Salva Kiir's government won’t object to South Sudan faction naming new leader

Government said it would accept Mining Minister Taban Deng Gai to replace VP, Riek Machar after losing contact with him

South Sudan’s government said it will accept an opposition faction’s choice of a new leader to replace Riek Machar, who’s also the oil-producing country’s vice president.

The delegation representing Machar’s side of the transitional government in the capital, Juba, has chosen Mining Minister Taban Deng Gai to replace him after losing contact following recent violence, William Ezekiel, a spokesman for the group, said by phone from the city. Machar is in hiding in the aftermath of five days of fighting in Juba that started July 7 between forces loyal to him and President Salva Kiir and left at least 270 people dead, throwing their power-sharing agreement into turmoil. 

“The nomination has not yet been presented to the government,” but if Gai is chosen by the Juba-based group then the government has no objection, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said Monday by phone. James Gatdet Dak, a Machar representative in neighboring Kenya, has said the former rebel chief will come back once a regional force is deployed to keep the peace in the capital—a step rejected by the country’s Defense Ministry.

Machar and Kiir formed a transitional government in late April, seeking to end more than two years of civil war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives. South Sudan, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves, is producing as little as 120,000 barrels a day because of the conflict that began in December 2013.

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