SPLM-IO power struggle risks returning country to anarchy – experts
“The consequences of this rivalry are that most likely, we will see some potential clashes between loyalists of the chief of staff and that of Dr. Machar. If this happen, we are not likely going to only lose lives, we will also have serious human rights impacts such as displacement and human rights violations.”
JUBA – A South Sudanese political analyst and a local civil society activist have expressed concerns over the unfolding power struggle within the main armed opposition group, SPLM-IO, between First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny, and General Simon Gatwech Dual, saying the disagreement could impede the smooth implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.
Dr. Riek is the Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) and is representing the main armed opposition group in the peace presidency as first vice president. General Gatwech Dual is the SPLA-IO military chief of staff.
Last week, Machar nominated General Gatwech leading to his appointment by President Salva Kiir Mayardit as a presidential advisor. The opposition commander has turned down the appointment and has refused to return to Juba saying he won’t take up the position until the security arrangement is completed.
This powerful struggle has worried many experts contacted by Sudans Post.
Abraham Kuol Nyuon, a Juba-based political analyst and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Juba said there are concerns that if the rivalry between Machar and his chief of Staff continues, there will be likelihood that the disagreement between the two men will return the country to insecurity.
“If he (SPLA-IO Chief of Staff) defects from IO factions, it will bring instability to the whole government and create more factions such as Malong’s faction, and Thomas’ factions,” Kuol told Sudans Post on Sunday in Juba.
Nyuon explained that this rivalry will weaken the military position of the SPM-IO in unifications of the joined army.
“It is going to weaken the military position of the SPLM-IO in a way that some of the soldiers who would defect with him (Gen. Gatwech) might be able to create a vacuum in the integration process of the SPLM-IO,” he said.
“Therefore, the number that was required by the SPLM-IO to be integrated into unified forces will be limited because of such disagreements,” he added.
He advised Dr. Machar to form a committee to hold talks with his chief of staff, Gen. Gatwech in a bid to end this conflict.
“I do believe that Riek should send high-level delegation to him Gen. Gatwech to ask him what needs to be done and how he should be able to come on board so that he could not be a loss, because if IO loss him, we are creating another rebel movement that is going to threaten the overall security of South Sudanese,” he said. He added.
When asked if the ruling SPLM faction under President Salva Kiir Mayardit can play any role to defuse the SPLM-IO tension, the analyst said: “One of the very big problems we have in this country is that when the IO has a problem, it is celebrated by the SPLM-IG or the rival party. As a result of this, I don’t see a very big and significant role the SPLM-IG through the President could play because they are happy about this instability within IO.”
Jame David Kolok, Executive Director for Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG) warned of potential clashes within the main SPLM-IO if the disagreement continues.
“The consequences of this rivalry are that most likely, we will see some potential clashes between loyalists of the chief of staff and that of Dr. Machar. If this happen, we are not likely going to only lose lives, we will also have serious human rights impacts such as displacement and human rights violations,” David told Sudans Post.
Kolok warned that if this conflict is not tackled on time, Dr. Machar would likely lose control over his forces.
“Whatever orders that comes from the SPLA-IO chief of staff is going to disrupt the process of military unification such as training and graduation of unified forces. The fact that the chief of staff has asked Machar to visits his forces and Machar didn’t turn up, is going to make chief of the staff stronger to greater extend,” he added.
When asked if President Salva Kiir can play role in the defusing tensions within the SPLM-IO, the outspoken activist believed that the solution lies with Dr. Machar more than it is with President Kiir.
“These forces are not paying allegiance to the country; they are paying allegiance to individuals. If they were paying allegiance to the country, the President would have intervened. I am not sure that the President would do much because they are IOs who are not paying allegiance to the President,” he said.
He further urged President Kiir to play neutral dialogue between Dr. Machar and his chief of staff so that they can amicably solve the issue before it turns the country apart once again.
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