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Top South Sudan Opposition Members Ditch Machar, Jump to Ruling Party

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VOA 20 APR 2020

More members of South Sudan’s main opposition party have defected to the ruling party led by President Salva Kiir, with one former member accusing First Vice President Riek Machar of running the opposition like a family dynasty.

Dak Duop Bichiok, a former SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) political bureau member, announced his resignation and that of hundreds of his followers in the diaspora at a Juba news conference late last week.

“We are declaring that we are not any longer part of Dr. Riek Machar, and we are not alone. We have a group in Nairobi, Egypt, Khartoum and also in Addis Ababa and in the diaspora elsewhere in the world,” he said.

The defections began after Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, was appointed minister of defense in South Sudan’s transitional unity government.  

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, right, and opposition leader and now Kiir's deputy, Riek Machar, congratulate each other after a swearing-in ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 22, 2020.
FILE – South Sudan President Salva Kiir, right, and opposition leader and now Kiir’s deputy, Riek Machar, congratulate each other after a swearing-in ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 22, 2020.

Another recent defector, Yien Thiang, said Machar is biased when he appoints officials and squanders party resources.

“The party has been turned into a family dynasty where the chairman and his family run it like his personal property. The functions of important organs like the political bureau and national liberation council have been rendered irrelevant. The chairman single-handedly manages the affairs of the party with impunity,” Thiang told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Bichiok, a former petroleum minister, said Machar no longer follows the party’s regulations.

However, Thiang and Bichiok declined to offer specific instances of Machar acting inappropriately.  

SPLM-IO spokesman Manawa Peter did not respond to repeated phone calls or text messages for comment on this story.  

Machar’s Deputy Chief of Staff James Koang and other SPLM-IO officials announced their defections last month over allegations the party has lost its direction and vision. They, too, joined Kiir’s ruling party.  

A former SPLM-IO official, Peter Adwok Nyaba, said he left the party two years ago because Machar refuses to share power. 

“It is the same situation, because if you read what they said, it is that this guy took the party even to a prison.  So, he was managing it from the prison in South Africa as if he is the only person who can lead,” Nyaba told South Sudan in Focus.

Before South Sudan’s transitional unity government was formed in February, Machar was in South Africa, where SPLM-IO representatives said he was being held under house arrest.

Unless things change, Machar should expect more defections, Nyaba said.

“The issue of lack of democracy, transparency and accountability is still there. The leader has refused to apply democracy, to listen to the people, and that is why people are leaving. And you will have more who will also get angry and will leave,” Nyaba told VOA.  

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