KHARTOUM – South Sudan’s First Vice President and leader of opposition SPLM-IO, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, has reportedly threatened to replace, General Johnson Olony Thabo, his own gubernatorial nominee for Upper Nile state, that he may be replaced if he don’t return immediately to Juba in a phone call on Friday that attracted an emergency meeting of General Olony with his close associates in Khartoum.
Two high-ranking SPLM-IO military commanders told Sudans Post this morning from the Sudanese capital Khartoum that Machar phoned Olony on Friday to inform him that his refusal to return to Juba was hampering efforts to get him appointed and is also delaying the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement, informing Olony that he may replace him if he don’t return to Juba.
“The First Vice President Dr. Machar yesterday called General Johnson Olony and told him that ‘your refusal to return to Juba is making things difficult’ including his appointment and the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement,” one of the two military commanders who don’t want to be named said.
“He also told him that ‘you must report to Juba immediately otherwise I will replace you’ because he should return and get appointed as soon as he return to Juba,” he added. The other officer also confirmed the phone call between Machar and Olony and the plan to replace Olony if the controversial opposition commander don’t report to Juba.
Sudans Post could not verify as to whether the South Sudan’s second powerful man had indeed asked Olony to return or get replaced, but a statement by General Johnson Olony on Friday night suggests that Machar had indeed asked Olony to return to Juba and had as well hinted at his replacement if he don’t report to Juba as he ordered.
“The meeting totally rejects the replacement of Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony Thabo for any reason. Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony will [only] come to Juba after his appointment as governor of Upper Nile state,” the statement signed by Olony himself said.
“The political and military leadership of the SPLM-IO in the Former Federal Fashoda state are committed to peace and the peaceful co-existence of the communities of Upper Nile state and is urging the principals (Kiir and Machar) to go for full implementation of the R-ARCSS in letter and spirit,” the statement added.
The strong-worded statement further threatened that “if there is any failure in the implementation of the R-ARCSS, we cannot be an escape goat for that failure.”
The SPLM-IO has not yet released any statement over the unfolding situation in the main armed opposition group. Top opposition commanders including the SPLA-IO chief of staff have grown hostile towards Machar in recent months as peace implementation has encountered setbacks since Machar’s return to Juba.
Olony was nominated by Machar in June last year, but he was not appointed because President Salva Kiir Mayardit has refused to do so claiming that the opposition commander who was once Kiir’s own ally is a warmonger who he said would jeopardize reconciliation efforts between the Upper Nile state communities.