In a move which has heightened fears that there will be a fresh outbreak of violence, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has removed Riek Machar from his position as the first vice president of the country.
This happened just two weeks after forces on both sides clashed in the capital and left 300 people dead while threatening to reignite the fires of a civil war that had taken the lives of people running into tens of thousands.
During the clashes in early July, Machar’s forces had been overpowered by forces loyal to the president, and many of his bodyguards were killed.
The rebel leader, therefore, left the capital, while demanding the deployment of a neutral peacekeeping force that would guarantee his safety.
Since the altercation, Machar has not been seen and South Sudan’s president has chosen to replace him. Machar’s replacement is Taban Deng Gai, a former peace negotiator whom Machar had sacked as mining minister just over a week ago, according to the AFP news agency.
The replacement is already being criticized by Machar’s supporters, but others in Machar’s party seem to be in support of the move.
South Sudan’s political environment is already complicated and this move may further complicate things. This is because Machar supporters are likely to claim that the peace deal with South Sudan’s president has been broken since Machar is no longer the Vice President.
This fall-out could, however, be avoided if a majority of opposition politicians decide to back the new appointment.
Mr Taban Deng Gai has reportedly said that he would step down if Machar returned to Juba and helped “bring peace to South Sudan”. Machar’s spokesman said Machar rejected Mr Deng’s appointment.