South Sudan President Salva Kiir on Monday fired his deputy and rival Riek Machar in a presidential decree, deepening political crisis that has engulfed the youngest nation since the outbreak of heavy clashes on July 8.
President Kiir appointed Mining Minister Taban Deng Gai after a faction of the former rebels Sudan People’s liberation in Opposition (SPLM-IO) in Juba on Saturday endorsed Gai as head of the movement following Machar’s departure from Juba after days of clashes between his forces and those loyal to president Kiir.
“I Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan do hereby issue for the appointment of General Taban Deng Gai as the First Vice President of South Sudan effective from July 25, 2016 ” reads the decree issued at 7pm local time.
The President also made a ministerial reshuffle sacking finance minister David Deng Athorbei and replaced him with trade and industry minister Stephen Dhieu Dau. The ministries of mining and trade and industry have been left vacant.
Gai, was the chief opposition negotiator during the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-mediated peace efforts in Addis Ababa which resulted into the signing of the peace agreement to resolve the conflict in South Sudan.
Analysts say the latest move will escalate the crisis in South Sudan which has struggled to carry out the fragile peace deal which was signed in August 2015.
The move to replace Machar started on Saturday after he failed to heed a 48-hour ultimatum from the president to return to Juba to continue implementation of the peace deal.
Kiir had demanding the former rebel leader to return to Juba continue building and promoting peace in the aftermath of fighting this month between Kiir loyalists and troops backing Machar who fled the capital as fighting raged.
A peace deal was signed by the rival parties in August 2015 which brought Machar as first vice president following formation of a Transitional Unity Government in April.
But the pact was put in turmoil after an outbreak of fighting on July 7 between rival army supporting the two men, leading to Machar’s departure from Juba and his whereabouts remain unknown.