South Sudan names new vice president, shunning former rebel leader
Taban Deng Gai, a key negotiator for the opposition group SPLM-IO in the country’s peace process, will take over the position, Kiir announced on Monday.
Africa’s youngest nation, which broke away from Sudan in 2011, is home to Africa’s third largest deposits of oil and has been beset by bloody violence since its creation. The most recent conflict, which left more than 10,000 dead and 2 million displaced, was triggered in 2013 when Kiir sacked Machar from the post of vice president.
Kiir comes from the dominant Dinka ethnic group, named the country’s new vice president as General Taban Deng Gai, who headed the peace talks delegation of Machar’s SPLM-IO organisation.
Machar, who is from the minority Nuer group, fled the capital earlier this month after several days of intense fighting involving tanks, helicopters and artillery left his forces weakened and many of his bodyguards dead.
The appointment of Gai, who is the country’s former mining minister, has split the opposition. Some of Machar supporters back the move and Gai has pledged to stand aside if Machar returns to Juba and continues to engage in the peace talks.
Machar, whose reappointment in April as vice president helped end violence in the country, has insisted that an international peacekeeping force be deployed to the capital to enforce a buffer zone between the two sides.
Analysts fear the move could lead Machar supporters to accuse Kiir of breaching the terms of the ceasefire and spark a fresh outbreak of fighting.