By Mamer Abraham
Information Minister and government spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth has reiterated that Dr. Riek Machar Teny has not been restricted from traveling out of Juba.
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) alleged early this week that its leader, Dr. Machar is being restricted in his movements.
Nathaniel Oyet, the SPLM-IO deputy chairman stated that they had made repeated requests for Machar to travel with Kiir or on his own, but their requests were ignored.
Oyet, said for instances, their leader Dr. Machar had requested to travel with President Salva Kiir Mayardit to attend a conference in Wau, travel to South Africa and the recent trip to the UN General Assembly, all of which were denied.
“Our chairman is not free to move. He has never left Juba since he came in 2020. He has not visited any states. He has not even gone for treatment outside. It’s not because we have not been asking for it. We have been asking for it, but we don’t talk about it in the media. Today is the time to talk about it,” Oyet said.
“He is not free; he is sick in Juba. He treats himself here in Juba. There is no fairness. He wanted to go to Wau for a conference organized by the state, but he was denied the opportunity to go and participate in Wau. He wanted to go to West Africa on the invitation of one of the governments, but he was denied.”
Oyet added that Dr. Riek Machar was invited to the United Nations General Assembly in New York but was denied attendance.
“So, this is the circumstance under which we operate,” he added.
Additionally, Puok Both Baluang, acting press secretary in the office of the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny alleged that President Salva Kiir Mayardit had been instructed by IGAD not to permit Dr. Machar to leave Juba.
He claimed in a press briefing that President Kiir had told the SPLM-IO in a meeting that he received a directive that Dr. Riek was not a free man.
“This information shocked us because President Kiir did not expose it all this time. Also, he did not mention who gave him that directive from IGAD, whether it was a phone call, an oral arrangement, or a document sent by IGAD; up until now, we still believe that the document from IGAD is the valid document.”
SPLM-IO firmly asserts that their leaders are being unjustly detained, and that the opposition has been denied any political or civic space without any semblance of fairness.
The opposition party cites all these occasions to explain why their leaders are not free and that there was no fairness to the opposition in regard to political and civic space.
However, Makuei in response said the allegations that Dr. Machar is confined in Juba were not true.
“What I know so far is he has never been stopped from going anywhere, and if he has decided not to move, it is not our duty to tell him to move.”
The information minister advised the SPLM-IO to direct their complaints to the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) if the President could not give them the correct answer to their grievances.
“They need to countercheck and find out and correct their sources. If there is someone who told them that it is IGAD, that directed the president, then let them confirm from IGAD,” Makuei told journalists on Friday.
On the trip to the UN General Assembly, Makuei said Kiir was the one who was invited to the General Assembly, stating that the claim that First Vice President Dr. Machar was denied traveling with the president was an irregularity.
“(Was) he invited in what capacity? His president is going, the president had been sending vice presidents, maybe the only complaint that he would have had would have been to say, why not send me this time? Because almost all the vice presidents have been sent.”
Makuei added that if the First Vice President was invited to the UNGA, the president has the right to refuse, stressing the need for SPLM-IO members to follow the right path.
“But to say that he was invited to attend the General Assembly meeting together with his president, was an irregularity if it had happened. And the president would have the right to refuse because both of them cannot go. Now when he goes there is he going to address the General Assembly or is he going just to be a listener?” Makuei asked.
Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro considers the issue to be misunderstanding of protocol.
He said that contrary to the requirements of the SPLM-IO, the President cannot travel and attend events either within or outside the country together with his deputy.
Dr. Lomoro told the No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper early this week that it was not event possible for the president to travel, for instance, to the UNGA together with the first Vice President.
“There is nothing like that. How can both the President and the First Vice President travel at the same time to the same UNGA?” the cabinet minister said.
Similarly, Taban Deng Gai, the vice president for the infrastructure cluster, stated during the launch of the strategic plan of the Bank of South Sudan in June that it was routine that the vice presidents could not attend any event that was to be officiated by the president.
According to him, it was only possible if the president had invited any of his deputies to be with him at the event, but the contrary could not be true.
This means that any of the occasions Dr. Machar was denied were to be attended by the president, and so his presence could be valid only through the request, except for the West African invitation, which is not clear whether the president was also invited or not.
Meanwhile, neither IGAD nor RJMEC officials were available to comment on the allegation that Machar’s movements were restrained on their directives.