June 1, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir’s legal advisor, Telar Riing Deng has proposed that vice-president, James Wani Igga be appointed government’s lead negotiator in the ongoing peace talks with the country’s opposition forces.
- Telar Deng (L) congratulating the new vice-president James Wani after his appointment on August 27, 2013 (Photo Larco Lomayat)
Telar, in a confidential letter to the president, argued that Igga’s appointment would woo and court Equatorians in favour of Kiir’s administration.
He further said it was time to court the vice-president into a “more useful role”, stressing that such a move would overturn the widespread misconception that the talks were tribally-based.
“We must find a role for the vice -president to participate in the talks. As the negotiations in Addis move to considering substantive issues of power sharing leading to interim period etc, it is essential that the vice-president takes the lead in the peace talks”, party reads the letter entitled, “My perspective on the current situation in South Sudan”.
The undated letter, which makes reference to the recent framework agreement signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, is seen as an approach and strategy to ensure president Kiir remains in power.
“In essence, the political quarrel concerns the position of the vice president. The rebels eye this position and the vice president must be in the forefront defending it”, wrote Kiir’s legal advisor.
“We do not want to be blamed later that we gave away positions in government”, further noted the letter.
According to Telar, involving vice-president Igga in the talks would demonstrate national unity and that involving Equatorians will take away the notion that these negotiations are a Dinka vs Nuer affair.
Currently, the government lead negotiator at the talks is Nhial Deng Nhial, a Dinka, who hails from president Kiir’s home state of Warrap.
The conflict, observers have argued, appears to have put the spotlight of appeasement on Equatoria as the government tries to come up with modalities and tricks by offering or trading ministerial positions in exchange for loyalty and security at the helm.
Already, sources have hinted, a reshuffle plan has reportedly been put in place with some names and regions being proposed against the portfolios of key ministries such as finance, interior and defence.
Telar, in his letter, suggested that the finance portfolio “should remain within greater Equatoria” and that if it was necessary to replace the incumbent minister, a fitting candidate be identified.
David Nailo Mayo, a member of parliament from the Didinga tribe in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state, has already been proposed.
Mayo not only solves the problem of representation in Eastern Equatoria, but he is also “competent and loyal to [the] leadership”, Telar argued.
ATTACKS CABINET MINISTER
The president’s legal advisor, however, had no kind words for Jemma Nunu Kumba, a cabinet minister from Western Equatoria state who is also on the new list for ministerial position in the region.
In his missive, Telar expressed dissatisfaction with minister Kumba, saying she has been “a disappointment”. He also doubted her usefulness and popularity, wondering “how much support she can muster” in the area for a government keen on clinging to power.
As such, the president’s legal advisor was of the view that Western Equatoria region be represented in cabinet preferably by the country’s former interior minister, General Alison Manani Magaya.
Telar, however, warned that any political strategy to court politicians from Equatoria region to ally with president Kiir and deny rebel leader Riek Machar a support base in the region, must be treated carefully.
“The Equatoria has a history of becoming slippery”, he wrote in his strongly-worded letter, and that they “must not be trusted in totality”.
“In the wake of the 1991 Split, the SPLM/A leadership successfully courted Equatorians that is Professor George Bureng, Steven Wondu, Dr. Samson Kwaje etc) to deny the Nasir Faction any tangible support in the region,” the letter further said.
“Under the current political climate, we need to pursue this kind of policy,” added Telar in his letter to his boss.