South Sudan: Machar Allies Switch Allegiance as President Kiir Consolidates Power
Allies to former South Sudan vice president Riek Machar are switching allegiance to President Salva Kiir, as the leader consolidates his power in the country.
Machar fled Juba in July after renewed clashes between his forces and government troops. It’s believed the former VP is in hiding, south of the capital, and President Kiir has been busy winning over his allies while he’s away.
Allies distance themselves from Machar
Members of Machar’s SPLM-IO opposition group distanced themselves from the party and their former leader in Uganda last week. At a debate on the “Cost of the violent conflict in South Sudan: implications for regional peace and security,” members of the party insisted they were there to represent the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).
There are also signs of a shift in allegiance from the continuing members of the SPLM-IO. Dr Richard Mulla, who was a former ally of Machar, has publicly voiced his support for new vice president Taban Deng Gai and criticised his former leader.
“We the leadership of SPLM-IO met and nominated Taban Deng Gai,” he said.
“Many people including Dr Machar himself argue this was an illegal move but the peace agreement provides for filling a vacancy. Dr Machar fled Juba without even letting us know, his whereabouts are not known to us up to now, given the circumstances of his escape.”
“One can’t tell when he will be back,” he added.
President Kiir consolidates power
With Machar frozen out of the SPLM-IO and Gen Deng Gai securing his place as South Sudan’s vice president, Salva Kiir finally appears to have consolidated his power over the country. After more than two years of civil conflict and bitter fighting between himself and Riek Machar, his biggest political rival appears to have to options left.
“I strongly believe that Dr Machar can still be relevant if he does not fight. If he chooses to fight because he believes he has control of the army then he won’t manage because our army is tribal and he cannot count on the loyalty of the tribal leaders who control the different militia,” another former ally to Machar, Brig-Gen Ellijah Tut, said.