Machar Reaches Out to Rebels to Salvage Fortunes
By Fred Oluoch
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar is said to be consulting various armed groups to form an alliance after he was kicked out of the transition government.
The rebel groups are the SPLM-Democratic Change of former Agriculture minister Dr Lam Akol and the new People’s Resistance Army (PRA).
Former detainees – who were the third signatory to the August 15 peace agreement — have expressed interest in joining the so-called “Grand Alliance” should the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) fail to deploy a regional protection force to rescue the peace agreement.
The consultations started in Nairobi between August 18 and 20 where Dr Akol — who recently resigned as Agriculture minister citing lack of progress — met a group of seven political parties opposed to President Salva Kiir’s government. Dr Machar was represented by former education minister Peter Adwok Nyaba.
“We met in Nairobi to brainstorm on the way forward. We concluded that President Kiir and his government are the greatest hindrance to peace,” said Lam Jok, SPLM-IO representative in Kenya.
Mr Jok said President Kiir and the new First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai have defied the agreement, adding that the opposition is consulting with the others what they want in order to form a grand coalition.
Other politicians who attended the meeting were Clement Juma Mbugoniwia from the People’s Revolutionary Movement (PRM) Juma Zackaria Deng of Western Bahr El Ghazal Group (WBG Group), Fr Joseph Otto (Eastern Equatoria Group), Justin Joseph Marona, Pasquale Clement Batali and Dominic Akwai Henry Bahgo.
“The political situation in South Sudan is a struggle, between narrow ethnic sectarianism represented by President Salva Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders on the one hand, and South Sudan nationalism on the other,” states a seven-page dossier from the group.
Dr Cirino Hiteng, a former detainee, told The EastAfrican that his group of ex-detainees has been lobbying for the speedy deployment of the 4,000 regional protection force to save the peace deal but, if it fails, then they’re likely to join forces with others to look for solutions outside the agreement.
Sources hinted to The EastAfrican that the next series of consultations of “Grand Alliance” are likely to be held in Khartoum, with Dr Akol already in the Sudanese capital.
Top officials of President Kiir’s government, led by presidential advisor on decentralisation Tor Deng Mawien, have made it clear that the president has formed friendly working relations with Mr Gai and that Dr Machar should stay out of the transitional government because he is a hindrance to peace.
President Kiir on Tuesday reiterated that peace in South Sudan cannot be achieved with Dr Machar — who is currently recovering in Khartoum after being discharged from hospital.
In the meantime, The EastAfrican has established that Igad frontline countries are divided over the recent leadership changes in Juba.
Uganda backing President Kiir’s insistence on working with Mr Gai and keeping Dr Riek Machar out of the transitional government while Ethiopia and Kenya have been pushing for Juba to respect the agreement as was originally signed in August 2015.