A faction of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) Saturday replaced missing First Vice President, Riek Machar as South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, rushed to Kampala, capital of Uganda to meet with his ally, President Yoweri Museveni, as another crisis looms in the war-ravaged country.
The opposition faction announced Mining Minister, Taban Deng Gai, as replacement for Riek Machar.
The SPLM-IO faction had warned Machar to heed President Kiir’s call to return to the capital and take his position or be replaced.
But Machar said his replacement was illegal as it was done by non-members of the movement, accusing Kiir of working against the peace agreement.
Kiir and Museveni met at State House, Entebe. Uganda State House publicist, Don Nwanyama, said the meeting was aimed at “pushing for a solution to South Sudan”.
The meeting also had defense ministers of both countries in attendance. Ugandan forces had supported President Kiir since the inception of the crisis.
A group inside the SPLM-IO movement had Friday issued a statement saying its head Riek Machar should return to the capital Juba and carry on his work in the government, or be removed from office.
Machar, South Sudan’s Vice President, and his SPLM-IO group, have been caught up with more than two years of on-and-off, ethnically charged fighting with supporters of the country’s President Salva Kiir.
Machar left the capital last week after a fresh outbreak of clashes, saying he would only return when an international body set up a buffer force to separate his forces from Kiir’s.
Kiir called on him on Thursday to return to salvage a peace deal, and a faction of Machar’s own group, led by mining minister Taban Deng Gai, on Friday said they agreed.
“The decision by the government to give… Machar an ultimatum is entirely in line with its powers,” William Ezekiel, spokesman for SPLM-IO faction allied to Gai, told Reuters by phone.
“On our side, we want him to show up, otherwise we will replace him.”
Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet, rebuffed the threats, saaying Gai’s faction had no official status in the movement.
South Sudan’s politics has long been plagued by splits and rivalries as leaders switch allegiances, in the contest for power and influence in the oil-producing nation, which only emerged from Sudan five years ago.
“Machar … has communicated to all his military commanders to cut off any communication with General Taban Deng Gai and his few individuals who support the President Kiir’s conspiracy,” he said.
The two years of fighting started after Kiir sacked Machar as Vice President in 2013 and has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced over 2 million, many of whom fled to neighbouring countries.
The most recent fighting in Juba has forces 26,000 people to flee to neighbouring Uganda, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR’s spokesman Andreas Needham told a news conference in Geneva.