Who is DR Riek Machar Teny?: a brief reflect on his life

Dr Riek Machar Teny Dr Riek Machar Teny (Photo by Getty images)

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Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon was the 8th in SPLA/M Politico-Military High Command and current First Vice President of South Sudan under R-TGoNU.

Dr. Machar was born in 1953 in Wulu village in Leer County.

He is a South Sudanese weightful politician who served as the inaugural Vice President of South Sudan from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal on 23 July 2013. Thereafter, between April and July, 2016 Machar served as the First Vice President of South Sudan. He is now leading the movement opposing President Salva Kiir known as SPLM/A-IO.

Machar obtained a Ph.D. in strategic planning in 1984 and then joined the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005). Dr. Riek fell out with the SPLM/A leader John Garang in 1991 and formed the SPLM/A-Nasir. In 1997, Dr. Machar made a treaty with the Government of Sudan and became head of the government-backed by his South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF). In 2000 he left the SSDF and formed a new movement called the Sudan People’s Defense Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF), and in 2002 rejoined the SPLA as a Senior commander ranked number 3 in hierarchy SPLM. After the death of John Garang in July 2005, Riek Machar became Vice-President of autonomous Southern Sudan.

Too he became Vice-President of South Sudan on 9 July 2011 when the country became independent but was dismissed from office by President Salva Kiir Mayardit on 23 July 2016.

Early career

Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon was born in Leer, Unity State in 1953, the 26th son of the Leopard Skin Chief Puot Nyuon of Ayod and Leer. He was brought up as a member of the Sudan Presbyterian Church. Dr.Machar belongs to the Dok section of the Nuer people in Unity State [Liech]. He was trained as a Mechanical Engineering at Khartoum University and later obtained a Ph.D. in Strategical Plannings from the University of Bradford in early 1984. He was a lecturer in the UK before joint SPLA SPLM. In 1984, Dr.Machar in London designed SPLM Flag turned into South Sudan’s National Flag today. Moreover, in 2011, Dr.Machar wrote South Sudan National Anthem together with some colleagues from SPLM Party.

Dr. Riek Machar is usually branded jokingly as a markless boy by Nuer elders meaning uninitiated boy. He has tried to transcend tribal divisions, reduced marriage dowries and at one time attempted to ban initiation marks within Nuer Society. Dr. Machar married first Angelina Kuma Khan Jal and later Emma McCune, a British aid worker. Emma died in a car accident in Nairobi in 1993 at the age of 29, while pregnant and later buried in Leer Town.

Dr. Machar’s first wife, Angelina Teny, is one of the leading women politicians in South Sudan. She was State Minister of Energy and Mining in the transitional government (2005–2010) in Sudan and Contestant for gubernatorial of Unity State 2010 State’s election. She won it but was declared as a loser in favor of her cousin Taban Deng Gai Riir by SPLM under Salva Kiir.

Dr. Machar was a rebel Zonal Commander leader within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLM/A) headed by John Garang from 1984 until he fell out with Garang in 1991. As Zonal Commander of Western Upper Nile, he managed to liberate many towns in Bentiu included Adok el Bahr, Ador, Leer, Koch, Duar, Wangkai, Mankien, Abiemnhom, Paring, Mayom Town, and Melut in the Northern Upper Nile region. Thereby, in 1986 he agreed with Baggara Chiefs as to calm down high tension between SPLA and Maralleen along the borderlines. Dr. Machar led forces that attacked and overran Melut in the Northern Upper Nile region in 1989. That year he was able to visit his family which was based in Great Britain, for the first time since the civil war started. In 1989 Machar was based at Leer and Tharkuer in the Mayom area. Later 1990 he was appointed SPLA Regional Commander for a region that extended from the Ethiopian border in the east to Renk in the north and Bentiu and Nuba Mountains in the north-west of Southern Sudan.

He was in charge of Bright Star Campaign Phase Two while late Dr. John Garang and Commander Kuol Manyang Juuk were in charge of Bright Star Campaign Phase One from Nasir towards the Greater Equatoria region.

Machar disagreed with the SPLA leader Dr.John Garang over the objectives of SPLA /SPLM. Where John Garang at first wanted a Secular Democratic United Sudan via “New Sudan Vision” in which the southerners would have full representation in government institutions in Sudan while Dr. Machar wanted a fully Independent South Sudan via “Self Determination” which led to the secession of South Sudan from Khartoum. In August 1991 Dr. Riek Machar, Dr. Lam Akol, and Gen. Gordon Koang Chuol Kulang announced that late Dr. John Garang had been ejected from the SPLM. Gen. Koang Chuol is from the Eastern Jikany Nuer and Dr. Lam Akol is from the Shilluk people.

