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Internal politics within South Sudan’s SPLM

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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.

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