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Unity state MPs back calls to reinstate sacked governor

July 13, 2013 (BENTIU/JUBA) – Lawmakers from South Sudan Unity state assembly have asked President Salva Kiir to reconsider his decision of removing the duly elected governor, Taban Deng Gai.

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Unity State Governor Taban Deng Gai speaks to the media in Bentiu, November 15, 2011 (ST)

Kiir, on Sunday, issued a surprise decree firing Gai, but gave no reason for his decision. He immediately appointed Joseph Nguen Monytuil as the new caretaker.

The president, under article 101(r) of South Sudan’s constitution, is allowed remove a state Governor and/or dissolve a state Legislative Assembly in the event of threats to national security or territorial integrity. It, however, stipulates that fresh elections be organised within 60 days.

Unity state lawmaker, in their position paper seen by Sudan Tribune, duly acknowledge the president’s decision, while welcoming the new governor, but insist the removal of Gai was uncalled for.

“But your Excellency, Unity state had never experienced any political instability and insecurity, which might have led to the removal of the governor elect. For we are here to oversee the state general performance, and save national interest that may threaten the state and national security”, partly reads the MPs’ letter, also copied to the vice-president and ruling party (SPLM) Secretary General.

The lawmakers’ position, comes less than a week after the country’s vice-president, Riek Machar wrote a similar letter asking Kiir to reverse his decision to sack the Unity state governor, suggesting it was done in violation of the country’s constitution.

Machar disclosed that he was not consulted, but heard it on television and challenged his boss’s assessment of the current security situation in the Unity state.

“I was in Unity state on June 29th, 2013, there is no insecurity that threatens national security and territorial integrity in Unity state, instead Governor Taban Deng Gai and his government was very instrumental in bringing about peace and stability to the state," Machar said in the 7 July letter, also seen by Sudan Tribune.

"He [Deng] was solely responsible for the coming and acceptance of your timely pardon by the armed group of General Bapiny Monytuel Wicjang who abandoned opposition against the government of the Republic of South Sudan last May”, the letter reads in part.

The vice-president, in his letter, also reminded the president that Gai had won the 2010 general elections and thus had the same legitimacy as Kiir before the constitution and his people of Unity state.

Ironically, during the April 2010 elections Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny ran against Deng who was also the incumbent governor, but the latter ended up winning by a small margin.

The now appointed caretaker was in Teny’s camp during these elections.
Machar also expressed “deep” concern that dismissal of the elected governor “might heighten tension and aggravate prevailing state of insecurity in the country that may lead to political instability”.

The country vice-president implored upon Kiir to reverse his decision warning that absent of any objective reasons will be seen as politically motivated.

It is, however, unlikely that president Kiir will heed to the advice carried in the letter from his deputy as he has already proceeded with the swearing in of the new governor.
Machar’s letter is the latest sign of growing rift between Kiir and senior officials in his government and ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement.

The VP has stepped up his criticism of president Kiir accusing him of incompetence and failure to lead the state which became independent, exactly two years ago.

Meanwhile, Unity state’s ex-governor insisted that his removal by the president was “unconstitutional”.

"Recently when I went to America, the President was suspicious that I had meetings with American government that I’m pushing for Riek Machar election”, Gai told a congregation in Unity state last week.

He however said Machar is free to contest for the leadership of South Sudan, if he wanted to.