South Sudan: SPLM-IO rejoins ruling party as president asks Machar to return

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South Sudan’s First Vice President and former rebel Taban Deng Gai on Monday formally merged his party with the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The move is designed to strengthen the legitimacy of Salva Kiir’s regime at a time when political divisions are intensifying once again. On Monday, President Salva Kiir also publicly his forgiveness of rebel leader Riek Machar and asked him to return to South Sudan.

Deng merges SPLM-IO with ruling party

Taban Deng Gai, a former rebel and ally of Riek Machar in the SPLM-IO, took over from Macher as South Sudan’s vice president in 2016 after the pair fell out and split the rebel group in two. Both factions under Deng and Machar held on to the name SPLM-IO but Deng’s supporters abandoned the rebel cause to support President Salva Kiir’s regime.

Now, Deng is merging his faction with the ruling party in an attempt to strengthen Kiir’s position in power.

Kiir calls for Machar return

Meanwhile, the president is calling on rebel leader Riek Machar – who is currently under house arrest in South Africa – to return to South Sudan. Speaking to the Holland-based Radio Tamazuj, Kiir said in a recording: “I said you bring Riek Machar to Juba here. Bring him to Juba and I will guarantee his safety, and I will protect him with the national army.”

“Nobody would believe that I would call for Riek to be brought, but I said bring him because Riek is a citizen of SouthSudan. What we are doing here is forgiveness. Riek is a citizen of South Sudan and he will return,” he added.

Featured image: By Jill Craig (VOA) – South Sudan’s First Vice President Says Country Is ‘Peaceful and Quiet’, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61715806

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.