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South Sudan's SPLM-IO Defends VP's Record


FILE - Taban Deng Gai, first vice president of South Sudan, attends the 34th session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 27, 2017.

This week marks one year since South Sudan's First Vice President Taban Deng Gai was sworn in to replace Riek Machar after fighting broke out between the presidential guards and the SPLM-IO rebels loyal to Machar.

The spokesman for the Taban Deng faction of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, Agel Machar (no relation to Riek), told South Sudan in Focus that his party had brought much-needed changes to the people of South Sudan. Machar said much of the country's security had stabilized since the appointment of Taban Deng Gai last July.

"For example, in the Equatoria region, insecurity in Juba and the surrounding states, like in Yei River State, was in full-blown war. In Western Equatoria, the Arrow Boys were in full gear, but as we speak, I'm optimistic that the security is stabilizing," Machar said.

FILE - U.N. peacekeepers drive through Yei, South Sudan, July 13, 2017. The U.N. peacekeeping mission's chief says Yei has "gone through a nightmare." Since fighting spread to the city a year ago, 70 percent of the population has fled.
FILE - U.N. peacekeepers drive through Yei, South Sudan, July 13, 2017. The U.N. peacekeeping mission's chief says Yei has "gone through a nightmare." Since fighting spread to the city a year ago, 70 percent of the population has fled.

Bishop Erkulano Ludu Tombe, the Catholic bishop of the Yei Diocese, criticized the governor of Yei River State, David Lokonga Moses, for similar optimistic reports in which Lokonga announced the Yei-Kaya road was open and all roads leading to Yei were secure. Ludu said Yei residents were still living in fear and that false reports about the roads being safe had resulted in more abductions and killings of innocent civilians.

Machar insisted that conditions are better than they were a year ago in Yei.

"He may think that things are not as normal as they should be. All of us are hoping and working to make sure it gets done," Machar said. Asked about Taban Deng's promise to reunify SPLM forces, which has yet to be realized, Machar replied, "We have made progress on that."

Security in Juba

Machar said the first phase of Joint Integrated Police that are supposed to take control of security in the capital have been dispatched, "and they are working to secure the streets in Juba."

FILE- SPLA soldiers stand in a vehicle in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 20, 2013.
FILE- SPLA soldiers stand in a vehicle in Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 20, 2013.

He also said cantonment sites for rebel forces have been established in former Unity State and that the deputy defense minister checked on those sites last month, "to make sure the forces at those cantonment sites are reorganized, are registered, and they are screened to make sure they are ready for reunification."

The SPLM-IO spokesman said he could not describe the size of SPLM-IO forces being reintegrated into the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

When asked about Deng's promise to repair South Sudan's broken economy, Machar responded, "The economy of the country is tied with the peace and tranquility of the country. So what the first vice president really means is that when you bring tranquility and peace and cooperation with President Salva [Kiir], that will allow the government to have breathing space to then concentrate on economic recovery."

Machar said there was now peace in areas of South Sudan in which there was no peace before.

"In fact, people used to be shot here in Juba by unknown gunmen," Machar added, "but now it's no longer there."

Machar said the same was true in Kapoeta, Wau, Yei and Torit.

He said that while there still were pockets of violence that erupt "from place to place, the government is working to contain those things."

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
     
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
     
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon

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