South Sudan’s SPLM reunification deal in Egypt excludes Machar: official

A screenshot from Al-Arabi TV for the signing ceremony of the Cairo agreement for the reunification of the SPLM factions on 16 Nov 2017

November 17, 2017 (JUBA) – The new reunification deal of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) factions in Egypt, excludes the group of the former First Vice President Riek Machar, said a South Sudanese official on Friday.

Nhial Deng Nhial, Senior Presidential Adviser and Special Envoy told reporters on arrival from Egyptians capital to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, that the new deal does not recognize Machar as leader of the SPLM-IO faction but accept his participation in the IGAD-led revitalization of the peace process.

Nhial further said the new deal, dubbed Cairo Declaration, recognized the current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai as the leader of the SPLM-IO who has accepted the reunification without conditions.

Last June, Machar declined an invitation from the Ugandan President to take part in the reunification talks held in Kampala but the SPLM-IO leader pointed to his confinement in South Africa, saying it prevents him from coming. However, different sources said that nobody wished his presence in the process but the invitation was for his group and he had to appoint a delegation.

Nhial said their successful visit to Cairo enabled them to resolve outstanding issues in the reunification process since Kampala meetings.

“The former detainees had some reservations about the reunification that was why we went to talk to them and we managed to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues,” he said.

At the time, Amum refused to sign the reunification deal pointing to the need to end the armed conflict and implement the peace agreement. this position was similar to Machar declared position from the reunification or the national dialogue process.

The South Sudanese presidential envoy said Machar would not be part of the new arrangement because there was already a new leadership under the incumbent First Vice President Taban Deng Gai who replaced Machar when the latter fled the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2016 when conflict resumed.

“We don’t talk about Machar. We are talking about SPLM-IO under Taban Deng Gai, the First Vice President. Now there are changes in the SPLM-IO leadership and Taban Deng has been selected as the leader of the group, so we do not recognize Machar as leader of the SPLM-IO party. But Machar can only have a chance to participate in the revitalization process, and not SPLM reunification, “said Nhial.

The reunification deal was signed in the Egyptian General Intelligence’s headquarters under the auspices of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Egypt hosted the reunification meeting from November 13 to 16.

The statement released to the public on Thursday carries the names of Pagan Amum Okiech, who signed it on behalf of the Former Detainees and South Sudan’s Defence Minister, Kuol Manyang. The new deal is expected to start with the confidence-building process and to expedite implementation of the 2015 Arusha reunification agreement.

In 2015, delegates from three factions of the party signed a 12-page agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, laying out key steps toward reunifying the party. The deal was signed by the President Salva Kiir, the SPLM-IO led by former Vice President Riek Machar and the group Former Detainees represented by Pagan Amum.