JUBA – South Sudan’s main armed opposition leader and the country’s First vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny has hinted at replacing the SPLM-IO’s controversial Upper Nile state gubernatorial nominee, General Johnson Olony Thabo, saying during the closing session of the SPLM-IO National Conference in Juba on Saturday that the group would hold a conference in Fashoda, the home-town of General Olony, to discuss what may be a possible replacement for Olony.
The embattled opposition commander was nominated by Machar on June 24, for governorship of the oil-rich Upper Nile state, but President Salva Kiir Mayardit refused to appoint him when he announced nine of the 10 state governors on June 29, saying Olony is a warmonger who he said, in his own words, would jeopardize reconciliation efforts in the state.
Kiir then demanded a replacement for Olony, but the SPLM-IO insisted that it wouldn’t change its mind over its nominee saying the South Sudanese head of state does not have power to reject other parties nominees which it said would amount to a violation of the revitalized peace agreement signed by Kiir and Machar in September 2018.
“We will go to Malakal because we want to go and hold a conference in Fashoda to address other issues there so that Upper Nile maybe like other states that enjoy the benefits of peace,” Machar told the participants during the 6th SPLM/SPLA-IO national conference in Juba on Saturday.
Based on the revitalized peace agreement, each party shall nominate a number of governors between SPLM-IO, SPLM-IG and the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) led by Josephine Lagu. According to the deal, no party shall temper with other party’s nominees to all the positions allocated to it.
Kiir’s office which has described General Johnson Olony as an “active soldier who has not fully subjected himself to the political developments in Juba, and is not “within territories that are controlled by SPLM-IO or by the government,” has been urged by rights group as well as peace monitors to speed up the appoint of the Upper Nile state, which the observers have said is creating a power vacuum in the state.
Security situation has in recent months been deteriorating in the Upper Nile state’s capital Malakal, with unknown gunmen killing a local prosecutor a few months ago. A South Sudan army commander and an activist were also killed in October by unknown gunmen who are still at large.