December 10, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s vice president James Wani Igga has denied that there is a crisis within the leadership of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, following a highly critical press conference last week by disaffected senior members.
- James Wani Igga, Speaker of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly (ST)
The leadership of South Sudan’s ruling SPLM remains sharply divided, with key figures coming out to trade accusations over the failure to to deliver basic services to people in accordance with vision and objectives of the former rebel group.
In their first media appearance as a group, the officials accused President Salva Kiir of exhibiting dictatorial tendencies and pursuing a misguided leadership which has paralysed the functions of the party.
Igga, in his capacity as a deputy chairperson of the SPLM, dismissed the allegations as an attempt to "mislead those not following events in the leadership" and said that individuals who had been removed from their positions had decided to discredit and distort facts about the leadership.
"It is ludicrous for the group, especially the suspended secretary general to claim that it has been difficult to translate SPLM resolutions into plans of action”, said Igga in a press statement.
The internal rift, which initially grabbed the public attention after the group failed to reach a consensus on the final status of the party’s basic documents, surfaced in March but deepened in July, when President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the SPLM chairperson, dissolved the entire cabinet.
As part of a major shakeup, he removed his long-time deputy Riek Machar from the position he held for eight years and replaced him with James Wani Igga, formerly, the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly.
Machar welcomed the changes and moved to assume his roles as the first deputy chairperson in the ruling party. Kiir, in his capacity as the party leader, also issued an order suspending Pagan Amum from his position as SPLM secretary general, and assembling a team to investigate his conduct and barring him from travelling abroad.
In November, Kiir said all the structures of the party have "dissolved themselves" with the exception of his office, arguing that their "legitimacy of continuity" had expired after failing to hold a national convention in accordance with the 2008 constitution, which permits a five year term.
Two other senior SPLM members, Chol Tong Mayay of Lakes state and Taban Deng Gai of Unity state were removed from their elected positions as governors.
The SPLM members also said that the party had abandoned collective leadership and had demobilising knowledgeable armed officers, making them redundant after retiring from active service.
The group at the press conference was led by the first deputy, Riek Machar, suspended secretary general, Pagan Amum, former deputy defense minister, Majak D’ Agoot and transport and bridges minister, Gier Chuang Aluong.
Other senior figures who attended the event, included the widow of the former SPLM leader John Garang de Mabior, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, former minister of Justice John Luk Jok, former cabinet minister Deng Alor Kuol, former environment minister; Alfred Lado Gore, the two dismissed governors of Lakes and Unite state.
Several other government officials, some of whom are serving cabinet ministers and members of the party, came out in support of the vice president and claimed that the officials who criticised the conduct of the government planned to form a separate party.
"There is no way members of the same party can come out in the open to publicly accuse their own leader and discredit the same institution. I have never found anywhere. I think they have already formed a party which they would launch soon, otherwise they would not behave like that", Lual Bol Kuan, spokesperson of South Sudan business community and SPLM member, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
PLOY TO DISCOURAGE INVESTORS
Kuan further claimed that the activities of the group would also discourage investors from coming into the country on the grounds that their properties would not be safe.
"The press conference was called at the time [last weeks] investment conference was convened. It was a deliberate ploy devised to back track [on] the assurances made by the government at the investment conference with serious allegations but they will not succeed. We will not keep quiet because we are stakeholders in this country. We fought for it. My whole youth was in the bush and I cannot accept some people with individual interests to return us to square one", Kuan told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
The business leader also denied that president Kiir avoids collective leadership when making decisions on matters of national importance, citing numerous consultative meetings.
The "president consulted all the institutions to seek their views before the new cabinet was formed. The entire SPLM leadership except few who did not want to accept the change approved the changes the general public wanted to be introduced", Kuan explained.
The official wondered what new things the officials would do that they could not do while serving in senior government and party positions for eight years.
"We are only the country in the whole world where a minister can negotiate and sign a contractor without witness and request release of funds before verifying whether or not the contractor had actually has business that the contractor is based upon, let ensuring that services are provided first. We have seen happened when these people were in the government, some things happened in the ministries and institutions they were in complete control", he explained.
CHANGE FROM WITHIN
Peter Adwok Nyaba, a former minister of higher education, denied there is any plan to form a different a separate party among the disenfranchised SPLM members but that they were fighting for internal reform.
"The changes of the necessity must come from within the SPLM leadership whether or not the drivers are devils or angels", said Nyaba in comments.
"Revolutions are started and driven by those who have been involved in the oppressive regime by the virtue of their intimidate knowledge and interaction with it they kick start the process. Neither the passive nor absentees can alter what is going on in South Sudan," argued the veteran politician.
"I disagree with those who seem to suggest in the barrage of negative adjectives that anybody who participated in the SPLM government is incapable of initiating process leading to transformation of the oppressive condition", he said.