South Sudan President Salva Kiir has said that parts of an agreement reached last week in Arusha, Tanzania to reunify the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), were changed before it was signed.
The changes determine whether party officials who were fired when the country erupted in violence would be reinstated in their positions in the party or government.
Mr. Kiir said, shortly after the Arusha agreement was ratified Monday at a special sitting of the SPLM's National Liberation Council (NLC), that the document had been amended before it was signed in Arusha by himself, former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and Deng Alor, the signatory for senior SPLM officials who were detained in the days after the conflict erupted.
The president said that the wording had been changed in a clause that says SPLM officials removed from their posts early in the conflict -- including Machar and the former political detainees -- would be reinstated.
President Kiir removed Machar from his position of first deputy chairman of the SPLM in February last year. The president has accused his former deputy and many of the former political detainees of triggering the conflict in South Sudan by mounting an abortive coup.
It has become a fashion in South Sudan that, if you want a position, you rebel. When you return tomorrow, you will be given a position. I don’t think I will continue doing this thing.
In the copy of the Arusha document seen by South Sudan in Focus, the signatories agree to the "...Revocation of decisions for dismissal of party cadres from party membership and leadership positions resulting from the internal conflict within the party."
But Mr. Kiir insisted, "We changed it to reconsideration, not revocation. These people are insisting on revocation because by revocation, they must go back to their positions which they occupied prior to the conflict.”
President Kiir said he might not allow all the officials who were dismissed from the SPLM to return to the party or to government.
“It has become a fashion in South Sudan that, if you want a position, you rebel. When you return tomorrow, you will be given a position. I don’t think I will continue doing this thing,” he said.
The agreement recognizes that rifts within the SPLM are among the root causes of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. It says reunification and reconciliation of the party are key to resolving the crisis, but stresses that the talks in Arusha are just one step toward restoring peace in the world's newest nation.
Mr. Kiir was in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to take another step toward ending the conflict -- attending a summit of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) at which the focus will be on the crisis in South Sudan.
Attempts to reach Machar or a representative of the former political detainees to confirm that the wording of the agreement had been changed were unsuccessful.