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.
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."
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."