By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan’s Vice President Dr. Riek Machar has been disposed as the head of his party and its army forces by the rival military leaders said on Tuesday.
Dr. Machar was deposed following a three – days gathering of the senior SPLM/A – IO military leaders in the country’s far north, the border town of Magenis, Upper Nile State.
However, the rival groups declared the chief of staff, First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual, as an interim leader of the opposition movement that governs the troubled country in a shaky alliance with former enemies.
It is unclear what the remove means for Machar, an ex – rebel leader who survived years of bush welfare, close attempts on his life and stretches in exile.
The military wing said Machar had “completely failed” to show leadership, abandoned the party’s responsibilities and greatly weakened the party’s position in the post-war coalition government formed between the warring sides a year ago.
“He [Machar] no longer represents the interest of the wider population in South Sudan – as he has become a part of the national government, compromising fundamental issues, hence his views are not helping the movement [SPLM/A-IO].”
“As a result, the meeting saw there was no option rather than to come up with the decision and finally prompted to declare the denouncement of Dr Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon from the chairmanship of the SPLM/A-IO,” the statement said.
Dr. Machar had engaged in a years-long “policy of divide and rule” and favoured nepotism over unity or advancing their cause, according to a statement signed by the SPLM/A-IO military leadership and dated August 3.
The military command leadership has task Gen. Gatwech as the interim chairman and commander in chief of the movement -immediately and he will take over Dr. Machar’s position.
The group will seek the inclusion of Gen. Gatwech in the new government and the ongoing peace process to implement the Chapter of Peace Agreement.
The group blamed Machar for working for his personal interest at the expense of the party as evidence by the ministerial appointments.
“Even the way he selected the ministers and members of parliament did not reflect any reform agenda, but a personal ego to achieve his political goal to be reinstated to his former position as Vice President,” the statement added.
SPLM-IO senior members have repeatedly accused ex – rebel Dr. Machar of mismanaging the party and turning it into a family project.
Month ago, Mr. Duer Dut Duer, another prominent member of the SPLM-IO unilaterally declared that he replaced Machar as the chairman of the party, but his move was downplayed by other party’s bigwigs, including Gatwech, who quoted said the decision [by Duer] was a personal one.
Dr. Machar served as vice president in South Sudan’s first post-independence government alongside his old rival, President Salva Kiir.
But the pair fell out and then Machar was sacked in 2013. Thereafter, troops loyal to each man turned their guns on each other, and South Sudan descended into five years of horrific bloodshed.
In 2018 — after a string of failed peace deals and violated ceasefires — a fresh truce paused the fighting that left nearly 400,000 dead and uprooted four million South Sudanese from their homes.
Under that arrangement, Machar entered another unity government as deputy to Kiir in February 2020.
But distrust lingered and cracks soon appeared, as key provisions of the peace accords went unfulfilled, especially security arrangements.
Machar’s ouster by senior military leaders has caused a major political showdown within the SPLM-IO ranks.
But Dr. Machar’s groups has condemned it, further assured that the situation in the group is under control, says the defections are aimed at derailing the peace agreement.
Machar’s loyalists described it as “it is regrettable” and the declaration was engineered and facilitated by peace spoiler, with an intention to return the world’s youngest country to the devastating civil war it experienced during the past six years.
The political disunity comes as the country faces economic disaster and its worst hunger crisis since independence, with thousands of people enduring famine-like conditions in the East Africa’s youngest nation.