Opinion South Sudan

South Sudan politics always amazed observers with political miscalculations, the case of Taban Deng Gai

South Sudan politics always amazed observers with political miscalculations, one of which is an ongoing complaint by Taban group who sought to halt South Sudan’s peace implementation.

By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak,

President Salva Kiir, caught on camera pointing hand aggressively at FVP Taban Deng Taban Gai in Juba (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)
President Salva Kiir, caught on camera pointing hand aggressively at FVP Taban Deng Taban Gai in Juba (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

March 12, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — The focus of this article is to address the complaints issuance by Taban Deng and his followers who want to halt South Sudan’s peace implementation. This month, one among many pressing political developments in the Republic of South Sudan has been the complaint made by ex-South Sudan’s opposition group led by Gen. Taban Deng Gai. These former SPLM-IO 2016 coup plotters believe they have been left out in recent allocation of positions in both National and State governments in the Republic of South Sudan. The group seem to be furious in their quest for power sharing concerning the 2018 Revitalized peace agreement in which they didn’t participate solo but as the part and parcel of the South Sudan government. Below is the content of their complaint, the process of their breakaway from the SPLM/A-IO and how the group abandoned their stand alone and reintegrated into the SPLM party of Salva Kiir.

 Initially, the group complaint is initiated by individuals who call themselves “lawmakers” who allied to South Sudan Vice-president for infrastructure cluster Gen.Taban Deng Gai. At first, the group wrote a petition letter to Salva Kiir on 23d February, 2021, concerning their exclusion from the formation of the state and local governments in the country. When their petition was not responded directly to them other than being responded through the words of the minister of information, the group extended another petition letter to the regional bloc, IGAD, which mediated the revitalized peace agreement to suspend the ongoing implementation of the revitalized peace agreement until a number of grievances they raised are addressed. According to the group, IGAD should call an urgent submit of the parties that comprised the ITGONU to facilitate the implementation of Article 1.3.1, R-ARCISS, 2018. They want IGAD to put on hold formation of the R-TGONU until their concerns are addressed.

One does not know what others think about Taban’s group complaints, but in one’s own opinion; the legitimacy of their complaints is flaw and not realistic especially among those who know their footprint since 2016 and present. Precisely, the group came on being or existing by planning the coup that chased Dr. Riek Machar away from Capital Juba all the way to DRC in July 2016 and Taban was later appointed First Vice president fulfilling his plot with the government on July 25, 2016 by President Salva Kiir.

Then on Tuesday July 26, 2016, Taban was sworn in. In his remark during swearing in, Mr. Deng said, “he will work with President Kiir to form one army, end the country’s fighting and allow the displaced citizens of South Sudan to return home.” However, Machar supporters, some of whom were the ones he said he could call to return home, saw the move of his ascension to Vice Presidency as a conspiracy to overthrow Dr. Riek Machar after Taban was denied appointment as a minister of petroleum. He was angry because he didn’t get the position of the minister of petroleum in the transitional government. Instead, he was appointed as minister of mining. He didn’t like it, a position he did not hide. Without delay, Taban had decided to resign from being a chief negotiator and being a member of JMEC (Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission). The leadership of the IO tried to persuade him not to resign, he refused and started plotting because he wanted to be minister of petroleum. ‘They also believed Salva Kiir appointment to Taban as a new Vice President will not resolve the renewed political crisis in South Sudan. Their prediction was not a miscalculation, the fighting has increased, but in some parts of the country.

Taban said, “he would be willing to give up his new position if Dr. Riek Machar has returned to Juba to restore peace.”   At that particular period, Dr. Riek’s replacement was Salva Kiir and his supporters, plot to undermine the agreement by using Mr. Taban Deng.  Salva Kiir and his supporters were presumably hoping that, the appointment of Mr. Taban Deng will enable them to maintain that they are still upholding the 2015 peace agreement. Little did they know they would not be able to convince many South Sudanese who opposed Salva Kiir policies and how he governed South Sudan nation.

 While Dr. Riek replacement was in progress in Juba, government troops were deployed to pursue him and his forces by air and ground. They were hunted by a combination of four helicopter gunships, two spy planes and one drone as they marched for 37 days on foot. The worse scenario was that, assassination attempt and the illegal move of Dr. Machar replacement, were not condemned by the regional and the international community even though the incident in Juba has resulted in peace collapse. Then, the movement called for the August 2015 Peace Agreement resuscitation.

 However, according to the leadership, in absence of a peace initiative, or political process, the movement has the right to self-defense even if that will lead to changing the regime in Juba by force. The call for peace resuscitation falls in the regional and international community deaf ears. When Taban’s coup plotter faction was enjoying honeymoon with their new partner in coup conspiracy, mother SPLM-IO they broke away from and wanted to destroy it under Dr. Riek Machar remained steadfast even though conspirators had maliciously been able to influence the world’s superpower to arrest their chairman against his will in South Africa following his medical checkup visit to that part of the continent. During that process, Taban and his group had painted and smeared themselves as peace lover’s entity; while in actual fact, they were war perpetual agents striving to control areas they deemed as Riek Machar strongholds.

