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South Sudan’s former vice-president, calls for calm, commends army for restraint

South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar

South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar

South Sudan’s recently relieved vice-president, Riek Machar Teny, has broken his silence and called for calm in the two-year-old country, amid growing concerns that violence may be looming as a result of recent political developments.

In a press conference he conducted with local and international media on Friday at his residence in the capital, Juba, Machar said the challenges he highlighted has unfortunately caused party divisions, but warned that the country will not be allowed to head towards dictatorship and totalitarianism.

Machar was removed earlier this week by president Salva Kiir Mayardit, who also dissolved the entire cabinet.

Kiir, who also chairs the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), also suspended the party’s secretary-general, Pagan Amum Okiech, called for an investigation into his conduct.

Many people believe the removal of the vice-president was directly connected to his recently declared intention to contest the party’s chairmanship this year, which would also give him the ticket for the 2015 presidential elections.

Machar confirmed that he had enumerated six key challenges during a meeting with members of the politburo on 5 March. These included rampant corruption, tribalism, economic problems, insecurity, poor international relations and the party’s loss of vision and direction.

He maintained that such a self-criticism was healthy and should not have caused a problem.

He called on the people of South Sudan to reject violence, adding that such challenges will be addressed peacefully through the SPLM.

Machar further reiterated his decision to challenge Kiir’s leadership and unseat him in the 2015 elections, calling on him to call for a party politburo meeting.

The former vice-president commended the army for its restraint and non-interference in current political processes in the country. If it were not for the discipline of the army, he said the vacuum created would have likely caused further instability.

He called on Kiir to form the new cabinet, saying the country is in a political and constitutional crisis, adding that the president should have immediately appointed a new cabinet following the dissolution of the previous one.

He also revealed that he was not consulted by the president about his decision to dissolve the cabinet, adding that he hadn’t seen the president since 23 July when the decrees were announced.

At the SPLM’s March politburo meeting, Machar asked Kiir to support him to take over the party chairmanship in the same way he had supported the chairman for the last eight years so that he could reform and rejuvenate the party.

Machar said the president had also dishonoured their gentlemen agreement as running mates during the 2010 elections when he campaigned for the president to get elected.

SUSPENSION OF PAGAN WAS A BAD MOVE

Machar has criticised Kiir for suspending SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum, saying it was unfortunate that the president had mixed up government and party issues.

He also criticised Kiir’s additional order restricting the movement of Amum, describing it as a violation of right to freedom of movement.

He said the country was heading for one-man rule and dictatorship which must be nipped in the bud using the relevant political instruments.

When asked for his reaction should the president decide to move against him by curtailing his freedoms in the same way he did to Amum, Machar replied “that would be unfortunate”.

ST

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