September 29, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government has downplayed the prospect that vice-president James Wani Igga may be dumped in order to pave way for the appointment of a new face with a large popular following.
Part of the plan will involve dissolving parliament after the signing of the peace agreement with rebel fighters allied to former vice-president Riek Machar.
The agreement will also provide for general elections in which president Salva Kiir will seek new mandate as the candidate of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Speaking to Sudan Tribune at the Regency Hotel in the capital, Juba, on Sunday, one senior member of the SPLM said that there were moves afoot in the power corridors of the presidency.
“Actually these people, including the president himself, did not in the first place show interest to appoint comrade James Wani Igga as the vice-president when Riek Machar was removed. Their plan was to make Riek Gai Kok the immediate replacement and when he (Riek Gai) declined; they thought they would get another strong candidate from Equatoria but this search failed,” the official said.
“This was the time they came for Wani Igga for two reasons; They knew he could be used and he would never come out to challenge the president for a presidential bid,” he added.
Sources say Kiir, who was recently in New York to attend the annual UN General Assembly, is determined to replace Igga with a political heavy weight either from the Greater Equatoria or Upper Nile regions.
“People close to the president have been talking about identifying potential candidates for the position of the vice-president so that the president wins the next general elections. Some names in Equatoria have been generated and I know Colonel Joseph Bakosoro tops the list of potential candidates,” one source said, adding that East Equatoria governor Louis Lobong Lojore was another strong contender.
The rumoured moves to replace Igga have generated strong resentment among some senior government officials and SPLM members who have also been campaigning to succeed president Kiir.
However, others feel that Igga will be hard to sell and that Bakosoro is a better choice.
The welll-liked Bakosoro is considered a gentleman among many in the SPLM hierarchy.
“Ordinarily, president Kiir loves the person he trusted most, like the current chief of general staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), General Paul Malong Awan, to take over, but the period is too short to market him (Igga) and he lacks the charisma to fit his shoe,” said one source.
“Salva Kiir considers [the] SPLM as a reward for his participation in the past civil wars and he fears allowing others to take power from him because they will turn against him,” he added.
However, Daniel Awet Akot, a senior member of the SPLM and a close ally of Kiir downplayed the prospect of Igga being replaced.
Akot referred to the seniority in the movement as the basis of succession and ascension to the leadership position, adding the protocol of agreed principles brokered by mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) does not abolish the position of vice-president.
He said rumours of Igga’s imminent dumping were an attempt to create confusion within the leadership and urged the media to report responsibly on the matter.
“As for the claims of the vice-president being replaced for election purposes, we are organising the national convention next year in January and as [far as] the leadership is concerned, comrade James Wani [Igga] has [an] excellent record. He has never waived and he has never failed to perform in any leadership position given to him. All these are some of the criteria of selection for leadership positions,” Akot told Sudan Tribune.