July 14, 2013 (JUBA) – A senior official of the ruling party in South Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Mark Nyipuoch Ubang, has accused the party’s Secretary General, Pagan Amum Okiech, of self-failures, criticising his recent statements which suggested that the party was heading for a crisis.
- SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum (AFP/Getty)
In his recent public statements, Amum echoed the widely shared observations in the SPLM that the party had lost vision and direction, calling for change which would include unseating the party’s current chairman and president, Salva Kiir Mayardit.
He also criticised as politically motivated the president’s recent decision suspending minister Deng Alor Kuol of cabinet affairs, and minister Kosti Manibe Ngai of finance and economic planning over the $8 million procurement scandal, saying the real culprit was left free.
Ubang, a former governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, and member of the national parliament in Juba, said the top party administrator should have blamed himself for the failures in the party.
"The SPLM Secretary General should be on the driving seat for the success of the party and if there are any failures, comrade Pagan should be realistic and tell the truth to the members of the party rather than going out publicly portraying his own failure", Ubang was quoted by The Citizen newspaper on Sunday.
The senior official who is a member of the SPLM’s politburo, the highest executive organ of the party, advised it was better for such leaders – the SPLM SG included - to form their own political parties instead of criticising the party.
Amum is responsible for implementing the party’s policies in the ten states and directly reports to the chairman, Salva Kiir, while the two deputies, vice president Riek Machar, and the speaker of the national parliament, James Wani Igga, contribute only on the basis of special assignments.
The official however proudly announced that the ruling party was founded on democratic principles and that every member had a right and freedom to express his or her anguishes and suggestions, but warned that such a freedom had a limit and should not be abused.
The tough tone from the senior party member indicates the daunting task and bumpy road the SPLM has been travelling on while trying to transform from a guerrilla movement to a viable democratic political party that can tolerate and harmonise internal divergent views.
Since 2005 when it was officially registered as a political party some officials still perceive the exercise of internal self-criticism and process of renewal as an act of opposition from within.
Ubang last month also lashed out at the vice-president and SPLM deputy chairman, Riek Machar, criticising him for enumerating six challenges in the nation building. These included rampant corruption, rising tribalism, a dwindling economy, growing insecurity, poor international relations and the SPLM’s loss of vision and direction.
He publicly decried the vice-president’s call to tackle such challenges in government and party, saying Machar was repeating a similar challenge he conveyed to the former SPLM leadership 22 years ago in 1991 when he called for the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan while the movement was fighting for a secular united Sudan.
Machar declared his intention to contest for the party chairmanship in the upcoming national convention this year so that he can stand on the SPLM’s presidential ticket in 2015 elections. While he commended his president and party chairman Salva Kiir for successfully implementing the CPA and achieving independence, he said the challenges of nation building needed him to tackle them in the driver’s seat.
The party was supposed to adopt its basic documents such as the constitution, manifesto, internal regulations and code of conduct, in an extraordinary national convention in May but the meeting has been delayed.
After the passing of the documents by the politburo, the national liberation council and the extraordinary convention, a regular national convention would then be called for in which to elect a new party leadership.
The process has come to a standstill due to the internal wrangling in the top leadership.
The SPLM Secretary General Amum has submitted several requests to the chairman [Kiir] to call for a politburo meeting but no response has come from the chairman, a senior party official in the national secretariat told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
Commenting on the public statements against his boss by the parliamentarian Mark Nyipuoch Ubang the official said Ubang’s defense for the incumbent chairman and president was in the hope to prove his loyalty while eying an executive position.
Ubang, who was an incumbent appointee governor during the 2010 elections, was rejected by his colleagues in the politburo to contest for governorship in the South Sudan’s least populated state of Western Bahr el Ghazal in favour of the current governor, Rizik Zechariah Hassan.
“I believe he feels isolated from the government for the last three years. He may want his voice heard by the president so that he can also count on him as one of his loyalists and benefit from the expected reshuffle,” the anonymous official added.
He further confided that Kiir was not interested to call for the politburo meeting because he suspected that the majority of the members may side with the views of his deputy, Machar, and override his intended decisions with respect to the internal transformation process.
President Kiir has also acknowledged the challenges in South Sudan’s nation building but said he needed more time to tackle them and declared his intention to contest for a third term in 2015.
The recently suspended two national ministers, Deng Alor and Kosti Manibe, and sacked governor of Unity state, Taban Deng, in addition to the party SG, Pagan Amum, and presidential adviser, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, are among the influential heavy weights in the politburo.
There is widespread rumour that Kiir may want to remove vice-president Machar and secretary general Amum by a presidential decree and party order, respectively; but an insider told Sudan Tribune that the president has been calculating the risk of such a decision.
"If I were the president I would be very cautious in taking such a dangerous decision. We are still as tribes. The army itself is not yet transformed national. It looks like an alliance of armies. The decision would be challenged. People may say it had no justification and was driven by tribalism", he said, while advising that only a transparent, free and fair democratic transformation and leadership renewal can gradually build confidence and unite the people.