea of two armies under two different commands during the transition as proposed by Dr Machar.

Dr Machar had earlier demanded that the first vice-presidents position comes with shared executive powers.


Dr Cirino Hiteng, one of the former detainees who was part of the consultations in Juba in early June, confirmed to The EastAfrican that the issue of Mr Igga making way for Dr Machar came up in the discussions, but said a final decision would be taken by the President and the party Political Bureau.

“Mr Wani has been very magnanimous and is a lover of peace. That is why he gave up the position of the SPLM second deputy chairman to Dr Machar in 2002, when the former vice-president joined the movement. He still holds that people should not continue dying because of a position,” said Dr Hiteng.

The power-sharing and the structure of the transitional government was one of the outstanding issues that led to collapse of the talks in Addis Ababa on March 6.

READ: Kiir, Machar 'lack leadership' to end crisis

But insiders say that recent concessions by President Kiir are a pointer that his inner circle has given in to the idea of Dr Machar taking the post of the first vice-president after vigorously opposing the idea, when it was proposed by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) in February.

A day after meeting the former detainees in Juba, President Kiir in his capacity as the chairman of SPLM, unconditionally revoked an executive order he had given in February 2014, removing Dr Machar from his position as first deputy chairman. The order also reinstated Unity State governor Taban Deng as well as former Environment minister, Alfred Lado Gore.

Earlier in March, President Kiir had to issue a decree to reinstate Dr Riek Machar, his deputy Alfred Ladu Gore and chief rebel negotiator Taban Deng Gai to the positions they held in SPLM before the war broke out in December 2013.

He also revoked the freeze of their accounts and assets, granted general amnesty to rebels and former detainees, and declared a unilateral ceasefire from the government side.

The decree was to fulfil the government’s responsibilities in accordance with the Arusha SPLM Party Reunification Agreement signed in January.

According to the SPLM Constitution, the first deputy chairman of the party automatically becomes the first vice-president of the country. 

Sabotaging talks

Sources in Addis Ababa indicated that the next round of talks known as Igad-Plus is likely to be very tough on those who will be seen to be sabotaging the talks because it will be expanded to include countries from the five African regions, the African Union, China, United Nations Security Council and the Troika — US, UK and Norway.

During the three-day consultations in Addis Ababa that begun on June 8, Igad chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin cautioned the warring parties that the world would be watching and that the next round of talks — whose date will be decided at the ongoing AU summit in Johannesburg — must produce a final peace deal. 

The remaining outstanding issues include power-sharing, security arrangements about the two armies, and federalism.

Igad mediators had proposed that the government get 60 per cent of the posts, the rebels 30 per cent, while the former political detainees other political parties get 10 per cent.

The rebels were demanding a ratio of 45:45:10.