Note: This op-ed originally appeared in Sudan Tribune and was written by Enough Project Associate Policy Director, Brian Adeba.
The replacement of South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar with Taban Deng is a well-tested policy that dates back to the 1980s that the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party has employed to purchase the loyalty of groups opposed to it. Following a shoot-out between the bodyguards of President Salva Kiir and Machar earlier this month, relations between both men worsened, culminating in an attack on the latter’s residence in the capital Juba. Machar fled the city and said he would only return if regional peacekeeping troops were allowed in the country to act as a buffer between the two forces.
The power vacuum created by Machar’s exit encouraged a few of his colleagues in the SPLM-IO to orchestrate the installment of Taban Deng as leader, ostensibly on a temporary basis until Machar returned. As the de facto leader of the SPLM-IO in the center of power in Juba, the choice of selecting Deng as first vice president was left to President Kiir.