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JUBA - 2 Apr 2023

Machar asks guarantors to intervene as political rows escalate

South Sudan's First Vice President Riek Machar (File photo)
South Sudan's First Vice President Riek Machar (File photo)

South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar has written a letter to the revitalized peace guarantors to resolve the standoff over the firing of defense minister.

On Wednesday, President Salva Kiir appointed a member of his own party as defense minister, breaching a peace agreement in which the role should be selected by the SPLM-IO party of First Vice President and opposition leader, Riek Machar.

Defense Minister Angelina Teny, who is also Machar’s wife, was fired, alongside the interior minister on 3 March, reigniting longstanding disputes over how the two leaders share power.

According to the decree read on state-run media late on Wednesday, Kiir replaced Teny with Chol Thon Balok, a loyal general and former deputy defense minister.

Kiir’s decision has heightened tensions in government and risks derailing the implementation deadline months to its deadline.

In a letter dated 30 March and addressed to the IGAD countries and peace guarantors, Machar said: “I am writing to inform you that President Salva Kiir has unexpectedly interrupted the ongoing negotiations to resolve the recent violations by appointing a new Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs on 29th March 2023, compounding the already existing deadlock.”

“In the light of this, I am requesting the interventions of IGAD to resolve these grave violations putting R-ARCSS [Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan] in jeopardy,” Machar’s letter read in part.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Sunday morning, Machar’s deputy Oyet Nathaniel said the deadlock should be resolved as soon as possible so that the peace agreement can continue to be implemented in a timely manner.

“Yes, we have written to the peace guarantors and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) to break the deadlock. We want the guarantors to intervene so that they resolve the crisis,” Oyet said.

“Sudan came to Juba and the Ethiopian Prime Minister was also in Juba as individual countries, but now we are seeking a forum in the position of IGAD as a mechanism that is charged with overseeing the peace agreement to come in. We have also written to the other partners like the African Union who are guarantors of the peace agreement,” he added.

Asked if they are confident that the regional bloc IGAD can break the deadlock, Oyet, who is also the First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, said:” IGAD has the responsibility of the revitalized peace agreement. I cannot speak for them, but what we know within the peace agreement, they are the guarantors. They mediated the agreement and they are overseeing it. So we expect them to intervene where they can before the collapse of the peace agreement.”

When also asked what will be their next move if efforts to help break the stalemate fail, Oyet said:” We cannot tell now what we are going to do, but all options are available to ensure that the peace agreement remains on course. As I said we cannot tell the next move now.”

South Sudan was meant to conclude a transition period with general elections in February 2023, but the coalition government failed to meet key provisions of the agreement, including drafting a constitution.

The parties to the agreement extended the transitional government's time in office for another two years, meaning elections would be held in December 2024.