March 7, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s largest opposition party lost its third Secretary General in less than three years, when Sisto Olur Erista resigned on Thursday, claiming that Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) has lost its direction and was being run from a distance.
- South Sudan opposition leader Lam Akol (AFP)
Erista, who was one of the SPLM-DC’s founding members in 2009, admitted, in his resignation letter, that the party was fraught with internal divisions and was not living up to the purpose for which it was established; to challenge South Sudan’s governing party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - from which it broke away.
The SPLM-DC’s leader, Lam Akol Ajawin at the time cited SPLM corruption and the southern governments failure to manage its affairs, including mitigating tribal tensions and conflict, which he claimed were being sponsored by some individuals in the Juba government.
However since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, Akol has faced increasing internal criticism, with SPLM-DC members accusing him of lacking of transparency, and promoting individuals within the leadership based on tribal connections, prompting several of the party’s founding members to defect.
Charles Barnaba Kisanga, the SPLM-DC’s first Secretary General tendered his resignation from the party in 2011 and rejoined the SPLM. He was later followed by his replacement, Sandara Bona Malual, who, like Kisanga, cited differences within the party as her reason for quitting.
They both accused Akol of intolerance and not being receptive to different views and ideas over how the party should be run, as well as citing allegations of corruption and the allegation that Akol supports a militia in Upper Nile state, a charge frequently raised by the SPLM but denied SPLM-DC.
Explaining his resignation, Erista accused Akol of running the party with a "tribal mindset" without accepting different views from senior members of the party.
"In your capacity as chairman of the party you believe that your decisions and yours alone on issues related to the party are absolute", Arista said in a resignation letter dated March 7, 2013, giving the example of Akol’s reaction to his appointment to the National Constitutional Review Commission and the Minority Leader in the National Legislative Assembly.
"Your reaction to my appointment as member of the constitutional and minority leader in the national assembly in denouncing it in the media without even going through the party organ such as the National Executive Committee to decide whether the party should participate in the Commission or not affirms [the] existence of tribalism. It was not the case when Justice Yoannes Yor Akol Ajawin was appointed in the same opposition. This is dictatorship with [an] element of tribalism", he wrote.
Yoannes is a step-brother of Lam Akol. They have the same father but different mothers.
Erista did not state which political party he intends to join after leaving the SPLM-DC, although he said he would join a party whose leader is based in South Sudan.
"Your choice of running the party from a distance is by itself a source of insecurity in the party, because members have no knowledge about your plans, and especially while you continue to reside in another country", Erista said in his letter to Akol.
The leader of SPLM-DC in the South Sudanese parliament, Onyoti Adigo, said the party was still preparing an official response to the allegations raised in Erista’s resignation letter.
"It is true he has resigned and the party is still preparing to respond the allegations he made. We will let you know soon", Adigo told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
Despite a reconciliation with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir in September 2011, and his brief return to Juba Akol chose to base himself in the Sudanese capital Khartoum rather than Juba, as allegations have continued to resurface.
Members of Akol’s party in the past have faced arbitrary arrest and harassment by South Sudan’s security organs which accuse them of links with armed militias, but the SPLM-DC reject these accusations.