Addis Ababa/Khartoum, December 2, 2016 (SSNA) —South Sudanese First Vice president Taban Deng Gai says governments of Ethiopia and Sudan agree with South Sudan to ban rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar from traveling in East African region, suggesting that Khartoum and Addis Ababa agreed to Juba’s request to isolate the armed opposition leader from their countries.
On November 23, the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) obtained a video in which FVP Gai lashing out at Machar, calling him a “negative person” who has been rejected by the region and perhaps the whole African continent.
Gai, who speaks both in English and Arabic in the audiovisual, declares that the rebel chief was first told by the government of South Africa not to travel outside South Africa because nobody wants him in East Africa and that he is safe in the Republic of South Africa. Gai also said the former First Vice President was initially given a fake visa by an individual in Nigeria and that when the Nigerian government learned about the illegal visa, it went ahead and cancelled it, adding Nigeria is still investigating who gave Machar the visa.
The FVP mocks the rebel chief by telling the seemingly anxious audience that Machar is using the passport for the First Vice president and questions who is the legitimate FVP of South Sudan. He suggests that the armed opposition head should stop calling himself the legitimate FVP of the Republic of South Sudan because he was dismissed by the SPLM-IO, adding that Dr. Machar was also relieved from his FVP post by President Salva kiir. Gai even told the listeners that an experienced lawyer who can legally explain the legitimacy of First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan was in attendance.
Mr. Gai told his audience that Dr. Machar was asked by the Ethiopian government to choose where he should go because Addis Ababa does not want him and believes his presence in South Sudan would amounts to crisis or escalation of the ongoing civil war.
“When he arrived in Addis, he was told, friend, you have nowhere to go because your visa to Nigeria has been canceled by the Nigerian authorities therefore we will not take you to Nigeria,” Gai said.
“So tell us where you would like to go from here? He said he would go to Pagak, South Sudan. The Ethiopian authorities told him no, because your intention of going to Pagak means crisis, means fighting, and so we are not going to allow this,” he asserted.
Mr. Gai also claims in the video that Machar asked Ethiopia authorities to be allowed to go to Sudan and that Addis Ababa told him they cannot do it because the rebel leader has no entry visa to Khartoum.
At one point, Gai appears bothered by what he believes “uncivilized Ethiopians” allowed Machar to board a plane to Sudan.
“So, the uncivilized Ethiopians allowed him to board a plane to Khartoum, Sudan,” Gai protests.
“When he arrived in Khartoum, the Sudanese told him you have no resident in Khartoum. We don’t want you in Khartoum. They delayed the Ethiopian Airlines and told the Airlines that they should take this man [Machar] back to where you brought him from,” he continues.
Gai further explains that Ethiopian government contacted them after Machar was allegedly rejected by the Sudanese government. He assures the listeners that the rebel chief is free to come to Juba but he is not the First Vice President.
“He returned to Addis, Ethiopia. Upon arrival, the Ethiopians contacted us and said this person has nowhere or place to go to. We say ok! He is a south Sudanese. Let him choose including coming to Juba.
“Okay! He was supposed to come, by the way. He was supposed to come. He was supposed to come and stays like you. He would have not been taken to jail. But, he is not the FVP. He would have come and stay. If he was a strong man and an intelligence person who know how, he would have come to us,” Gai stated.
Gai further claims Machar demanded to talk to Sudan’s Bakari but his request was denied and told by Khartoum that his problem is a responsibility of the Sudanese Security and Immigration authorities not Bakari, adding that Machar negotiated with Sudan for four (4) hours and was eventually told by the Khartoum that he is not needed in Sudan.
The South Sudan’s First Vice President even alleged that Ethiopia government found one of Machar’s bodyguards with Ethiopian passport and the body guard was then asked by Ethiopian authorities to abandon Machar because the guard is an Ethiopian not South Sudanese. Gai also said the rebel leader didn’t sleep for two days because of issues surrounding his East Africa tour.
The SSNA understands that between November 19 and November 20, Dr. Machar experienced entry visa problems in Addis Ababa, which ultimately led Ethiopian immigration authorities to ask him to go back to South Africa and follow proper visa procedures there before returning to Ethiopia. A senior rebel official later told the SSNA that the rebel leadership blames itself for Machar’s visa difficulty because the SPLM-IO’s protocol office did not follow proper channels with the Ethiopian Immigration body, dismissing deportation claims as “false reports” and “over-exaggerated piece of information.” The South Sudan News Agency confirmed that Machar voluntarily choose to go back to South Africa after failed attempts to get an entry visa at the Bole International Airport.
The rebel leader fled Juba in July after government troops tried to assassinate him. Kiir later replaced him with Mr. Gai as the First Vice president.
The SPLM-IO says Gai betrayed the armed opposition simply because Machar refused to appoint him minister of petroleum, adding that he should not call himself SPLM-IO leader since he was dismissed from the party before Kiir appointed him.
The SSNA has contacted officials at Ethiopian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and Sudanese government through email and phone for comment but hasn’t received a response.
Secret arms deal between Ethiopia and South Sudan
A leaked document which the South Sudan News Agency cannot independently verify reveals secret arms deal between Ethiopia and South Sudan. The document bears signature of Lt. Col. Solomon Tor Kang who identify himself as Deputy Defense Attaché. The contract discloses that Addis Ababa sold a total of two million, nine hundred and ten thousand, and one hundred and seventy four (2,910,174) ammunition to Juba. The total sale includes 1,821,600 7.62x54mm PKM ammunition, 1,040,000 7.62x39mm AKM ammunition, 20,000 RGD-5 Hand Grenade, 610 122mm ammunition, 20,000 Rocket 107mm HE, and 7,964 60mm Mortar ammunition.
The document dated November 25, 2016, also says South Sudan national army (SPLA) agrees to pay $55,000 dollars to Ethiopia’s Ministry of National Defense, adding that the money covers transporting ammunition from Ethiopia’s stores to Ethiopia’s air force base located in Debreziet town.
The SSNA is still investigating the authenticity and actual cost of the alleged arms deal.