A faction of South Sudan’s armed opposition says it has temporarily replaced its leader Riek Machar, who is also the country’s first vice president, raising the prospect of more turmoil after weeks of unrest.
We still don’t know where Machar is. President Salva Kiir gave Machar a 48-hour ultimatum that is coming to an end today.
The IO – Machar’s party in Juba – convened earlier and came up with a resolution to replace Machar temporarily to be able to progress with the peace agreement.
A presidential spokesman told Al Jazeera that he would accept the appointment of Taban Deng as the acting first VP in place of Machar. However Machar’s spokesman said they have already dismissed Deng last night, which would make the peace process illegal. This makes the implementation of the peace process harder than ever before.
It’s the last thing people of South Sudan need. Thousands continue to get displaced and leave the country.
They’re hoping, with the new resolution, that there might be stability and progress. However, it might not be easy. You have a faction that is completely split apart and you have a government that is not able to deliver to the people. It is going to be difficult for the citizens of South Sudan.
Machar led a rebellion against President Salva Kiir in December 2013 but signed a peace deal last year, paving the way for him to return to the capital, Juba, as vice president.
Yet, Machar has not been seen in public since he fled Juba last week after days of intense fighting between rival troops left over 300 people dead and threatened to send the young country back to all-out civil war.
Kiir had given Machar a Saturday afternoon deadline to return to Juba and work together towards rebuilding peace, pledging to guarantee his safety.
But Machar, who is in hiding, has said he would only come back when an international body set up a buffer force to separate his forces from the president’s. His supporters also insisted on Friday that Machar had no plans of returning, accusing Kiir of trying to oust or even kill their leader.
Machar’s chief of staff, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, said Taban Deng Gai, who had acted as the rebels’ chief negotiator, would become first vice president until Machar returned. -Aljazeera