December 7, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has downplayed the significance of an ultimatum issued by senior members of his governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir arrives in Khartoum on September 3, 2013 (File photo AFP/Ashraf Shazly)
Senior party leaders, including former deputy Riek Machar, this week threatened to take action unless Kiir address the widening internal crisis facing the party.
Kiir is presently in Paris participating in an African summit organised by French president Francois Hollande to discuss peace and security issues on the continent.
A senior government official revealed to Sudan Tribune that the president had confided in him that those calling on him to reverse dissolution of the SPLM structures were tactically avoiding the realities of then convention.
“They are just trying to avoid realities of the convention which has been called. Let them come and say whatever they have. And as you may agree with me, all they are saying are insignificant”, the official who did not want to be identified quoted president Kiir as saying.
He said the president, who is due to return to South Sudan on Sunday, had made the comments in telephone conversations from Paris.
The source also denied that Kiir had dissolved the SPLM structures, asserting that the legitimacy of the institutions had expired after the five-year term lapsed last May.
“The structures dissolved themselves after the period had elapsed. This was what the chairman said and as the chairperson of the party, he decided to call the extraordinary convention. The invitations are already out and public announcements on all media houses have been made, copy of which is this”, the official, a long-time ally of president, said.
Copies of the invitations obtained by Sudan Tribune bear the president’s name and are addressed to SPLM members, foreign diplomats in the country and other independent bodies asking for their attendance at a function slated to take place from 9 to 11 December.
The purpose of the meeting is “to adopt SPLM basic documents, the drafts of which have already been discussed by SPLM leadership in each of the 10 states and Abyei”, the statement said.
According to the statement, Kiir believes convening an extraordinary convention as an important step towards collective efforts to transform the SPLM and realise better future outcomes.
However, senior leaders have slammed Kiir’s leadership style as being characterised by corruption and deviation from the party’s vision, saying it had encouraged regional and ethnic divisions.
They have rejected the planned 9 December meeting of the National Liberation Council (NLC), stressing that a meeting of the party’s highest executive organ, the Political Bureau (PB), must take place first in order to set an agenda for the planned convening of the NLC.
Marial Achol, a native of Yirol East in Lakes state, expressed that the crisis generated by the internal power struggle between officials would have a negative impact on nation-building.
“Frankly speaking, the current political differences within the leadership of the SPLM will have negative effects on nation building, especially promotion of peace and harmony. This division does not end here in Juba, it goes to the states where it [is] made worse”, Achol told Sudan Tribune.
Duku Moses, a native of Central Equatoria from Kajo Keji county, said he hoped the extraordinary convention would address issues of common interest in accordance with international norms and best practices.
“I would like our leadership to see things in the context of the cause of the liberation struggle. I would like them to set good examples. The extraordinary convention should revise the current draft documents in a manner that reflect international standards”, he said.
Moses, himself a member of the ruling SPLM in the area, pointed out show of hands worked well in a society where there are high levels of illiteracy and the educated minority hold positions of power.
He was referring to article 1 (5) of the SPLM 2008 constitution which allows a show of hands as part of the voting process, but which may be challenged by at least one-third of members of the convention.
Moses said this traditional form of voting should stand and has called for the provision allowing for a secret ballot when demanded by at least one-third of party third of the members to be amended.
Aguer Arrik, a native of Upper Nile state living in Juba, claimed that nobody can remove the SPLM chairperson from his position except when he decides to resign with the approval of the national convention.
“Nobody can remove the SPLM chairman from his position. Those warning him with ultimatum are just disgruntled politicians seeking just a public attention so that they are appointed; otherwise I don’t see them different from president Salva Kiir. What will they do differently that they did not do while serving in senior positions for eight years? All they are saying are just nonsense. For your information, those calling for [the] resignation of our chairman do not have [a] support base”, an official told Sudan Tribune on Saturday in Juba.
However, Simon Mawien Dut, a native of Warrap state, challenged that stance, citing article 1.1 (2) of the SPLM 2008 constitution, which states that the chairperson may be removed by the national convention in an extraordinary session convened at the request of at least two thirds of members for constitutional violations or gross misconduct.
“I am not talking out of mind. I am saying what I know”, said Dut, who was speaking at a group discussion at the Juba University club on Saturday.
Peter Adwok Nyaba, a senior member of the SPLM, warned division in the leadership could plunge the country into instability.
“It is now apparent that the SPLM must be saved from itself or will plunge the country into the abyss … What was not resolved in 1991 and 2004 respectively has sprouted out back in 2013 with devastating effect”, Nyaba said.
The official criticised categorising members of the same institutions into supporters of individual leaders, rather than seeing them as comrades working together to achieve a common goal.
“There shouldn’t be anything like somebody’s person in a political organisation which has a constitution and internal regulations which define and guide the relations between the members and the party organs”, Nyaba said.