ADDIS ABABA – Dr Riek Machar, the leader of the SPLM/IO is set to step down as early as the midth of this month in a major rebel leadership reshuffle set to affect some of the senior members of the rebels camp and their diplomatic corps.
SPLM-i-O leadership comprised of diplomats and field generals are to meet early this month in Pagak, of Maiwut county of the Eastern part of Upper Nile state.
A reliable source told this newspaper that Machar and his team comprised of Deputy Chairman Lado Gore and others from the political wing are going to address the public and the military about the current changes and the matters arising within the SPLM leadership in around the middle of April.
One of the main agenda for the meeting is that the chairman of SPLM/IO and the commander in chief of the armed forces Dr.Machar is going to announce publicly that he accept the changes and would step down from the party leadership for the former governor of the Unity State General Taban Deng Gai who is the chief mediator at the peace talks presently, to carry on the duties and the mandate of the party and its pursuant for peace in South Sudan.
Machar’s decision to quit came after the international community mostly the world super powers, the UK and the US pressured both leaders to make compromises and take a big step to end the current conflicts of 15 months because the two warring parties failed to beat the 6th march deadline to sign the final peace agreement. The super powers pressured the two leaders to leave the leadership of the country and give the rest a chance to try, otherwise the country would be taken over by the UN. The world leaders also saw that contested territories of South Sudan are at risk of annexation by bordering states as the fighting continues.
Both parties were urged to show leadership and come up with a candidate who is neutral and didn’t involve in the current conflicts. A figure who has the capacity to unite the people of South Sudan instead of dividing them so that the country is rescued from a potential sectarianism.
Machar was believed to have been convinced and accepted the changes provided that it rescues South Sudan from a “potential total collapse”. Machar agreed to step down from the leadership of the rebels’ leadership and SPLM party but wants the man of his choice to be nominated for the leadership of the SPLM/A/IO.
Machar proposed Gen.Taban Deng Gai to take over the power and if he likes, also be a candidate to contest for presidency for the next coming government; pending confirmation from the rebels leadership in the upcoming meeting in Pagak.
REACTIONS AMONG THE MEMBERS OF SPLM/IO
The news of Machar’s decision to quit is received with mixed reactions, where as majority are supporting Machar’s idea for Gen Taban to take over the leadership of the party, others see Taban as too weak to fill Machar’s big shoes.
One of the senior members of the SPLM-i-O who doesn’t want his name to be disclosed as the matter is sensitive said that Taban fulfils the criteria of the party chairmanship and qualified enough for the post owing to his seniority in the SPLM, because he is a member of the political bureau before the crises and also because he served as a governor of Unity state. Besides, Taban can compete in any election as he has enough experience to make a better president if Machar doesn’t want to contest in elections.
Other officials in the SPLMIO leadership reject the ideas of Machar nominating Taban saying it could be up to the rebel leadership in the meeting to nominate individuals although Taban is qualified enough to be the one. One member also said that the rebel leader should not use family lineage to nominate Taban. Machar and Taban by blood and custom are from the oil rich Unity State.
Some junior members of the SPLM-i-O argued that General Taban failed to demonstrate the good leadership style during his terms as Unity state governor. Saying there was no any significant changes in terms of development and good governance that can prove him for the second chance to lead the nation and also for his further promotion. Adding instead that Taban ended up promoting high corruption, creating insecurity, messing up the public funds and direct bribery for army generals as well as the security personnel to protect him and to let him remain in power.
“He employed all his relatives and friends who are unqualified as protection units for him in all state institutions which I could call as direct nepotism. He also rigged the votes in 2010 during the country general election and used military meant to remain in power while he was defeated by Madam Angelina Teny. He was among the top 75 leaders levelled by the Kiir government for corruption and not only that he also involved in dura Saga case that lost 4 billion USD from the government account. He has a kind of dictatorial leadership style similar to Salva Kiir whereas he doesn’t allow others to express their views through media. He does restrict the media houses in Unity state and arrested one of the correspondents from the VOA Media house who reported irregularity in the voting centres during 2010 general election. No freedom of speech where the voices of the voiceless could be heard, and he privatized all the government business for his own use which I think doesn’t qualify him for a top leadership such as that hold by Dr Riek.”, the official complained.
Some members are also urging Machar to hang on until “Kiir is defeated” while others silently want the step down be started by Kiir first because he started the crisis.
“H.E. Dr Riek Machar is the best and fairer leader in the history of South Sudan. His decision to step down is commanding and respectable because the country is going through a tough time. Our sovereignity has been breached by the government of Kiir. Millions are in urgent need of food aid as we speak. If his decision to step down will change anything in terms of bringing peace, I accept that but I wanted him to stay on and lead us to a better place. Kiir messed up the country so bad. He will be remembered as the worst dictator and killer of innocent civilians in South Sudan. If I was Machar, I would have waited till the last minute. He personally didn’t do anything on this crisis and the reason why he should step down first is what I don’t understand. But as a movement, we accept it. The struggle will still continue” a relatively unhappy SPLM-i-O official told The Upper Nile Times in Addis Ababa.
Currently, Machar is urging the SPLM members to nominate and accept Taban. There are no any other candidates who have put up their hands for the post yet from the rebels camp as discussion and consultation is ongoing.
THE UPPER NILE TIMES