October 10, 2013 (JUBA) – A section of the South Sudanese population have expressed mixed reactions following president Salva Kiir’s Monday decision to pardon Lam Akol, the leader of the country’s main opposition party.
- South Sudan’s opposition Leader Lam Akol (www.aufaitmaroc.com)
Akol, who heads the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), was granted amnesty by Kiir over allegations that linked him to a rebellion in the country’s Upper Nile state.
Akol, in 2010, unsuccessfully challenged Kiir for the presidency, in an election he claimed was highly flawed in favour of the latter. He has since lived outside the country, mainly in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
But the president, in the decree read on the state-owned SSTV, said Akol was “free to return home”
Kiir, in a separate decree, also pardoned former leaders of armed rebel groups, including Peter Abdel Rahaman Sule, Gabriel Tanginye, Gatwech Dual, Mabor Dhol and Simon Gatwech Joak.
The surprise announcement has since triggered intense debate on various South Sudanese forums and news website.
Deng Garang Deng, a member of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), commended the decision, saying it was time people came together to concentrate efforts on developing the country instead of trading accusations.
He said the inclusion of Lam Akol in the order was necessitated by previous reports linking him to a rebellion he purportedly helped establish in Upper Nile, with the intention to use it to pressure the government after losing 2010 elections to president Kiir.
"People have been asking since yesterday why the president included Lam Akol in the order. The reason is grounded on the fact our government, including the president has publicly outcome with evidences linking Lam Akol to rebellion in Upper Nile State, especially those Johnson Ulony, Robert Gwang and many others who decided to rebel against the government after failing to win 2010 elections”, Deng said.
People caught during clashes have confessed several times, he added.
Deng cited reports claiming the SPLM-DC chairman had close links with former militia leaders, predominantly members of his ethnic Shilluk tribe.
“Accusations by the government have already been confirmed by other independent media groups in their reports that Lam Akol actually runs armed opposition. He was the one who helped established rebellion under Johnson Olony group. Now what happened when Olony changed his mind? Didn’t Lam flee Khartoum to Egypt? We know this but the president had decided to close this chapter if Lam has realized the need to work together," he stressed.
Urbano Othwon, a native of Upper Nile state currently based in Juba, said the government could not substantiate the claims it made, even when it was challenged to prove it in court.
"It was just allegations. The government could not provide proof of the allegations. Dr. Lam and the SPLM-DC leadership went to court with the SPLM in Khartoum he won the case when Sudan was still one country. So, the issuance of the order of pardon is misplaced, though the intention of the president may be for good reason. The allegations were not substantiated in the court of law except in the court of manipulated public opinion. The militias linked to him have come and they themselves deny that", said Othwon.
“It is up Dr. Lam Akol to decide on what to do but I think time he comes as soon as possible because there are a lot of political work which requires his presence in Juba, especially this time of constitutional making process. His participation is very important. He will make a big difference”, he added.
Maring Kennedy Muni, writing the social network facebook, also questioned whether Akol needed to be pardoned by Kiir.