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Split within Machar’s group won’t change status quo

By Simon Deng and Juba Echo Staff

Experts have said the recent split within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in opposition (SPLM/A-IO) under First Vice President Riek Machar is inconsequential as it won’t change the status quo.

Abraham Kuol Nyuon, Professor of Politics at University of Juba said that the 2018 revitalized peace deal only recognizes in name President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar as the two main principals, adding that any attempt to forcefully push out the two is not recognized.

SPLA-IO Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen Simon Gatwech Dual in a statement issued on Tuesday, deposed Machar and declared himself leader of the SPLM/A-IO.

Dual accused Machar of failing to show leadership, and weakening the SPLM/A-IO’s position in the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) formed in February last year.

The renegade general also blamed the latter for nepotism, in addition to sowing division within the former rebel movement that signed the 2018 peace deal with President Kiir after waging war against his government since December 2013.

“If you look at the text of the peace agreement, the name of President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar were intentionally put into the peace agreement, this thing was intentionally done so that nobody else either from SPLM-In Government (SPLM-IG) or SPLM/A-IO should be able to hijack the peace agreement by overthrowing the two principals,” Nyuon told The Juba Echo in Juba on Thursday.

Nyoun, however noted that the split within the main opposition party could destabilize the ongoing implementation of the security arrangement that includes, cantonment and later on unification of the 83,000 unified forces.

He also disclosed that Dual’s group could be having intentions of returning to war with the coalition government that is just settling in after several months of delays in establishing key institutions under the peace deal.

“The leadership wrangle within the SPLM/A-IO could jeopardize the security arrangement, we could see some little instability because of him (Dual) waging war with RTGONU,” said Nyuon.

He revealed that some of the forces currently with Dual in Magenis area near the South Sudan –Sudan border were already assessed by the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) for cantonment and training.

“That work that has been done by CTSAMVM has been taken back to square one, assessment has to be done again so that people can be able to understand how many soldiers are with Dual and those who remain under Machar’s command,” added Nyuon.

Machar’s loyalists within the SPLM-IO Political Bureau have downplayed Dual’s defection.

 “The three generals who met in Magenis do not constitute the SPLA-IO leadership of the military command council,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

 “At the time of the declaration, Simon Gatwech Dual had already been relieved from command and appointed as presidential advisor for peace,” it added.

Edmund Yakani, Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) said the split within SPLM/A-IO is a clear demonstration of the culture of power struggles among South Sudanese elites.

 “Various political parties in South Sudan are embroiled in constant internal power struggles,” he said.

“The split within SPLM/A-IO jeopardizes timely and genuine implementation of the peace agreement, it undermines ongoing efforts to create a unified national army that is professional,” added Yakani.

Yakani said that Dual’s rebellion within the opposition party is a violation of the peace agreement that recognizes Machar as the legitimate SPLM/A-IO leader.

Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO spokesperson said that the division within their rank and file will not affect the functioning of the SPLM-IO party and implementation of the peace agreement.

“The defections are aimed at derailing implementation of the peace agreement,” said Gabriel.

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