February 5, 2013 (RUMBEK) - The Lakes state branch of South Sudan’s ruling party - the SPLM - has controversially appointed Mabor Ater Dhuol as the new acting party secretary on Tuesday, as senior figures boycotted the swearing in ceremony in Rumbek.
- Mabor Ater Dhuol, SPLM’s acting secretary in Lakes state, September 2012 (ST)
County secretaries, members of the SPLM State Liberation Council and SPLM assistant secretaries all refused to attend, but the Lakes state chairperson insisted Ater take the position as he was backed by the SPLM Youth League and SPLM Women’s League.
SPLM members in Lakes state say that Ater’s appointment is not allowed under the party’s own constitution, which states that the SPLM State Liberation Council must vote to approve a new state secretary.
The division over Ater’s selection erupted in September 2012 when his appointment was announced by Lakes state’s SPLM chairperson, Daniel Awet Akot.
Akot is a member of SPLM’s powerful political bureau and is also the deputy speaker of the national parliament in Juba. In 2010 he failed to win selection to run as the SPLM’s candidate for governor of Lakes state, despite being the incumbent.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one of the senior officials who boycotted the ceremony told Sudan Tribune said that divisions within the SPLM in Lakes state were being increased by Akot imposing Ater as the acting secretary of the state.
He said that the county secretaries, chairpersons and members of the liberation council did not attend “because we objected [to] this appointment and therefore we cannot attend.”
In a briefing to the SPLM members who did attend the ceremony, Ater urged the SPLM secretariat and supporters of the party to work together for the unity of state and to combat insecurity.
South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, sacked the elected governor of Lakes states, Chol Tong Mayay, last month following a series of clashes between cattle herding groups resulting in the death of 25 people.
Mayay was replaced by SPLM hardliner Major General Matur Chut Dhuol who is currently acting as caretaker governor. He has told politicians that he will close down the state parliament if MPs continue to conduct discussions on sensitive issues such as politics and warned those arrested in connection with the recent spate of violence that they will be kept in isolation at a secret prison, with access granted only to a government-appointed attorney.
Ater appealed for both the youth and women’s leagues to increase awareness and support for the military caretaker governor to improve security and to convince young men to accept new reform measures.
Dhuol initiated a gun registration campaign on 30 January, with Kiir also calling for a comprehensive disarmament campaign in the state.
Akot said: “I need unity among party members. I need youth entirely to support [the] security reform measure so that [a] peaceful stage in Lakes state is quickly restored. [And I need] all women’s league and youth league [members] to work together for the better dream of Lakes state.”