June 07, 2015 (Nyamilepedia) — A new power struggle is brewing up in the South Sudanese capital Juba as news spreads that president Salva Kiir is preparing to hand over power to a successor within his ruling SPLM-Juba party due to bad health.
This comes after talks that Kiir has been privately confirmed as being sick, weak and not fit to continue by doctors, talks going across the political and ministerial corridors in Juba saying that Kiir might be suffering from a kidney or a liver disease, and the Dinka Council of Elders are working to find his successor.
Kiir is said to have temporarily delegated his powers to current Defense Minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, instead of James Wani Igga, bypassing his VP.
This has sent shock waves within the ruling party leadership ranks in what is seen as a huge saga to hit the party since the violent break up of the party in December 2013, which triggered the current civil war.
It has been described by citizens and observers, particularly, as a huge embarrassment to vice president Wani Igga and a damage to his reputation. As vice president of the republic, Wani Igga is supposed to take responsibilities of state authority in case of any absence, death or unavailability of president.
He is also mandated to represent South Sudan in any regional or international meetings which requires high level representation to the level of Presidency.
Salva Kiir was allegedly pressured my leading SPLM members, hailing mostly from Bahr El Ghazal, to delegate powers to Kuol Manyang but not to Wani Igga, whom one insider says has been described by them as “having a weak personality, lacking character or clear political direction” and is seen as a “yes boy” to the president with no independent standing. Therefore, he could not be trusted when it comes to important political decisions and actions.
This all started yesterday on Saturday, 6th June, when Kiir was meant to attend the Northern Corridor meeting in Kampala, which brings together all the heads of state of the various East African countries to discuss infrastructure and security programs for the region.
President Kiir, who is said to be sick, failed to appear at the conference with his colleagues from the region, but instead was represented by Kuol Manyang, the Defense Minister, to the surprise of many including the East African heads of state who expected at least South Sudan’s Vice President to attend the important meeting if the president could not make it as the meeting was meant to be attended by heads of states and not to be represented on a ministerial level.
According to a senior Equatorian official in the SPLM party, who is familiar with the presidency and protocols, Wani Igga was not informed of the move by the president and was shocked to discover that he had been sidelined in terms of state protocols and his constitutional powers without any explanation.
The confidential source and senior Equatorian official in the SPLM party, who refused to be named as he is not allowed to speak on such matters, says Wani Igga has not taken Kiir’s decision lightly; saying Wani Igga expects a frank explanation from Pres. Kiir as to why he has been bypassed inspites of the protocols, and why a junior to him or minister has been delegated to take his place and represents the president while the vice president was available and was not engaged with any other duties.
Given that the president was also present inside, and not outside the country, the senior official who is close to the vice president said such actions could create “mistrust” between the two senior SPLM leaders.
Kiir whose health is said to be in “bad shape” according to sources within the J1, has been under heavy pressure from IGAD peace mediators and the international community to sign a peace deal, which would end the current civil war; However, such agreements are expected to give the opposition forces led by Dr Riek Machar a “lion share” in a new interim government of national unity, which would then undergo extensive reform programs including in the key areas of security, judiciary and financial/resource management sectors.
The embattled South Sudanese President had initially rejected to sign any peace agreement that would give the opposition more powers, describing it as “rewarding rebellion” but he is now said to be looking to sign a peace agreement, which according to senior officials from Bhar El Ghazal, who are dominating the presidency, is a “flexible arrangement” that would allow Dr Riek to be “appointed” as the first vice president while leaving Wani Igga to hang on to the third senior position as second vice president for the sake of peace.
The insider says for that “flexible arrangement” to happen, the Arusha agreement would now be linked to the ongoing peace process in Addis Ababa, requiring both to be implemented together if agreed by the parties.
The Arusha agreement calls for the reversal of all previous decisions taken by president Kiir to dismiss party members including those currently in the armed opposition, the SPLM-IO. This means Dr Riek Machar would then be reinstated as the first deputy chairman of the SPLM re-unified party. This arrangement would then automatically put Dr Riek above Wani Igga within the ruling party.
According to this “flexible arrangement”, Wani Igga would then go back to being the second deputy chairman and so as per the party rules, the first deputy chairman, which is Dr Riek, will automatically be considered as second most senior and would then be appointed as the First Vice President, leaving Wani Igga to hang on as the third man in the ruling party instead of his current position as the second leader within the SPLM party in Juba.
As rumors of Kiir’s ill health and power handover spreads throughout the country, like a wild fire, so is the race between senior political leaders to take his position.
The president is said to be favoring Nhial Deng Nhial, the current government lead negotiator to be his successor, but this has been fiercely resisted by veteran SPLM members from the National Liberation Council and Dinka Council of Elders, who are in favor of Koul Manyang and see Nhial Deng as having “weak personality and has been involved in corruption”.
Kuol Manyang is also believed to be the giant who boldly proposed the then weak Salva Kiir to replace Dr. John Garang after his death in 2005 at New Site when Dr. Riek Machar and Dr. Lam Akol were considered among the best successors of Dr. John.
According to NLC and Dinka Council of Elder, Kuol Manyang deserves recognition for his role behind Salva Kiir, which was also shown in 2013 as the crisis was boiling up in Juba.
Meanwhile Equatorians within the government are said to be backing James Wani Igga as the next successor to president Salva Kiir; however, this has been fiercely rejected by the SPLM National Liberation Council members from Bahr El Ghazal, who are said to have described Wani Igga as being a “weak character, who cannot be trusted and has no independent vision or political program.”
Another source said the current Chief of Army Gen. Paul Malong also sees himself as a another potential candidate with huge backing from Bahr El Ghazal SPLM members in Juba. However Equatorians and Nuer members of the SPLM in Juba are said to have dismissed Gen. Paul Malong as having “no qualification or political experience” to lead a political party.
Meanwhile SPLM members from Nuer, Equatoria and Shilluk are said to be opposing any attempt to try and install Kuol Manyang as successor to Kiir, describing the SPLM veteran as a “tribal oriented politician”, who will never help SPLM unity.
According to officials in Juba, James Wani Igga has resisted any attempt to have him dropped his position as the Vice president.
It’s not yet clear how the current Vice President would receive any news of handing over his position, but it’s believed it has already started on Saturday when President Kiir delegated powers to his defense minister, Kuol Manyang, instead of his Vice President, Wani Igga.