The East African regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), said the controversially replaced South Sudanese First Vice President, Riek Machar, must reclaim his position in the transitional unity government in the country as the legitimate First Vice President.
IGAD said they have not changed their position in a communiqué released last month which called for the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, to step down and for Machar to resume his work as the first deputy president.
The comments from IGAD came days after the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, said the replacement process was an internal matter and did not break the peace agreement.
Kerry made the comments while on a visit to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi last week.
However, IGAD member states including Ethiopia which chairs the body, ‘questioned’ John Kerry’s comments, according to the CCTV Africa which reported from Addis Ababa.
They reaffirmed their position that Machar is the legitimate First Vice President, who should assume his post upon arrival in Juba, the South Sudanese capital.
Earlier, Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, criticized the comments from the US top diplomat, saying Kerry’s opinion was against the IGAD communiqué as well as against a resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which described the controversial replacement in Juba as ‘inconsistent’ with the peace agreement.
But President Salva Kiir’s spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, criticized IGAD for wanting Machar to return to the position, saying Gai has a better working relationship with President Kiir.
Opposition officials on the other hand said Gai is liked by Kiir because he will not ask for the full implementation of the peace deal, but will instead allow for scrapping of major provisions and block the needed reforms in the country.