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SPLM convenes national liberation meeting despite sharp division

December 14, 2013 (JUBA) - The leadership of South Sudan’s governing party - the SPLM - began a meeting bringing together about 160 members from across the ten states on Saturday, reversing fears that it could again be postponed due to sharp and widening political differences.

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Senior members of SPLM political bureau pose for a group picture. (Photo: SPLM TODAY)

The meeting of the National Liberation Council has gone ahead despite it being delayed three times in less than two months, including on last week when the meeting was postponed at just 24 hours notice.

Officials say the agenda of the meeting is limited to discussions about whether it would accept passing the party’s draft basic documents in their current status or reach a political understanding to make some amendments to existing documents.

Under the transitional constitution introduced on South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2011 political parties need to be registered, which involves adopting Basic Rules and Regulations, Codes of Conducts, a Manifesto and constitution.

Martin Majut Yak, the SPLM Secretary for Popular and Syndicated Organisations told journalists on Saturday that only the meetings only objective was to make amendments and endorse the basic documents.

"There is only one agenda I know at the moment. The members are discussing ways looking at the necessity and possibility to make some amendments and endorsements of the basic documents," Yak explained.

Some key officials, including Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, the widow of the SPLM’s former chairperson, John Garang de Mabior, have expressed concerns that the organising committee had disregarded the constitutional provisions by bypassing organisational structures.

"What happened does not reflect the general will of the SPLM leadership. The agenda of meeting of the national liberation council should have been drafted and set at the meeting of the political bureau, as it was done previously in conformity to the SPLM 2008 constitution," Rebecca de Mabior said as she greeted party members before entering the meeting.

Nyandeng, herself a former rebel commander, who was charged with affairs of the disabled and widows of those who died in the more than two decades of civil war with Sudan, pointed out that the SPLM vision should be upheld.

She warned that any deviation from the vision amounts to "backtracking" from the cause of war.

Nyandeng said that the party her late husband founded should demonstrate clear deferential leadership to other political forces by doing right thing.

"We need to show exemplary leadership", she added.

Participants say the first day of the meeting had gone well, with members voting to approve 5% of the delegates from each level to the national convention in the draft documents to be appointed by the chairperson.

"It went well today. The members unanimously approved 5% of the delegations at each level of from all the SPLM structures to the national convention to be appointed by the chairperson, in accordance with the draft basic document. The members also accepted that it is only the chairperson who should be elected. Other officials can be appointed by the chairperson. There was also no question about the show of hands. It was unanimously approved. This means that there will only be slight challenges if necessary", a senior official participating in the meeting told Sudan Tribune.

Former Vice President Riek Machar, who is still a deputy chairperson of the SPLM and other members who have expressed increasing dissatisfaction with Kiir’s leadership in recent weeks, unsuccessfully tried giving theirs view on the appointments, the official, who did not want to be identified, said.