Machar Fires Top Official Taban Deng Gai from his faction, Asks Kiir to Relieve Him of Ministerial Duties

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South Sudan elusive opposition leader and Vice President Riek Machar dismissed one of his officials in the shaky government of national unity as divisions hit the faction.

The official, Taban Deng Gai according to a statement from Marchar is accused of defecting to President Salva Kiir’s faction.

“This is to declare to all members of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) that Taban Deng Gai has defected to the SPLM-IG under President Salva Kiir Mayardit,” Machar said.

Gai was the Chief negotiator of the opposition during the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) facilitated peace-talks which brought the August 2015 peace deal and a government of national unity in April 2016. He has been serving as the Mining Minister.

Machar asked Kiir to relieve Gai from his position as Minister of Mining. He said he will harmonize the position as soon as he returns to Juba

“In exercise of my powers, as First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, as per the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, Article 6, I hereby withdraw and recall Gen. Taban Deng Gai as Minister of Mining in the Transitional Government of National Unity as from today, 22nd of July, 2016,” partly reads the letter addressed to President Salva Kiir and copied to JMEC and IGAD.

“I am asking Your Excellency to relieve him with immediate effect,” Machar said.

Machar’s action follows a statement from a group within the SPLM/A-IO loyal Gai which indicated that faction was ready to replace Machar as vice president if he didn’t return in the 48 hours.

“On our side, we want him to show up, otherwise we will replace him.” William Ezekiel, spokesman for SPLM-IO faction allied to Gai, told Reuters by phone.

President Salva Kiir gave his opponent 48 hours to return to the capital to accelerate the program for the implementation of a peace accord signed in August 2015.

Gai according to the Sudan Tribune has been reportedly campaigning to replace Machar in his position as First Vice President, accusing him of staying away from Juba.

The allegation must have informed Dr. Machar “therefore relieved him from his positions as member of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) Political Bureau and as Chairman of the National Committee for Reconciliation and Healing.”

“By this, Taban Deng Gai is hereby declared dismissed and no more a member of the SPLM/SPLA (IO),” he added.

Machar who fled the capital and relocated his base outside Juba due to recent clashes between his forces and the forces loyal to President Kiir, said he is willing to return to the capital as soon as a third party force is deployed to separate their rival forces.