JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, — A group of high-ranking members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) movement of former rebel leader Riek Machar has appointed Taban Deng Gai as interim vice-president of the country in his place.

Machar has not been seen in public since he left the capital, Juba, after recent clashes that threatened to destroy a 2015 peace deal between him and South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Machar had previously fired Deng Gai who he suspected of being groomed by the government to replace him.

Deng Gai insisted the move to appoint him as interim vice-president is temporary and says it is a way of bringing about stability in the country.

“As you would recall, the first vice-president now cannot discharge his powers because his whereabouts are not known and there is a vacuum that we must fill as the leadership of the SPLM,” he says.

In a statement addressed to President Salva Kiir, Machar’s spokesperson said any attempt to force the vice-president out would be a devastating blow to the unity government and the August peace accord.

However, the government refuted allegations that it wants to topple Machar. “They know that I can deliver. I’m just filling a vacuum. If the man comes back, if Riek Machar comes back, I will gladly step aside if that could bring peace to South Sudan,” says Deng Gai.

Interior Minister and SPLM-IO Deputy Chairperson Alfred Lado Gore said: “What do we do? This is what we have been discussing. We can’t go on without somebody. We say to the president to go and talk and to the defence minister to go and talk. Somebody has to be there to do the co-ordination. Somebody who is known to them.”

Lado Gore reiterated that it was not in the SPLM-IO’s interest to create instability in South Sudan.

Machar’s spokesperson also ruled out the return of the vice-president, who fears being assassinated and added that they don’t trust Kiir’s government to protect him.

Meanwhile, President Kiir also rejected a proposal by the African Union (AU) to deploy a robust protection force in South Sudan and is against beefing up the mandate of the United Nations (UN) Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS.

Source: Name News Network