This past week has been marked by political tension between President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Dr Riek Machar, whose Sudan People's Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) has withdrawn from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) accusing the Kiir side of violating the ceasefire.
SPLM-IO also rejected President Kiir’s recent directive on the formation of a unified military command structure and called for a delay in the 2023 election since the September 2018 peace agreement was lagging behind schedule as crucial provisions of the peace deal remain unimplemented.
Gen Gabriel Lam, the SPLM-IO spokesperson said that his movement has withdrawn from CTSAMM because of continuous attacks on their cantonment and unified training forces areas contrary to the 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
“The unprovoked attacks on SPLM-IO areas have been going on throughout as illustrated by the attacks in Morota, Kajo-Keji and recently in Maiwut in Upper Nile. We see no point in participating in unproductive meetings where issues are raised and not resolved. We have resolved to stop attending the meeting until the issues we addressed are resolved,” he said. The attacks have been blamed on government forces.
Gen Lam warned that such acts of military aggression were a sign that the country was on the verge of another war, and said that the Kiir side has been encouraging defections from the SPLM-IO contrary to the peace agreement.
But President Kiir’s side argues that the SPLM-IO is suffering from in-fighting since the split in the movement last August, when Dr Machar’s former chief of staff, Gen Simon Gatwech Dual announced that he had removed Machar from the movement’s leadership.
Dr Machar’s withdrawal from the CTSAMM prompted President Kiir to send heavily armed South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) with armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to surround the residence of Dr Machar on the night of March 27.
Dr Machar, while marooned in his residence, started working the phone, briefing foreign diplomats of what was going on, as he was concerned that it was tantamount to a repeat of the July 2016 gunfight at the president’s house at JI, which later Dr Machar to flee from Juba on foot, allegedly to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The siege was called off on the morning of March 28.
The South Sudan Ambassador to Ethiopia, James Morgan, who is also the Permanent Representative to the African Union, said that SPLM-IO is not ready for elections in 2023 and that is why they are calling for the delay until all the provisions of the peace deal are implemented.
Information minister, Michael Makuei, who is also the government spokesperson, said that the deployment was meant to protect Dr Machar.