Commanders Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Magar Aciek, Kaway Makuei Mayar, and Faustino Atem Gualdit the Dinkas from Bahr el-Ghazal, had been among the founders of the SPLM but had fallen out with John Garang and had been jailed. They were freed by Commander William Nyuon Bany Machar after his defection and joined Machar in 1993, with their forces making an important addition to the SPLA-Nasir Faction.

Late Kerubino became Deputy Commander in Chief. Dr. Riek’s Movement and their forces were called the SPLA-United from 1991 to 1994.

In September 1993, President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya held separate talks with Dr. John Garang and Dr. Riek Machar.

In October 1993 the US Congress hosted a meeting between Garang and Machar. The two seemed to agree about various subjects related to a cease-fire and reconciliation between the two factions, the issue of self-determination, and opposition to the Khartoum regime either. militarily or politically.

From 1994 to 1997 Machar’s movement was known as the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A).

Although seeking independence for South Sudan, Early in 1995 hostilities between the SSIM and SPLA, which had taken several thousands of civilian lives, were temporarily suspended. Machar dismissed Kerubino Kuanyin and Commander William Nyuon Bany from the SSIM on the basis that they had signed military and political agreements with the government of Sudan late in the previous year, and that they had attempted to form a government-supported faction within the SSIM/A.

During the 1990s Machar skillfully developed support among the Eastern Nuer, Central Nuer, Western Nuer, and the Lou Nuer, and in 1996 Machar signed a Political Charter with Sudan and in 1997 he signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement with the Sudanese government. Under this agreement, he was Assistant President to President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan, and President of the Southern States Coordinating Council. He was also made Commander in Chief of the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF), which included most of the ex-rebels who had signed the Khartoum agreement within him.

Return to SPLM

There was growing tension between Dr. Riek Machar and Paulino Matip’s South Sudan Unity Movement (SSUM), which became engaged in forcibly removing civilians from the Block 5A oil concession area, and assisting in clearances from other oil blocks. In 1998–1999, Matip’s fighters and government troops clashed several times with Machar’s SSDF forces in a struggle for control of the Unity state oilfields. Matip’s fighters forced Tito Biel, a high-ranking SSDF commander, to evacuate Leer early in 1999. Tito Biel later went over to the SPLA in Bahr el Ghazal region sought military aids.

Dr. Riek Machar’s challenge was to prevent the government from forcibly displacing civilians from the oil-producing areas of Unity State whereby the Sudan government used some Western and Central Nuer against his movement. Dr.Machar’s SSDF lacks military logistics or ammunition as of 1998. In 2000 at a meeting of leaders in Koch County he finally resigned from the government of Sudan and created a fresh movement named the Sudan People’s Defense Forces/Democratic Front (SPDF). As to sought support from Ethiopian authorities, he moved from his homeland of the Bentiu and based to the eastern Jikany areas near Ethiopia. In January 2002, he signed an agreement with John Garang to merge the SPDF into the SPLA in Nairobi.

The civil war ended in January 2005. In August Machar became Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan and SPLM Co-Chair of the Joint Executive Political Committee. When South Sudan became independent, in July 2011 he was appointed first Vice President of the new republic. On 15 July 2011 Machar represented South Sudan at the ceremony when his country’s flag was raised outside United Nations headquarters in New York.

South Sudan politics

Following the independence of South Sudan, Machar was the vice president of the country. By February 2013 Machar publicly stated his intentions to challenge president Kiir. In July 2013, he, and the entire cabinet were dismissed from offices. Dr.Machar said that Kiir’s move was a step towards dictatorship. These events in turn led to the South Sudanese Civil War when the regime tried to disarmed Dr. Machar’s Bodyguards within Tiger Battalion on 15 December 2013.


Return to Vice-Presidency and second sacking

In late August 2015, a Peace Agreement was signed between the government and Dr. Machar’s faction. The agreement would make Dr. Riek Machar the 1st Vice-President again. In April 2016, as part of the peace deal, Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as 1st Vice-President. Machar fled the capital after Salva Kiir’s forces attempted to assassinate him and his loyalists in Juba on 8 July 2016. After a 48-hour ultimatum given by the President to him for returning to Juba to progress with the Peace Agreement talks passed, Taban Deng in Juba served as a negotiator and Advance Team leader. Thereby, Taban Deng Gai hijacked the post and replaced him and the government accepted him as Acting Vice-President. Dr. Machar said any talks would be illegal because he had fired Taban Deng Gai already.

Current Status

As of October 2017, Machar was under house arrest in South Africa. His house arrest status was lifted in March 2018. Machar returned to Juba in October 2018 following a peace deal that was signed on 12 September 2018. As of May 2019, he was living in Khartoum, the capital of South Sudan’s northern neighbor Sudan, following a six-month delay in the implementation of a power-sharing deal that was meant to take effect on 12 May 2019.

Many people call Dr. Riek Machar Teny an iconic leader in two Sudan’s’ history. He is a democratic, charismatic, visionary, peace lover and generous person ever born. He is an approachable and populist leader.



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