The Revitalized Peace Agreement

The Revitalized Peace Agreement came after multiple resistances from the Salva Kiir government. The government refused to participate in negotiation with the SPLM/A-IO of Riek Machar for the reason that, they were implementing 2015 peace with breakaway SPLM/A-IO of Taban Deng Gai following the Dog fight on July 8, 2016 and its aftermath that forced Riek Machar out of Juba. Machar’s faction returned to battle with the government in the bush. Hence, R-ARCSS is an agreement that seeks to revive the ARCSS of August 2015, which had temporarily ended the first civil war of South Sudan that broke out on December 15, 2013. Since the resurgence of civil war in South Sudan on July 7-8 2016, there have been efforts to ensure a return to peace in the country through various initiatives at international and regional levels. Those initiatives did not bear any fruit until when able young Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed decided to reopen South Sudan Peace talks. Dr. Abiy started by sending the delegation to both government and rebel leaders, alerting them to reconsider coming back to the negotiating table. The Prime Minister wrote an invitation letter to Salva and Riek Machar requesting them to meet face to face. The meeting was proposed to be convened on June 21, 2018 in Ethiopia. After the end of Ethiopia’s first Salva and Riek Machar meeting following July 8, 2016 dog fight, and IGAD authority decided to choose Sudan to be the next location for South Sudan peace negotiation. Omar Hassan Ahmed El-Bashir, former President of the Republic of Sudan was entrusted by the 32nd Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD on South Sudan, convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 21, 2018, to facilitate a second round of face-to-face discussion between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to resolve the outstanding issues on governance and security arrangements. Moreover, El-Bashir is further entrusted to discuss measures to be taken to rehabilitate the economy of the Republic of South Sudan through bilateral cooperation with the Republic of Sudan.

Without wasting time, President El-Bashir facilitated the direct meeting between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar on June 25-6 2018 the first of which was graciously attended by Yoweri Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda. At the same meeting, Bashir had also convened a separate session of talks with other political parties of the Republic of South Sudan which discussed the same issues Salva and Riek were discussing. During June 25, the talk was based on a ceasefire to be declared within 72 hours. The parties were told to be called again soon and continue with peace talks in Khartoum to discuss the arrangements for implementing the ceasefire, the issue of power sharing and the framework agreement. They also address issues of humanitarian access to refugees, the release of prisoners, and the formation of a transitional government of national unity after everything has been finalized.

On July 25, 2018, the parties agreed on power sharing that will reinstates Dr. Riek Machar as the First Vice President during the 36 months transitional period before nationwide national elections will be conducted. The new peace deal has created five Vice Presidents, 35 ministers, and 550 members of the parliament. The Vice Presidents shall be distributed as first Vice President for IO, second Vice President to be nominated by the government, third Vice president must be SSOA, the fourth Vice President be nominated by the government and the fifth Vice President will be nominated by the FDs and that has to be a woman.

Moreover, council of ministers shall comprise of 35 ministers: government will have 20 ministers, SPLM/A-IO will take 09 ministers, SSOA: 03 ministers, FDs take 02 ministers and OPP will take 01 minister. There shall also be 550 transitional national legislative Assemblies. The government will have 332, SPLM/A-IO will have 128, SSOA 5o members, OPP: 30 members and FDs 10 members. There shall be ten (10) deputy ministers which will be divided as follows: government will have five deputy ministers, IO will take three SSOA will take one, and other political parties will take one. No fewer than three deputy ministers shall be women.

During the process of Revitalized peace talks, Taban group was considered as the part of the government because in May 2018, Taban faction was dissolved at least the group does not remember their past actions. If they do, they should remember that their SPLM-IO faction had been disbanded and join SPLM in government, which Taban himself announced officially. During the news conference, Taban said ” the decision is in line with a 2015 accord that called for the reunification of the various factions of the founding SPLM party which fragmented into three factions following outbreak of civil war in late 2013.” He continued and said, “I would therefore like to announce on behalf of the SPLM-IO structures and the entire membership of the party the dissolution of the SPLM-IO organs including chapters and declare them to be united with the SPLM,” Gai told reporters in Juba.” He directed SPLM-IO members and cadres to observe the reunification process as stated in the Arusha agreement on 21 January 2015,” he added.

 Those promises were a clear indication that Taban’s faction was terminated and does not stand on its own any longer. Even in 2018 peace talks, Taban’s faction was part of the transitional government of national unity. The reason we have five Vice presidents today was because of him, Salva Kiir did not want to drop him and James Wani Igga. If Taban’s faction wanted to remain separate, they would have not consolidated the so-called Arusha reunification agreement.  Had they not been reinstated into Salva Kiir’s SPLM party, mediators would want them to be included in the peace talks as separate entities. It does not sound good for them to raise those grievances in the middle of the peace implementation while parties are approaching the end of the Interim period. It is indubitable the group compliant is a blatant violation of the provisions of the R-ARCISS, 2018, given the fact that their party was never been mentioned in the R-ARCISS, 2018 nor ARCISS, 2015 for the reason that they were part of the SPLM-IO they abandoned and integrated into the SPLM in government in which they try to distance themselves today.

 In summing, if any organization can judge its stand on issues, Taban Deng former SPLM-IO coup plotter group, would have envisioned the claim they try to make is wrong. They should have known that their party was disbanded and integrated into the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party of Salva Kiir respectively. Let them wait to compete in the nationwide national election after the end of the 36-month transitional period.


The author is a political commentator. He could be rearch at  lulgatluak09@gmail.comlgatluak01@hamline.edu or lulgatkuoth@gmail.com,

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