By Mapuor Malual Manguen
July 22, 2013 - Speculation is rife in the country that President Salva Kiir Mayardit may sack his Deputy and main political rival Dr. Riek Machar Teny. Machar who has been Vice President since 2005 and has openly expressed interest to vie for the seat of the ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement currently occupied by his boss, President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Since Machar declared his interest for the presidency come general election slated for 2015, he has upped on his criticism of Kiir’s reign. He has cited corruption, tribalism, and poor international relations as failures of President Kiir’s leadership and has challenged the President to step down for him.
It is against this backdrop that rumour has been swirling that President Kiir may show his defiant deputy and rival the exit door. If such a move is to happen, President Kiir will require the two-thirds majority members of National Legislative Assembly as per the requirement of National Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. If the president takes this line, he must be prepared to satisfactorily convince lawmakers why he would want to sack his deputy. Moreover, the Republic of South Sudan is already mired in polarized ethnic tensions and tribalism. To sack Dr. Machar would exacerbate the already muddied relations of some rival communities in the country.
Politically, Dr. Riek Machar is playing his card very prudently. He is taking advantage of woes that South Sudan faces and has faced since gaining independence two years ago as an opportunity to woo support of the masses.
Based on his political undertones, he projects himself as a reformist and pro-democracy when he states that his intention to run for presidency is healthy and should not cause any tension. This assertion could sound sweet in the ears of democracy promoting countries who are pushing for democratization of the world’s youngest nation. Therefore, if President Kiir sacks his deputy, it will be political suicide on his part because it will definitely alienate some of his friends in the West as they would see him as dictatorial.
Nevertheless, just as the timing of Machar’s declaration for presidency is significant for the interest of popularization of his agenda, it is equally risky in the same measure. The elections are still two years away. If the President does not sack him, he may isolate Machar politically by alienating him from his political backers. If allegations that former Governors of Lakes and Unity states were supporters of Machar’s presidency for 2015 are anything to go by, then it could be a strong indicator of the beginning of his political isolation. State Governors, County Commissioners, National Ministers and any other senior officials play an important role between presidential aspirant and masses or voters. Kiir could use the advantage of being the appointer and statehouse incumbent to get a firm grip in the grassroots. The early declaration by Machar will make him score poorly in this area. The rumor of Cabinet shuffle in the air could see pro-Machar Ministers kicked out and replaced with loyalists of President. Such a move will leave Machar more isolated and an insignificant vice-President. Out of frustration, it could leave him with no option but to resign his post voluntarily and become an active opposition outside of government.
The author is a freelance journalist and columnist based in Juba. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org