South Sudan’s First Vice President, Riek Machar, has called on the people of South Sudan to forgive one another and reconcile in order to unite the people of the young nation and leave behind the bitter past.
Machar, who is also the chairman of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) and commander-in-chief of the SPLA-IO, made the remarks on Sunday to over 5,000 members of the Presbyterian church congregation in Juba who attended the church service.
He stressed the importance of the newly formed government of national unity to come up with a program for resettlement of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are sheltering in the United Nations protection of civilians (POCs) sites in Juba and in other states.
The second powerful politician in the country said the IDPs would remain in the POCs until a program, including eviction of those who illegally occupied some of their houses, is done.
The first vice-president informed the church members, most of who shelter in the POCs that the future of the IDPs was the first agenda of the first council of ministers meeting of the new cabinet on Friday.
He added that the new unity government will implement the peace agreement signed in August last year with President Salva Kiir and restore peace and stability to the country.
Meanwhile, a South Sudanese diplomat alleged that Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, during the church service called on the ethnic Nuer community not to forget their massacre of December 2013 in Juba.
Gordon Buay, a South Sudanese ambassador, said fighting almost erupted in the church between Machar’s bodyguards on one side and those of the bodyguards of General Gathoth Gatkuoth and former chief of general staff, General James Hoth Mai, on the other.
He said the incident occurred when bodyguards of the first vice-president allegedly did not want cars belonging to Gatkuoth and Gathoth in the church compound.
“The untrained and unprofessional Riek Machar’s bodyguards nearly caused fighting in Nuer Presbyterian church at Jebel today. When the 1st VP arrived at the Church in the morning, his bodyguards demanded that cars of Gen. James Hoth and Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth be removed from the church’s compound. Riek’s bodyguards said only the cars of 1st VP must be parked on the church’s parking lot,” wrote Ambassador Buay.
“The church service resumed without any incident; however, Angelina Teny wept in front of the people and said the Nuer were massacred by the Dinka in 2013. She told the Nuer congregation not to forget what the Dinka did to them in 2013,” he added.
But Machar’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, although he acknowledged that the first vice-president attended the church and Angelina Teny also in the church, he however dismissed the allegation of near fighting as false, adding that the comments of Teny have been twisted.
“First, there was no quarrel or threats of violence between bodyguards. Second, not only the cars of the first vice president were in the church compound. There were about 50 other cars in the compound, parked by different members of the congregation. The allegation that his bodyguards only wanted his cars in the compound is false,” said Dak.
He also said Angelina Teny did not tell the congregation not to forget the massacre of December 2013 as an incitement.
“Her comments have been twisted in the allegation. What she was saying was that although it was always natural for somebody to remember anything good or bad that had happened, there was still need to forgive one another as the people of South Sudan,” he said.
“I was there in the church listening to her comments,” Dak added.
He said Teny instead called on the people to desist from tribalism and advised them to value and encourage truth-telling in matters important for the stability and prosperity of the people.