South Sudanese President Salva Kiir replaced his long-time rival Vice President Riek Machar after the former rebel leader didn’t return to the government following violence in the capital earlier this month that killed hundreds of people.
Mining Minister Taban Deng Gai will take over the position, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said by phone from the capital, Juba. Finance Minister David Deng Athorbei was also replaced by Stephen Dhieu Dau, a former trade minister, in what Lueth called a “normal change.”
Conflict in the oil-producing country has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced more than 2 million to flee their homes. The main rebel group, which is loyal to Machar, returned to Juba in April and joined a transitional government that seeks to reform the economy and security forces before elections in about 30 months.
The peace agreement had already been shaken earlier this month by a renewed bout of fighting in Juba between forces loyal to the two men, which left at least 270 people dead and sent Machar into hiding. James Gatdet Dak, a Machar representative in neighboring Kenya, has described moves to replace the vice president as “illegal and unrealistic.”
South Sudan, which has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest crude reserves, says it’s producing as little as 120,000 barrels a day because of the war.