|Former Vice President Riek Machar|
South Sudan's former Vice President Riek Machar, dismissed this week by President Salva Kiir, said on Friday he planned to challenge him as chairman of the ruling SPLM party in order to run for head of state in 2015.
Kiir touched off a power struggle in the African oil-producing country by firing Machar and his cabinet and placing under investigation his top Sudan negotiator, Pagan Amum, in the biggest government shakeup since the South gained independence in 2011.
In his first comments since his dismissal, Machar said he planned to head the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which led the country to secession from Khartoum after fighting one of Africa's longest civil wars.
"I have told my colleagues in the politburo that come the next elections in 2015, I would contest those elections," Machar told reporters.
His spokesman James Gatdet Dak clarified Machar would run for the SPLM chairmanship before the vote to pave his way to the presidency of the one-party state.
Machar said he accepted his sacking but accused Kiir for creating a political vacuum. "I thought the dissolution should have taken place and then a replacement or formation of the new government be done immediately, so that there is no vacuum in the state," he said.
"We now have a vacuum and this has created apprehension," added Machar, who said he was "telling people to remain calm".
He also attacked Kiir for recently sacking two elected state governors and banning Amum, the SPLM General Secretary, from leaving Juba or giving any public statements.