President Salva Kiir dismissed the defense minister over “administrative challenges”, the cabinet affairs minister has said.
“The president clearly stated that he does not have any personal problem with the minister but he is concerned about administrative challenges,” said Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro. “That is the reason, there is nothing cynical about it.”
On March 3, Kiir fired Angelina and Mahmoud Solomon, interior minister. He also swapped the two ministries, taking defense, a portfolio which was allotted to the main opposition group, the SPLM-IO, by the September 2018 peace agreement.
Dr. Riek Machar, leader of the opposition party which Angelina represented, rejected her dismissal and swapping of the two ministries, describing the move as “violation” of the peace deal.
Although there were no reasons given by the president, Elia revealed that the president needed the power to control the army as the commander in chief.
“His concern is the fact that the unified force is now under the command of one person, that is the commander-in-chief who is the president,” he explained.
“He wants to take charge so that when he gives orders, no one will stop doing what he says. It must be done because sometimes you know technocrats can undermine decisions made by a minster.”
Article 1.13.1 of the peace agreement states that “Each party may remove its representatives in the Council of Ministers and nominate replacements by notifying the President with at least fourteen (14) days’ notice.”
Also, the peace accord in Article 1.9.1 states that: “The Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity is founded on the premise that there shall be collegial collaboration in decision-making and continuous consultations within the Presidency, between the President, the First Vice President, and the Four Vice Presidents, to ensure effective governance during the Transitional Period.”
SPLM-IO argued, saying it was not consulted about the removal of its minister and taking of the defense ministry away from them but Elia insisted that they were consulted.
According to Elia, the task of unifying the army is not yet complete and the president is trying to catch up with the time frame for the implementation of the roadmap in the 24 months.
“That’s why he want to take full responsibility to be able to complete the unification, professionalization deployment of forces and moving on to the second phase of cantonment, training and graduation of phase two,” he added.
He said the completion of the security arrangement will then be followed by the constitution and registration of political parties to allow the parties begin the campaign and prepare for elections.
“That is the reason, there is nothing cynical about it,” Elia said
President Kiir and Riek held a meeting on March 10 over the issues, a discussion, which reached stalemate. They are expected to resume the talks “on a later date”.