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Joseph Buom Opinion

Opinion: Does Dr. Riek Marcher have powers to remove the chief of staff?

By Joseph Buom,

July 1, 2021 — Over the past week, there has been a lot of debate regarding whether Dr. Riek Marcher has the power to remove the chief of staff from Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO). 

BREAKING: Kiir appoints SPLA-IO army chief Presidential Advisor for Peace
SPLM-IO General Chief of Staff 1st. Lt. Simon Gatwech Dual (photo credit: Facebook courtesy)

This is a very interesting debate. The question that I propose is: Does Dr. Marcher have the power to remove the chief of staff? The answer may seem simple. Under the Constitution, the powers of the chairman are quite clear. But for those that are legal scholars, the question can prove to be more complicated. The real question is, under what circumstances can he exercise his powers. In law, there is a concept called Duress, which refers to a situation where threats, violence, constraints, or other actions are used to coerce someone into doing something against their will or better judgement. In such a situation, the person cannot enter into a contract or be held legally liable for their actions. In layman’s terms this means that a person cannot be held liable for a decision unless it is of their free will.   Now, a person that has been captured and is being held by an enemy cannot truly make decisions without duress as there would be a conflict of interest because his life is at risk.

Dr. Riek Machar has been under house arrest since October of 2017.

Ever since then, he has been under constant supervision and has reason to fear for his safety. Due to this status, he is unable to communicate freely and cannot meet any of his supporters without supervision. And even when he was transferred from the custody of South Africa to the supervision of Sudan, he was still under constant supervision with the threat that he would be taken back into house arrest in South Africa if he did not comply. The whole peace was negotiated under the threat of violence against his person. Let’s not fool ourselves. Dr. Marcher is not a  free man; he was recently transferred from Sudan’s supervision to that of Salve Kirr who has tried on many occasions to kill him. 

As we can see, staying in Juba is not of his free will. He cannot even tour Juba without permission of Salve Kirr. We must therefore conclude that if his life is at risk, then every decision that he has made since his incarceration cannot be fully trusted because he is not making decisions based on fact and the interest of the movement but rather on the merits of his own safety. First, he has to prove that he can make decisions of his free will. We cannot trust his decision making as long he is in Juba. Especially decisions with enormous effect on the movement since the chief of staff remains the only person that can truly make decisions of his free will between the two founding fathers. Dr. Marcher must first go down to the liberated area and meet with his senior officer and benefit them on the way forward, otherwise his decision does not hold weight.

The author, Joseph Buom, is a civil society activist and a commentator on topical social issues. He can be contacted via Gatkuoth1985@gmail.com,


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