July 30, 2014 (JUBA) – The former governor of South Sudan’s border state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal announced earlier this week that a decision to dismiss state MPs would be reversed.
- South Sudanese army chief General Paul Malong Awan speaking at a Dinka Malual community meeting in the capital, Juba, on 1 November 2012 (ST)
General Paul Malong Awan, who served as governor until his appointment in May as the South Sudanese army’s (SPLA) chief of general staff, had earlier ordered the dismissal of the six members of parliament and revoked their party membership to the ruling SPLM.
Awan, in his capacity as head of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the state, issued an administrative order, dismissing six members of parliament, grounds of which were contested and plunging the state into political tension and anxiety between supporters.
The dismissal letter, dated 7 July 2012, accused the MPs of disloyalty amid claims they were secretly cooperating with members of other political parties in the state parliament against the interests of the state government.
The decision sparked political tensions in the state, with supporters of the MPs in question contesting the grounds for their dismissal, claiming that the letter, approved by approved by SPLM deputy secretary-general Anne Itto, did not make any specific reference to rules or party regulations deemed to have been violated.
Those dismissed included Kuac Wek Wol, Deng Deng Akuei, Hikma Ali Malek, Achak Thiep, Andrew Lual Buola and Vicky Nyanut Urach.
Malek and Thiep later accepted an apology and were reinstated after reports emerged that they were pressured, but the other four prominent members of parliament refused.
Despite president Salva Kiir directing all MPs be reinstated after the council of state overturned the decision, no action was taken.
However, in a meeting on Tuesday in the capital, Juba, Awan said “it was time to put behind the past and move forward”.
The meeting was also attended by Athian Aciec and Majok Aleu, business associates of Awan who helped broker an agreement between the two camps.
Awan said he would now write to the state government to ensure the four officials are reinstated in the party and are able to return to parliament.
It was not clear what prompted the change of heart, although observers believe the recent mass defection of state officials, including members of parliament and youth groups, may have influenced the decision.
It remains unclear whether former speaker Aguer Wol Aguer, who was dismissed over allegations that he had failed to control the house and members, would be reinstated to his position.
Aguer was dismissed in 2012 from his position as speaker of the assembly but did not lose his party membership. He contested the decision, lodging a complaint with the central government in Juba, with the president subsequently passing a resolution to reinstate the six MPs and recognising Aguer as the legitimate speaker of the house.
“We went into the meeting and the result of which is that all those who were dismissed will now be reinstated into their positions. There were no conditions. No apology was required. It was agreed that all the dues would be paid and General Malong promised that he would make necessary efforts to ensure that all those who have been affected are paid, even if it means contacting business people to prompt the payment,” Aguer told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
One political observer has speculated whether Awan and the president were feeling the pressure after the recent resignation of some members of parliament and the defection of youth to the rebellion in the state under the command of General Dau Aturjong.
The current situation dates back to the 2010 elections, which were contested by both Awan and Aturjong, with the former securing the backing of the SPLM as the official candidate and the latter as an independent contestant.
Preliminary vote counts had Aturjong, who ran as an independent candidate, in the lead, however, the result was later announced in favour of Awan.
The disputed vote sparked considerable commotion in the state, with elders subsequently intervening to calm the situation ahead of a referendum held to decide whether South Sudan would become an independent state or remain as part of a united Sudan.
The Juba-based analyst said political situation in the state following the 2010 the elections had created an atmosphere of “unbearable pressure” as authorities in the area had failed to show strong leadership in managing the post-election differences between supporters of the two rival officials.
“Instead they (authorities) continued with political polarisation in which those in the government continued to hurt those who supported those who contested independently. They were all dismissed from their jobs. Others are always falsely accused and arrested if they are overheard [criticising the government],” he said.
“It was unbearable pressure. You know that [the] political situation in the area has never been favourable for both supporters after the conclusion of the 2010 elections,” he added.