March 6, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-In-Opposition) has questioned the legality of a joint committee formed by president Salva Kiir and comprising members of the ruling party’s politburo, including those that rebelled against the leader.
- The head of the rebel delegation, General Taban Deng Gai, signs a ceasefire agreement, ending more than five weeks of fighting in South Sudan following negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 23 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
The preparatory committee is tasked with making the necessary arrangements for an upcoming meeting expected to bring together rival groups within the leadership of the SPLM.
The committee is a mixture of government loyalists, rebels, former detainees and third bloc officials. Daniel Awet Akot, Paul Mayom, Akol Paul, Jemma Nunu, Deng Alor, John Luk Jok, Kosti Manibe and Taban Deng Gai will serve on the eight-member committee.
The team will be primarily responsible for preparing the agenda for the next meeting of the SPLM political committee, which was proposed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by mediators from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
It is not clear what issues the committee will discuss, but multiple sources and officials with direct knowledge of the arrangement have told Sudan Tribune that the focus of the meeting would be on internal reconciliation among the party’s leaders.
However, the spokesperson for the former vice-president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, questioned Kiir’s authority to form a joint committee including senior rebel leaders.
“First of all, the proposal for internal reconciliation between the two SPLMs, as a new mechanism to try and resolve the ongoing violent conflict, was not initiated by Salva Kiir. Further, he is not the leader of some of those groups he has appointed to his committee, and therefore the formation of such a joint committee is unnecessary and procedurally illegal,” spokesperson James Gatdet Dak said in statements to Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
He said the forum proposal was initiated by members of the IGAD mediating team, which he said the two parties had to simply study, and if acceptable, they would develop their respective positions or listen to the mediators if they have a draft.
“Kiir knows very well that, for instance, comrade Taban Deng Gai is our chief negotiator, whom he has no authority over. He also dismissed him (Gai) from memberships of both the Political Bureau and SPLM party, as well as charged him of alleged treason,” said Dak, adding that the opposition’s leadership had been surprised when they heard about the committee in the media.
He said the president, who also chairs the party, was the very person who resisted numerous calls to hold a political bureau meeting in 2013, which he claims would have resolved the political differences that have “consequently culminated in the ongoing violence”.
According to Dak, the first task of Kiir’s committee should be to reverse presidential decrees dismissing individual party officials.
He added that should there be a need for specialised committees to tackle the reconciliation process, then each side should be responsible for appointing its respective members.