February 5, 2013 (JUBA) - The governor of Upper Nile state, Simon Kun Puoc, has failed in his attempt to expel the secretary-general of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) from the state over a political dispute.
John Kor Dieu, the SPLM’s secretary-general in Upper Nile told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that the governor’s allegations against him were “nonsense” and had been “cooked up”.
Dieu claims Puoc wants to run Upper Nile like his “personal property” and had no regard for the rule of law.
In a letter dated 28 January 2013, which was copied to various senior figures in the ruling party, the governor asked Dieu to leave Upper Nile state within 72 hours, warning that he would face severe consequences if he failed to do so.
Puoc also accused Dieu of collaborating with members of the country’s main opposition party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) - to destabilise the state.
The SPLM frequently accuse the SPLM-DC, which broke away from the former rebel movement in 2009, of being backed by the government of neighbouring Sudan, from which the South seceded in 2011.
The SPLM-DC strongly denies the allegations, although the party still struggles to shake off the historical baggage of its leader Lam Akol, who allied himself with Khartoum for part of the two-decade-long civil war, before rejoining the SPLM ahead of the 2005 peace deal that precipitated South Sudan’s independence.
Dieu was also accused by the governor of misappropriating funds that had been allocated for the development of the SPLM.
Puoc’s letter further states that he has shown patience towards Dieu in hopes that the official would change his attitude and recognise the importance of being a secretary in his party, but instead became an “uncontrollable, unguided person who has forgotten his roles and responsibility in the party, including intimidating staff members who work with the state government”.
“You were given the money to develop our party; you used our resources for other business that do not benefit our party,” the governor said in the letter.
“I have given you 72 hours to leave the state ... If you do not leave as indicated above, you will face severe consequence since you have become an enemy of the SPLM government”, the letter says.
The letter was copied to president Salva Kiir Mayardit; SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum and SPLM deputy secretary-general Ann Itto. Within Upper Nile state the letter was also sent to SPLM state chair Dok Jok Dok, the SPLM state secretariat and the state’s Security Services and Investigation Department.
In an interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday, Dieu denied the charges, describing them as “nonsense and cooked up allegations”. He turned the allegations against Puoc, saying that he did not tolerate the independence of other institutions.
Dieu also accused the governor of wanting “to run the state as [his] personal property”.
The governor’s “unfounded and baseless allegations” were without a “single [piece of] proof”. The SPLM official said that he had challenged Puoc to launch an investigation to uncover the truth of the allegations against him, but the governor had failed to do so.
“He just wants to tarnish my image. This is why he just decided to cook up allegations as an attempt to cover up the mess he has created,” Dieu told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
“What he has done now is not something new. Everybody knows that he does not want me”.
The attempt to expel the state’s SPLM secretary-general is “one of the several orders” the governor has made to force out those he disagrees with within the ruling party in Upper Nile, Dieu said.
Kiir, who doubles as South Sudanese president and SPLM chairman, along with other senior officials, including Pagan Amum and Dok Jok Dok were all aware that Puoc “has been abusing his powers since the time he took the office”, said Dieu
In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune Dieu said “Many SPLM members have left the state because of expulsion and deportation ... for unjustified reasons. He (Puoc) has actually expelled public attorneys and was about to close down [the] judiciary in Malakal last year. He does not understand the rule of law. He has no authority to dismiss me”.
Dieu denied having personal differences with the governor and said he had responded to Amum’s call to visit Puoc in a bid to resolve their differences.
“I have no personal problem with him. Everybody knows that. I actually visited him [on Monday] because many of our people, including our secretary-general, comrade Pagan Amum, asked me to go to him”, Dieu told Sudan Tribune from the state capital Malakal.
He accepted forming a board to investigate Hessen Otor, who works at the SPLM’s secretariat in Upper Nile as an information officer, because “he was behaving as if he was a spy” but described it as a “normal procedure to settle [an] internal administrative dispute and weakness”.
Dieu claims a press conference called last year by the chief whip of Upper Nile’s legislative assembly at the SPLM’s secretariat was broken up by South Sudan’s security services after Otor informed them about it.
The media briefing was called “because there was a crisis” in the parliament.
“All the media houses, including Radio Miraya of the United Nations, were called. It was an official function”, Dieu said, adding that he was not in the state at the time.
“It was the chairman of our party in the state, comrade Dok Jok Jok who was in the state. And instead of this guy [Otor] participating in the organisation of the briefing, he decided to inform security forces that came and stormed the party secretariat”.
“Can you imagine [the] premises of a ruling party were stormed” by the country’s own security services? Dieu added.
Unilateral actions and arbitrary decisions by senior SPLM politicians and members of the security services are common in South Sudan, with many institutions headed by former rebels members turned politicians after the 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
Human rights groups point out that many of the officials have struggled to make the transition from being a guerrilla fighter to a politician, in a young country waiting for the dividends of independence and the freedoms promised by the SPLM during the civil war.
Attempts to expel political opponents from states in South Sudan are not unique to Upper Nile.
In August last year, South Sudan’s only female governor, Nyandeng Malek of Warrap state, warned a local aid worker in Gogrial West county that he had three days to leave the state, after which she warned his security would not be guaranteed by her administration.
In the same incident, a local radio reporter in Warrap state’s Twic county was also served with a letter asking him to leave the area with only three days’ notice. The state authorities accused both the journalist and local relief worker of involvement in local politics and a lack of cooperation.