June 26, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s parliamentary speaker, Magok Rundial, has denied receiving orders from the presidency, instructing him to make changes to parliamentary procedures.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, gestures during a news conference in the capital, Juba, on 18 December 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
Rundial last week reshuffled the heads of specialised parliamentary committees, generating mixed reactions from MPs, some of whom had hoped to be appointed.
The decision came after weeks of internal wrangling within the ruling Sudan people’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
“I did not receive an order from the presidency. The changes made in the parliament for the heads of specialised committees is constitutional,” he told Sudan Tribune on Thursday, adding that the changes were “in line with parliamentary code of conduct” signed off by the House requiring committee heads to be reshuffled every two years.
Rundial said reports that he had received instructions from the presidency were fabrications by people whom described as enemies of peace.
The newly appointed committee heads are widely seen as staunch supporters of president Salva Kiir.
The move was protested by many leading members of the SPLM, as well as opposition figures, some of whom threatened to boycott all parliamentary sessions unless the decision was reversed.
Several MPs who spoke to Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity claimed the changes were made without wider consultation so as to exclude legislators who had come out publicly in support for a federal system of government.
“You know how things are done in this country. There are certain people who do not want others to say what they see right. There are people who see the issue of federalism as becoming another headache to the government, especially if there are members known to have a desire for a fully established federal government in the country,” one MP told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
The legislator called on the government to allow open debate on a federal style of governance.
“We know very well some of our colleagues were removed from being heads of the specialised committees because they have expressed their views in support of [a] federal system. Others have [been] denied appointment because of the same thing. They expressed their views in favour of federalism,” he said. “We will stand against this appointment,” he added.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) rejected the changes, claiming it did not reflect the regional balance of power sharing.
Kiir dissolved his entire cabinet last July, as well as cutting the number of national ministers, in a move he claimed was in response to public demands for a leaner, more cost-effective government.
However, critics argued his true intention was to get rid of his rivals within the government.
Observers say it is likely the party’s executive also played a role in the new appointments given the president’s previous intolerance towards those that criticise his government.
In 2013, he said anyone publicly criticising the government should leave, asserting that a person cannot criticise the same government in which the person serves and expect to be a part of it at the same time.