March 26, 2014 (JUBA) – Politicians are using community leaders and youth from South Sudan’s border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal to intensively lobby president Salva Kiir over who would replace governor Paul Malong Awan if the incumbent is given another assignment in the national government.
- South Sudanese rebels pictured in Jonglei state on 31 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Power brokers and influential businessmen close to the president and his deputy, James Wani Igga, are reportedly lobbying to have particular people appointed to key positions in the government after the president last week enlarged the size of the cabinet for the first time since austerity measures forced a reduction last year.
In his controversial reshuffle president Kiir also removed a number of former ministers, including his long time deputy, Riek Machar. The former vice-president is now leading a rebellion against Kiir’s government in a conflict triggered by clashes between rival members of the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
Northern Bahr el Ghazal has so far been largely unaffected by the conflict with most of the fighting occurring in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. It has received only 1,200 of the over 708,900 people displaced by the conflict since it began in December.
President Kiir last week issued an executive order, announcing the reinstatement of five ministries whose functions and roles were incorporated into other ministries and institutions after the cabinet was reduced from 58 to 21 members, including the presidency.
The head of state also upgraded a department within the ministry of defence and Veteran Affairs to a full ministry.
Many hoped that ministerial appointments would follow the announcement but it appears that ongoing consultations within the leadership of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have caused a delay in unveiling the team.
Another influencing factor is the attempt not only to get fresh faces for the cabinet positions but also to accommodate politicians and technocrats allied to the small parties that have pledged their support to the government against the rebellion.
A highly placed official told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that President Kiir and Vice President Wani have been working on a list of professionals to fill key positions.
"Unlike in the past when the President could make all the appointments of the cabinet ministers with little consultation with the Vice President because he was not in good terms with him, the President now and his deputy are working together as a team," a presidential aide told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
"I can tell you for sure that it is only the two who know the people they will entrust into key positions in government and our people will not be disappointed when the announcement is made,” the presidential source, who did not want to be identified, said.
President Kiir is considering whether he should appoint governor Malong into the new cabinet or keep him as the head of of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state until his gubernatorial term expires in 2015.
Many South Sudanese believe Malong to be illiterate but he has stated that he can read and write in the Dinka language.
"There have been people coming to lobby the president so that they are appointed as replacement of governor Paul Malong because they have heard that he would be appointed in the new cabinet" the source admitted, adding that he did not know whether such rumours were true.
The top aide claimed eight politicians, some of whom are serving in various capacities in the government and in the private sector from Northern Bahr el Ghazal have shown an interest in the gubernatorial post.
"The office of the president is flooded with the long list of people who have shown interest. Most of the politicians and senior military officers except General Kawac Makuei and General Dau Aturjong shown interest to be appointed as the next successor,” he said.
He named Kuel Aguer Kuel, Garang Deng Aguer, Kom Kom Geng, Kuol Athian Mawien, General James Ajonga Mawut Unguec Ajonga, Police General Akot Deng Akot, Mel Wal Achien, Garang Diing Akuong and the current deputy governor, Chol Ayat as some of the politicians and military officers who have either proposed themselves or have people lobbying for their appointment.
Moses Akot Dut, a native of Warrap State said he hopes President Kiir appoints someone who will not go and create more division in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.
“The people of Mading Aweil have been complaining and pointing fingers at the leadership. From the people I have heard being discussed, I see that someone like Kuol Athian Mawien would be accepted by the population but the politicians who have influence in the system and with close contacts within the presidency would not accept that because of his popularity in the area,” said Dut.
Dut said he would also appreciate the president accommodating young professionals and women in the new cabinet so that they could utilise their skills to provide services to the nation.
"At the national level, I think it is imperative [that the] President sees the importance of accommodating youthful professionals and women in the cabinet. This is an issue that the two principals [Kiir and Wani] should be keen on as they seek to craft a team with the ability to deliver in the shortest time possible,” he adds.
James Mawut, another native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, agreed with Dut on the appointment of the gubernatorial successor if Awan is appointed at the national level, stressing that the appointment should take into consideration personalities and the role the person played in the 2010 elections.
"There are already two powerful groups in our state. There is a group close to governor Malong and [a] group opposed to him. If you see the names we have heard, which we still don’t know whether what is being said is correct or not, you find that some of the people may have been pushed by some politicians who want to use them later to maintain their influence and control of the state affairs," said Mawut.
But Deng Aluat, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal said he knows that people like Kuel Aguer Kuel, General James Ajonga Mawut Unguec Ajonga, Kom Kom Geng, Garang Diing Akuong and Garang Deng would not be any different to governor Awan.
"We know these people. If the president wants someone who would create [a] conducive political environment, he should appoint someone like Salva Chol Ayat, who is now deputy governor. I say so because he did not participate in the last elections and he is not too authoritative. Also, he is someone I am told is a friend of the President to work against him. The other reason is that he is a military minded person," Aluat argued at a public discussion at South Sudan Hotel on Wednesday.
He claimed that General Akot Deng Akot, Kuel Aguer Kuel, Kom Kom Geng and General James Ajonga were people who could be controlled by individuals behind the scenes who had personal ambitions that would come at the detriment to the public.
"I know Salva Chol Ayat can to be remote controlled but he should be tried because [he is] one of the people [who] would not have difficulties getting public support for the president and the SPLM during the next elections,” he said, stressing that governor himself would not reject him as his successor.
"Chol would cooperate with him the same way he is now cooperating with him as his deputy. The only [thing] Malong Awan does not want is to interfere with Warawar, which Chol knows very well. Anybody who interferes with Warawar, even if was the one of appointed you, he turn against you at no time," he said.
Warawar is a market whose revenues have gone to Governor Awan since 1993, when he was the SPLA’s commander in the area during the 1983-2005 civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011.