South Sudan’s former Vice President Riek Machar says he is putting structures in place to challenge President Salva Kiir for the leadership of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ahead of the 2015 general election.
President Kiir expelled Machar as vice president citing statements Machar made which he said could destabilize Africa’s newest country. But, Machar said his interest in the top job led to his dismissal.
“I have made my intentions clear and the members of the SPLM are clear of my intensions, the people of South Sudan know about it. It has cost me dismissal from government,” said Machar.
Some supporters of the ruling party give another reason for his removal. They say he’s one of a group of visionless and directionless people in the party who are power hungry and intent on enriching themselves. Machar disagreed with the accusation.
“I have raised critical issues such as corruption, tribalism, insecurity in the country and the fact that the party members have said the party has lost vision and direction and also the poor relations between our state and our allies during the liberation,” said Machar. “So, finally I stated that I will be contesting the next election and that made my president furious and decided dismiss me from government, which I accept.”
He said his dismissal from government will allow him to prepare his campaign to become the SPLM’s presidential candidate two years from now. Machar denied reports that he is bitter about his dismissal from government.
Machar also denied reports that he boycotted the official opening of an office for the leader of the ruling SPLM party.
“I didn’t boycott the event; I was told the chairman of the party wants to open it alone. But, then he called in three others who these days are more or less his team. The rest of us who are in the politburo, 14 of us did not attend,” said Machar. “Maybe he knows that because of the differences that have happened in the government and in the party, he probably didn’t like our presence, during the opening of the SPLM leadership house.”
Last year a party report suggested that the group’s leadership has lost touch with the grassroots. The report also raised concern about infighting, lack of cohesion and divisions within the rank and file of the party. Machar said Mr. Kiir appeared displeased with the assessment.
“This was the verdict of the members of the party. We want to give the party vision and direction again, by having new leaderships,” said Machar. “So, I opted to refocus the vision and the direction of the SPLM so that we can become a more vigorous, [and] more democratic party.”