Home | News    Saturday 12 November 2011

Akol reassures Kiir SPLM-DC will seek change through democratic means

Saturday 12, 2011 (JUBA) - The leader of South Sudan’s largest opposition party has reassured South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir that he will not follow other opposition leaders by starting an armed rebellion against the government.

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SPLM-DC’s leader Lam Akol (L) and South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir (R) hold a surprise meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. 29 September 2011. Source (http://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com/)

SPLM-DC chairman, Lam Akol, met Kiir on Friday in the aftermath of Peter Abdulrahaman Sule, the former leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF) being arrested.

Sule is accused of attempting to form a rebel group on the border based on the border of Central and Western Equatoria states, and has been dismissed from his party who have distanced themselves from his actions.

According to South Sudanese state media, Akol told Kiir that he had the SPLM-DC’s "full support," regarding Sule’s arrest, in which two suspected rebels were killed, according the military.

In a press statement after his meeting, Akol repeated his assertion that said his party was committed to resolving issues through democratic means. He said state media had reported that armed or violent conduct could not be tolerated.

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Peter Abdul Rahaman Sule addresses a press conference in Juba, March 9, 2011 (UN photo)

Akol described Sule’s action, as “unfortunate," and that it "could not be supported in any way.” The SPLM-DC Chairman, who was himself recently accused by South Sudan’s ruling SPLM of backing rebels in Upper Nile state, called upon all political parties to work together to build Africa’s newest nation.

Until a surprise reconciliation with Kiir at a meeting in Nairobi in September Akol had not been based in Juba but maintained his office in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

His return to Juba was not universally welcomed, with some MP’s insisting that his party should be investigated for alleged links to rebel groups in Upper Nile state, where Akol - a member of the Shilluk tribe - hails from.

Most of the SPLM-DC’s seats won at last years general election were from this area of South Sudan.

Akol’s biggest critic is fellow member of the Shilluk community, Pagan Amum, the SPLM’s secretary general. Amum’s repeated accusations that the SPLM-DC are backed by Khartoum in an attempt to destabilise oil-producing South Sudan, led to Akol threatening to sue him for libel.

During South Sudan’s two-decade war with Khartoum, Akol was a leading member of a breakaway faction of the SPLM, that in 1991 attempted to overthrow the then leader John Garang. Akol rejoined the SPLM in 2003 and became Sudan’s foreign minister after the 2005 peace deal that granted South Sudan the opportunity to secede.

South Sudan’s referendum and independence passed off peacefully but since July relations have soured, with both countries accusing the other of backing rebel groups within their borders.

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FILE - South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir wave to the crowd during the Independence Day ceremony in Juba July 9, 2011 (Reuters)

Earlier this month, Sudan’s President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir warned he was ready to return to war with South Sudan should they continue to back their former allies in the border areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as well as rebels in the western region of Darfur.

State media said Akol described Bashir’s statement as unfortunate considering that during Kiir’s October visit to Khartoum the two sides agreed to establish mechanisms to resolve their disputes over borders, oil revenues, citizenship, state assets, debt and other issues.

It is believed that it was Akol’s perceived closeness to Khartoum while he held the position of foreign minister, that led the SPLM to withdrawing him from the post in 2007. In 2009 Akol broke away from the SPLM for the second time forming the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change. Despite initially being banned by Kiir, the party won the second highest number of seats at elections the next year.

CONTROVERSY AND THE CONSTITUTION

The SPLM-DC were among the opposition parties that boycotted the endorsement of South Sudan’s transitional constitution in August. The others included the South Sudan Democratic Alliance (SSDA), Sudan People Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), United South Sudan Party (USSP), South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF) as well as Sule’s UDF.

Leaders from the five parties accused the south’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of allegedly violating rules of procedures and resolutions adopted during the south-south political dialogue held in October 2010 ahead of South Sudan’s successful referendum on independence.

The controversial constitution which was sworn in on July 9 when South Sudan seceded from north Sudan has been criticised by opposition groups and some members of the ruling SPLM for centralising power in Juba. Kiir was granted the ability to sack any elected official in South Sudan if he deems it a matter of national security.

It is believed that South Sudan’s new constitution and the way in which the views from those outside the SPLM were treated in the process was one of the reasons for Sule’s decision to take up arms against the government.

(ST)