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Mixed reaction in Juba to dissolution of South Sudan’s government

July 24, 2013 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese public and key members of parliament on Wednesday gave mixed reactions to president Salva Kiir’s decision to reduce the size of the government and dissolve the entire cabinet, including his deputy.

President Kiir, in an executive order broadcast by state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Tuesday evening removed his deputy Riek Machar Teny from his position. Machar had recently expressed a desire to compete for Kiir’s position in elections planned for 2015.

In his capacity as chairman of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Kiir issued a separate order suspending the party’s secretary general, Pagan Amum.

A committee headed by James Wani Igga, the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, will investigate Amum’s recent conduct in which he challenged Kiir’s decision to suspend two cabinet ministers implicated in a financial scandal, according to the broadcast.

Other members of the committee include deputy speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, Daniel Awet Akot, chairperson of the member affairs in the house, Mark Nyipuoc, Jonglei’s governor Kuol Manyang Juuk and Peter Bashir Gbandi, a member of the National Legislative Assembly.

According to the order, the investigation committee is tasked with establishing the facts and motive behind recent conduct of the SPLM’s long serving secretary general.

Reactions to the presidential order gathered by Sudan Tribune on Tuesday and Wednesday saw some people appreciated the president for reducing the size of his government, others protested against the president’s decision to relieve both his deputy and the Secretary General of the party.

Daniel Awet, the deputy speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, backed Kiir’s actions in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

“The parliament will definitely stand by the decision of the president because this is a response to the public call to reduce the size of the current government so that it can effectively manage the current economic situation”, said Akot, a key member of the SPLM.

He called on South Sudanese citizens and government employees to go to work and carry out routine duties, describing the changes as a normal cabinet reshuffle. The under secretaries of ministries have been put in charge until the full reshuffle is completed.

"People should not panic. These are just normal changes. Everybody, whether from the private sector or in the government should go to work and carry out their normal duties as usual", said Akot.

Peter Bashir Gbandi, who represents Maridi county of Western Equatoria state in the National Legislative Assembly, said that removal and appointment of the cabinet members falls within the prerogative of the president.

“I don’t think there will be a problem because these are just normal changes. The president has the prerogative to dissolve and appoint new members he thinks would serve to the expectations of our people and in line with the vision and objectives of the SPLM”, said Gbandi.

But Daniel Ater Deng, a native of Jonglei said the president’s decision to remove his deputy and suspended the SPLM’s secretary general Pagan Amum is justified because it does not look good for members of the same political party to engage in power struggle before actual date of election.

"The decision of the president is justified. He has not been having good relations with his deputy and the secretary general from the start. They have been working as if they are not members of the same party. The vice president in particular, he has been behaving like a someone from a different political entity. He behaves as if he comes from the opposition group", said Ater.

But Gatkuoth Lul Gatluak, a native of Unity state believes that the decision by the president to remove his deputy was unjustified, because it requires the approval of a two-third majority in South Sudan’s parliament.

“I think the president is wrong and I am becoming concern of the way he is managing affairs of this country. He cannot remove the vice president because he was elected together with him. You know that he (vice president) was his running mate during the 2010 elections but the way he (president) has done it shows that our president is becoming a pure dictator and he will definitely push this country into a serious crisis very soon”, Gatluak told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

However, Gordon Buay Malek, a spokesperson for the South Sudanese rebels who laid down their arms in response to the amnesty issued by president Kiir in April, pardoning all armed groups and allowing them to return, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the supported the changes.

“This is a very good move because it will allow the president to form a technocrat government. It will also show the seriousness of the president in combating corruption because most of the 75 officials accused to have taken public money were in the cabinet which has just been dissolved”, Malek told Sudan Tribune in Juba, three days after returning to the country after six years abroad.

Last year Kiir wrote to 75 senior officials asking them to return $4 billion in stolen government funds.

It was now time, Malek said, for the president to appoint young people with clear and clean records into the government instead of returning the same old faces with “murky and unclear records.”

“This will now be the opportunity for the president to bring into the government fresh blood. He should now appoint people would do the real work. People who are very young with the knowledge and energy to serve this country with pride and readiness to deliver with the national interest at heart as the priority. He should appoint people who are also popular in their areas”, he explained.

“I am not surprised of the removal of the vice president. I was expecting this to happen long time because there is nowhere a vice president would behave like someone from a different political divide and still expect to serve under the same leader. Dr. Riek Machar can now propagate his ambition to contest the SPLM chair with the president but not as a vice president again”, he said.

(ST)