London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Security in South Sudan remains on edge after president Salva Kiir sacked the entire cabinet, his deputy, Riek Machar, and Bagan Amum, the secretary-general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) yesterday, in a motion many interpreted as a sign of an intense power struggle in the world’s youngest nation.
According to eye-witness accounts, military and police units were heavily deployed across the capital, Juba, with the television building tightly cordoned off with military vehicles.
Witnesses added that similar security measures were taken in several locations, particularly in front of ministries, the parliament and the capital’s key routes.
Atem Garang, the head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) coalition and the majority leader in the parliament, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the president’s step is both necessary and constitutional, given that the country’s constitution gives him the right to remove the vice-president.
According to Garang, divisions increased recently in the SPLM with the party being divided into three groups led by Salva Kiir, Riek Machar and Bagan Amum.
The groups led by Machar and Amum, as well as Rebecca Garang, the widow of the SPLM’s founder, John Garang, have announced they will stand for the next presidential elections. Kiir seems to have pre-empted the move by issuing the decrees yesterday, Atem Garang told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“It would be better for the party to split now so that it does not become more corrupt than it already is,” he added.
Garang considered the heavy security presence in the capital to be standard procedure in a developing country, to ensure the security of the key institutions and locations and to prevent the country from plunging into a state of chaos.
The majority leader dismissed the possibility that the sacked leaders would resort to force in an attempt to overrun the president’s decrees.
“He who goes to war in this country won’t be able to rule it,” he added.
When asked whether Khartoum had anything to do with Kiir’s decision, Garang described such claims as “an attempt to blacken the image of the SPLM’s leadership and to sap the will of the Southerners.”
“Those who think that Salva has taken such measures for the sake of Khartoum do not know [him],” he added.
Kiir is expected to appoint a new deputy in the next few days. There are several names on the table, including James Wani, the speaker of the parliament, and Rayak Kai, the former advisor to Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir.