At a time dramatic events were unfolding in South Sudan capital Juba, embattled president Salva Kiir flew to Kampala and held secret talks with Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni rising suspicion.
That evening, a faction of the opposition temporarily replaced its leader Riek Machar, who is also the country’s first vice president, with mining minister Taban Deng Gai, throwing the peace deal, signed after 20 months of a civil war in doubt.
Uganda aided South Sudan government in pursuing the rebel group led by Machar since the start of the war. Kiir is a close ally of Museveni.
Analysts say, the peace deal is not hanging by thread. For Machar, the defection and endorsement of his principle negotiator Deng to viceroy of presidency is likely to turn him into persona non grata in South Sudan
“What do you expect, others were orchestrating a move to lock him out of the Peace deal and dismissing his demands as Kiir was having tea with Museveni, the very man who aided him to gun down his group and with scotch earth. It speaks volumes, Machar is in danger” says Uganda based Journalist Samuel Wamuttu.
Museveni’s only statement on the meeting was a tweet in which he said they discussed regional matters and the events in south Sudan topped the agenda
I met H.E. Salva Kiir at State House, Entebbe today. We discussed regional issues and the situation in South Sudan. pic.twitter.com/mPJAkQveQk
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) July 23, 2016
As of now there is little to be know about the purpose of Kiir Meeting Museveni at that such a sensitive moment.
Machar had dismissed Deng from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and asked his rival, president Kiir to fire him from his mining ministry position.
However, in an interview with Aljazeera, Deng said Machar had no such powers and sucking him from the party is a process.
“I’m not aware of Machar dismissing me. Machar is in the bush. I don’t know where he is. Dismissing any member of the SPLM-in-Opposition is a process; a process that [requires]placing the charges against me and investigating me through a committee, and after that you can have the outcome of the investigation.
What I have done in Juba with my colleagues is that we are committed to the full implementation of this peace [deal]. The country needs peace, reconciliation, stability, so that we move forward. Machar cannot dismiss me because I’m supporting peace”.
At a time when many think Machar would “take to the bush” if he doesn’t agree with the events in Deng said he would give him back the position if he takes a decision to return.
“I’m only filling a vacuum. If Riek Machar returns (to Juba) tomorrow, I will gladly step aside if it can help bring peace to South Sudan,” Deng said.
Key among Machar’s demands before his return include deployment of a neutral peace keeping force, demilitarization of Juba and security arrangement to guarantee his safety.