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S. Sudan disowns Gai’s rejection of direct talks with Machar

June 11, 2018 (JUBA)- The South Sudanese presidency has dismissed as “fake” news report, which claimed the country’s first vice president, Taban Deng Gai in the coalition government proposed an initiative aimed at bringing together President Salva Kiir and his main political rival and leader of armed opposition faction, Riek Machar.

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South Sudan First Vice President Taban Deng Gai addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly (UN Photo)

Gai, reports widely circulated on social media indicated, protested to Kiir about his planned direct meeting with the rebel leader.

The letter, purportedly written by the first vice president, claimed he opposes the upcoming face to face meeting because Machar was no longer the leader of the armed opposition movement (SPLM-IO).

“SPLM-IO does not exist anymore after the SPLM [Sudan People Liberation Movement] reunification in early May. If you want to work with Riek Machar as an individual, just let me know because our deal does not recognize Riek Machar as the leader of the SPLM-IO. I hope you will reconsider my reasons as I presented to you at our last meeting,” partly reads the letter widely circulated on social media.

Gai said Machar would not give Kiir support if he is looking for someone who would provide him a support.

But while the South Sudanese presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny denied the report, sources at the country’s presidency and officials loyal to the first vice president separately told Sudan Tribune that Gai was indeed unhappy with the arrangements, pointing to views that the new arrangement will either relegate or isolate him.

“Like many other fake documents before, the letter allegedly written by the First Vice President Gen. Taban Deng Gai is as fake as the person who forged it. The FVF could not have written such letter when he can speak to the President and make his view known to the President. So, this letter is just a fake one intended for public consumption by those who forged it. Please discard it”, said Ateny.

The presidential aide did not, however, deny or confirm whether president Kiir and Gai met and held talks about the upcoming direct meeting between him and Machar.

Meanwhile President Kiir has already expressed willingness to meet his political rival for face-to-face talks, with Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir set to mediate between the two.

Last month, the rival parties involved in South Sudan’s peace talks concluded the Second Phase of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia without striking a deal on the implementation of the governance and security arrangements.

Tens of thousands pf people have been killed in fighting between troops loyal to Kiir and forces led by his former deputy Riek Machar since 2013. The conflict has also left a quarter of South Sudan’s population of 12 million, either internally displaced or as refugees in neighbouring countries.