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W. Bahr el Ghazal gets new chief whip amid parliamentary protest

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March 14,2014 (JUBA) - Khamis Zhaya, a member of the Western Bahr el Ghazal State Legislative Assembly from Raja county representing Bor Madina area, has been named new government chief whip, according to multiple legislators and local officials.

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Rizik Zachariah Hassan, Governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal State (File photo)

Zhaya, according to gubernatorial order dated March 10 but which Western Bahr el Ghazal State Governor Rizik Zachariah Hassan erroneously signed with date indicating 14 April, replaced Justin Makuac Majok.

The order did not indicate reasons for the switch and Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s information minister did not provide any explanation about what necessitated gubernatorial act.

Some of members of the Western Bahr el Ghazal parliament have claimed that the decision was part of an attempt by the executive organ to blackmail and intimidate the legislative arm of the state’s government with threats for dismissal of some members.

Local officials have also interpreted decision of the governor to mean indicate that the chief whip failed to convince MPs from voting for the Western Bahr el Ghazal State finance minister to be sacked on the ground members of that the ruling SPLM should have forged an understanding to block the parliament’s decision.

However, Makuac, the former chief whip, denied any failure to convince the members of parliament to stop the vote when he spoke to Sudan Tribune on Friday, while confirming that he had been removed from the post.

"I actually don’t know how to explain what happened. I was one of the two members of parliament who wanted the minister of finance [Lillian Valentino Rizik] not to be removed, unfortunately we found ourselves democratically defeated because parliamentary decision is based on simple majority", Makuac said.

The sacked chief whip said that members of parliament have a constitutional right to summon any cabinet minister and other officials if notified to appear before the house for explanation of public related matter.

The Western Bahr el Ghazal state transitional constitution "empowers members of parliament to summon and pass vote of no confidence against any cabinet minister and other officials in the event they have failed to appear before the house within [a] specified period", Makuac said.

The Western Bahr el Ghazal parliament had written three letters to the minister asking him to explain how the 2013- 2014 budget was spent but the minister did not respond on time, according to Makuac.

Makuac highlighted past unilateral actions by chief executives, including arresting some members and subsequently dismissing them outside constitutional provisions.

Peter Simon Yak, a native of Western Bahr el Ghazal in Juba said there had been political crisis in the state since December 2012, when more than seven people were killed while protesting against the relocation of the administrative headquarters of Wau county to Baggari, 12 miles southwest of Wau town.

The protest followed the killing of more than 26 civilians from a different section of the Dinka community in Farajallah area, cause of which remains unknown although the state government claims it was part of the blanket reaction to the relocation of country headquarters.

"There is a big problem in Western Bahr el Ghazal which the central government does not want to solve once and for all. Throughout the gubernatorial period of [Governor] Rizik [Zachariah Hassan], people have seen that he circumvents the house when he doesn’t get his way" Yak said.

"The governor’s dangerous search for expanded powers appears to be endless and it must end, else it creates unnecessary relations which we do not encourage", he told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

Yak said parliament should not accept any imposition of unconstitutional behavior, stressing that decision by the members of parliament should be final.

However, Alfred Derek Uya said in a statement the last week that the decision of the house to remove the finance minister exceeds constitutional limits, pointing out the cabinet had no prior knowledge.

"It’s pretty amazing that the parliament went in the opposite direction by passing a decision which appears [to be] targeting [the] finance minister and removed her from office without consultation with state government, after all we are members of the same government”, said Uya.

(ST)

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