South Sudanese presidency on Sunday dismissed as “unfounded” media reports that president Salva Kiir has been ill and was secretly preparing outside party structure to hand over power to defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, in violation of constitutional provisions sidelining the serving vice president, James Wani Igga.
Reports said confidential discussions about the health of the president and plans for his replacement in case of deterioration have been going on behind the scene by selected inner circles in which defence minister was recommended by many to take over.
The speculations said the discussants rejected succession by Igga, describing him as a weak personality with no vision for the country.
It was also alleged that a power struggle ensued as chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, also disapproved of the defence minister and nominated himself to replace the president.
But senior officials in the office of the president dismissed the widely circulated allegations, saying president Kiir was healthy.
“These are fabrications which you people in the media should not even ask for comments. The president is not sick. He is healthy,” presidential advisor on decentralization and intergovernmental linkages, Tor Deng Mawien, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
“All that is reported on the social media is just about character assassination. They are unfounded allegations,” he said.
The denial came after several social media forums carried reports purporting to have been confidential information from the presidency that the president might soon resign from the office on grounds of poor health.
The speculations claimed that president Kiir, who was recently in Luanda, Angola, to participate in the international conference on Great Lakes region, purportedly sought a medical check-up during which he was diagnosed with kidney and liver diseases and was advised to reduce working hours on account of “poor health.”
The rumours surfaced particularly when president Kiir delegated defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk to represent him at the recent Northern Corridor meeting in Kampala, Uganda, where East African heads of state attended, instead of delegating vice president, James Wani Igga.
Mawien denied any knowledge of secret plans and arrangements to hand over power to defence minister Kuol Manyang, saying it was the making of enemies of peace and unity.
The presidential aide explained that defence minister was delegated by the president to represent him at the Northern Corridor meeting in Kampala because vice president Wani Igga was outside the capital, Juba in Nigeria, attending inauguration of the new Nigerian president, Mohamed Buhari.
“All these are the machinations and making of enemies of peace and unity of our people. The president is not sick and there is no such arrangement. I am not aware,” Mawien added.
Mawien did not however explain why the president failed to attend the Northern Corridor meeting of heads of state and government and had to delegate someone else.
President Kiir in March suddenly felt weak and experience nose bleed in Addis Ababa where he was rushed to hospital while on mission to Ethiopia for direct talks with the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.
Commentators on the social media however argued that the defence minister was not by protocol the next official after president and vice president to represent the government at the summit of heads of state and government.