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Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)

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South Sudan’s national flag. Also the flag of the SPLM/SPLA.


Chairman: Salva Kiir Mayardit

Deputy Chairman: James Wani Igga

Secretary General:

Deputy Secretary General: Anne Itto

Website: SPLMToday.com


The SPLM was originally the political wing of the SPLA, an insurgency that waged war for 22 years against the Khartoum-based government of Sudan, before joining the national government in a 2005 peace deal that also made SPLM the ruling party in Southern Sudan.

The SPLA uprising began in 1983 when John Garang, then the head of the army’s Staff College in Omdurman, joined guerrillas and the 105 battalion in mutinying and fleeing to Ethiopia.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) established the SPLA as Sudanese army in southern Sudan while the Sudan Armed Force (SAF) was considered the army of northern Sudan.

The SPLM has ruled South Sudan since the CPA and won elections in 2010, securing its position as the dominant political force ahead of the country’s vote for independence in 2011.

Internal politics within South Sudan’s SPLM

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir Mayardit sent shock waves throughout the two-year old nation on 23 July 2013 when he issued a presidential decree firing his longtime Vice President Riek Machar and dissolving the entire cabinet.

The decision broadcasted by South Sudan official TV removed all the ministers and deputy ministers of the government and directed the undersecretaries to run their respective ministries until further notice.

Kiir, who also the chairman of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), also issued an order calling for investigation of the party’s Secretary General, Pagan Amum accusing him of inciting violence and criticising his actions.

A committee chaired by the speaker of the parliament and SPLM deputy chairman James Wani Igga will be responsible for probing Amum.

The move by the South Sudanese leader against Machar and Amum sets a new chapter in the power struggle within the SPLM which has mounted over the last year as several key figures moved to challenge Kiir’s candidacy in the 2015 elections.

Earlier this month, Kiir removed his former ally, the governor of Unity state Taban Deng, after reports saying he campaigned in Washington to support Machar’s candidature for the presidency.

Not long before that, he suspended cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor and finance minister Kosti Manibe over corruption allegations.

Machar and Amum both made public statements criticising Kiir’s actions against Governor Deng and the two ministers, calling it a political decision and abuse of power by South Sudan’s president.

Nhial Bol, editor in chief of the independent Citizen newspaper, told Reuters that Kiir wanted to end the paralysis of his government.

"Things have not been moving in the government because of this internal fighting over who is going to control the SPLM" he said.

However, western circles which were expecting Machar’s removal believe that this move may deepen internal divisions within the SPLM and impact negatively on the fragile stability of South Sudan.

They also fear that this will derail the already faltering talks with Khartoum over a wide array of post-secession issues. Machar and Amum were the two leading negotiators.

This background on the SPLM/SPLA is taken from The Sudanese press after separation – Contested identities of journalism. MICT 2012, Page 34.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its then military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), were formed in 1983 when Colonel Dr. John Garang de Mabior was sent to quell a mutiny of Southern troops in the Southern town of Bor but instead set himself at the head of the insurgency. During the first civil war, Garang had joined the Southern rebel movement of Anya-Nya-I and was absorbed into the regular army after the Addis Ababa peace agreement of 1972.

The 1983 rebellion not only was sparked by President Numeiri’s policy of eroding the Addis accord and of Islamizing the country but was also a result of internal power struggles by Southern politicians. In the beginning, the SPLM defined itself as a national movement with a Marxist orientation that was not confined to the South. It declared as its principal objective: “The New Sudan,” a united and secular state that provides social, economic and political justice for the marginalized peoples of the peripheries. Hence, the SPLM also attracted support from Northern Sudan, particularly the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile.

After Numeiri’s overthrow in 1985, the SPLM entered into negotiations with the main Northern parties. However, all peace initiatives failed because of political wrangling in Khartoum. By the time the 1989 “National Salvation Revolution” took over power in Khartoum, the SPLA controlled the largest part of Southern Sudan. In 1990, the SPLM joined the opposition umbrella NDA. In 1991, however, the SPLA lost the military initiative due to both an internal split and regime change in Ethiopia, which had been its main supporter. Peace talks with the new government failed, but in 1995, the SPLA went on the military offensive again, while its NDA- allies opened another front in Eastern Sudan.

In 2002, the SPLM and the Khartoum government signed the first Machakos protocol, which paved the way for the 2005 CPA. However, briefly after his inauguration as first vice president of the Republic and as president of the semi-autonomous South, SPLM/A-leader Dr. Garang died in a helicopter crash. He was succeeded by his military chief of staff, Salva Kiir Mayardit, a co-founder of the SPLA/M. Subsequently, the secessionists within the party gained the upper hand, and the SPLM parted from Garang’s concept of a united “New Sudan”.

When South Sudan became an independent republic on July 9, 2011, the ruling SPLM formally severed ties with its Northern Sector, but it is widely assumed that military support for its struggle continues unofficially.

SPLM Links

Background on the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army


Al Jazeera English | SPLM leader speaks to Al Jazeera | 20 Oct 2007

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has pulled out of the government in Khartoum, endangering a peace deal bewteen South and North Sudan signed in 2005.

Al Jazeera English | 2005 Sudan peace deal in jeopardy | 11 Oct. 2007

A new politicial divide could be opening up in Sudan, after the main opposition party from the south announced it’s suspending work participation in the government. The Sudan people’s Liberation Movement says its ministers and officials won’t be turning up for work with what’s supposed to be a national unity government. They say their political partners from the north have failed to meet a long list of demands, agreed to in a 2006 peace deal. That deal ended 20 years of fighting between southern rebels and the government in Khartoum.

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