South Sudan President Salva Kiir is a man under siege as the country’s economy teeters on the brink of collapse while civil war rages.
On the domestic front, he is facing defiance from some of his ministers and military personnel, forcing him to sack a number of them. Since the beginning of the year, President Kiir has sacked ministers, governors, top army and police officers.
Internationally, the United States and the European Union are piling even more pressure on him to end the four-year civil war or face sanctions and an arms embargo.
Former finance minister Stephen Dhieu Dau was replaced by former technical adviser in the Ministry of Trade and Investment Salvatore Garang Mabiordit Wol, even as the president admitted that the economy was on its knees.
“We have lost the value of our currency and there is nothing we can do soon to regain our currency’s value, unless we produce,” he said on March 14, during the swearing in of Mr Wol.
Mr Dau had also served in the Petroleum and Mining and Trade and Industry dockets before being appointed the minister of finance in July 2016. His removal was linked to a struggle for influence and resources.
Sources say that the Jieng Council of Elders — a Dinka cultural group that is supposed to safeguard the community’s culture — has turned itself into a kitchen Cabinet with considerable influence in appointments made in almost all departments.
Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, who is also the government spokesperson, has become powerful to the point of sometimes defying the president due to what pundits say is his strong backing from the Jonglei — who have a strong representation in the army.
Former education minister Peter Adwok Nyaba told The EastAfrican that President Kiir lost control of the state when he allowed the Bahr el Ghazal elders and then the Jieng Council of Elders to make crucial decisions on the basis of ethnicity.
In February, President Kiir sacked former inspector-general of police Saeed Chawul Lom and replaced him with Majak Akech Malok. The president also sacked Tonj state governor Akech Tong Aleu and his Yei River state counterpart David Lokonga Moses, replacing them with Anthony Bol Madut and Emanuel Adil respectively. Governors are elected officials.
Other governors who have been sacked are Ismail Konyi, governor of Boma state, Bor Wutchok Bor of Eastern Lakes state, and Peter Gatkuoth of Latjor state.
Foreign Minister Deng Alor refused to return home after the end of the second phase of the peace talks in Addis Ababa in early February, claiming he had received death threats.
According to Gen Lemi Logwonga Lomuro, the chief coordinator of the Center for Citizen Interface in South Sudan, the challenge facing President Kiir’s leadership is that of a lack of culture of critical advice, which also attracts immediate recrimination and punishment.
In January, the South Sudan Ambassador to Russia Telar Riing Deng resigned citing “lack of trust” from the president. He had earlier been summoned to return home for consultations within 72 hours.
Now, Juba is concerned that former chief of staff Gen Paul Malong, who has been in Nairobi since his release from house arrest last November, has traveled to Khartoum, where he met with the head of the Sudanese National Security and Intelligence Service Salah Al-Gosh among other high-ranking Sudanese officials.
Juba believes that the former influential head of the army is planning a coup or a new rebellion and in January wrote to the Kenya government seeking his deportation for involvement in activities undermining the stability of South Sudan.
Besides the continued war, the country saw inflation hit 117.70 per cent. South Sudan is also dealing with a decision by the US Treasury to impose sanctions against 15 South Sudanese oil and oil-related companies whose revenues are said to have contributed to the ongoing crisis in the country.
President Kiir is aware that Washington has lost faith in him after the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, recently described him as an “unfit” partner in the peace process.
Ms Haley said Washington was “disappointed” by the performance and actions of the Juba government under President Kiir after supporting its 2011 independence and investing over $11 billion.
Both the US and the EU are piling pressure for the Addis Ababa process to produce genuine peace. The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development called the involved parties for consultations in Addis Ababa on March 26.