Even as the three major warring factions of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement finally signed a reconciliation agreement on July 27, 2017, the deal stands on weak foundation, as a split within Riek Machar’s group has emerged.
The “Entebbe Declaration to operationalise the Arusha Agreement on the reunification of the SPLM” came after several flopped meetings and postponements since May this year, which nearly saw the collapse of the reunification talks.
The pact was signed by SPLM-In Government, SPLM-In Opposition and SPLM-Former Detainees at State House Entebbe in Uganda, presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.
While the Entebbe Declaration was supported by the SPLM factions, which signed and other groups in South Sudan like the National Democratic Movement, there are also indications of a split within the former rebel leader Machar’s SPLM-IO.
On the day the groups signed the Entebbe Declaration, Dr Machar’s group issued a strongly worded statement from its headquarters in Pagak, signed by Mabior Garang Mabior, chairman of SPLM National Committee for Information and Public Relations, warning that the Entebbe process was born out of President Salva Kiir’s “forum shopping” and was “a mockery of the peace process.”
Yet the Entebbe Declaration was signed among others by the SPLM-IO Secretary General Dhieu Mathok Diing, on behalf of Dr Machar’s group, with SPLM-IO colleagues Richard K. Mulla, Tijwog H. Agwet and Lubna Abdelgani in attendance.
Others who appended their signatures on behalf of their respective groups are Acting SPLM-IG Secretary General Jemma Nunu Kumba and Deng Alor Kuol, Team Leader of SPLM Leaders (FDs), documents of the declaration show.
President Museveni signed as chairman of the East African Community and the guarantor of the agreement, while Betty Bigombe signed as witness and technical support expert to the Ugandan president.
John Garang's widow
A source who attended the signing ceremony and previous meetings told The EastAfricanthat a rift in Dr Machar’s camp became clear when Rebecca Nyandeng Garang — the widow of South Sudan founding fallen leader John Garang — appeared alongside the former detainees at a meeting held on July 20 2017 at State House Entebbe.
The meeting, which had delegations from SPLM-IG and SLPM-FDs, was hosted and chaired by president Museveni, at the request of his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir.
Nyandeng Garang, later revealed that she had been approached by President Kiir “who asked for reconciliation” and suggested that she attends the meeting.
“She has always been known to be close to Riek, but this time she wasn’t representing Riek because there was no delegation from SPLM-IO,” the source said.
Dismissing the meeting, Mr Mabior said: “It is the contention of the SPLM/SPLA(IO) that it is a contradiction for President Salva Kiir and President Museveni to invite the SPLM/SPLA(IO) to a “peace forum,” while the chairman and commander-in-chief of the Movement they have invited is still in detention, at their request.”