13 September 2012

South Sudan: Governor Expels Humanitarian Worker Over Participation in Local Politics

Rumbek — The Governor of South Sudan's Warrap State, Nyandeng Malek, has expelled a Sudanese humanitarian relief worker allegedly over participation in local politics against her administration, the gubernatorial order shows on Thursday.

Local officials in the state, which is home to the country's first President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and members of the State Legislative Assembly say the order dated 7 August 2012 is generating sharp criticism and political tension.

The letter with titled "Madut Malual to leave Warrap State within 48 hours", a copy of which Sudan Tribune has obtained, was addressed to the Field Director of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), an international non-governmental organization operating in Alek Payam [district] in Gogrial West County.

The letter, which carries the signature of Governor Nyadeng, cited remarks made by Madut Malual, a local Field Coordinator working for Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) at a community meeting organized by Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SuNDE).

SuNDE is a nonpartisan coalition of Sudanese civil society organizations committed to promoting the ability of the South Sudanese public to participate freely, equitably, and effectively in transparent and democratic processes, and ensure that the outcomes of those processes reflect the will of citizens. SuNDE was established on April 18, 2009 before secession of South Sudan from neighbouring Sudan in July 2011.

It operates in all the ten states of South Sudan and holds membership made up of over 75 civil society groups. It is one of the largest domestic election observation networks in the country. It participated in the 2009 general elections and in the observation of the conduct of the referendum held in January 2011.

The meeting was attended by senior members of the South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) branch office in the state, including Alesio Makuc Makuc Ngongdit who serves as both the party's State Secretary General and the Commissioner Gogrial West County.

Other participants included Machok Majong MP; a member of Juba based National Legislative Assembly as well as members of the Warrap State Legislative Assembly from the area. Chiefs from the Gogrial West County including intellectuals and various youth groups were also in attendance on 3 August, 2012.

The governor quoted her confidants as telling her that humanitarian the aid worker "talked ill" about her administration, particularly about the last cabinet reshuffle at the meeting.

The place where the meeting was held was not mentioned in the letter but local sources told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that it was conducted inside Kuacjok town.

"During the discussion, Mr. Madut Malual who is a field coordinator for NCA in Alek Payam of Gogrial West incited that Kuac community has no minister in the state government which is humiliation to our community. Therefore should not cooperate with my government. This move was supported by Hon. Machok Majong and declared his resolution that Kuac land will not be distributed anymore by the government which is not considering Kuac community and I will stand by my works", the governor's letter quoting remarks made at the meeting reads in part.

Attempts by Sudan Tribune to speak to the state Minister of Information and Governor's secretary were unsuccessful. The secretary refused to comment referring Sudan Tribune's calls to the Governor and state Minister of Information, stressing that the issue was beyond her capacity.

Governor Malek in the expulsion order tries to justify that her decision was in line with efforts by her administration to maintain peace and unity which she says NGOs should adopt and do the same role "instead of creating more divisions and undermining government policy".

"Those who witnessed this ill talking were Gogrial West County Commissioner, SPLM State Secretary and Political Advisor, Alesio Makuc Makuc and chiefs. Mr. Madut Malual instead of standing as humanitarian staff turns to be politician by calling community to destabilize the government. Therefore, I order him (Madut) as an NGO staff to leave Warrap State within 48 hours from this date of 7th August, 2012", the letter adds in part.

The Governors decision has drawn a lot of criticism for violating South Sudanese and Warrap State's constitutions, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression.

"The act of Governor Nyandeng Malek does not show any single sense of leadership. Her act contravenes not only individual rights to freely express their opinions on any public matters but serves as a clear violation of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, which is very clear. The constitution does not give any public figure including our president General Salva Kiir Mayardit, to expel any citizen from any territory in South Sudan, just for expressing their opinions requiring government officials to adjust their performances", a dissident state official told Sudan Tribune on Thursday via phone from Kuacjok town, capital of the state.

Several officials have expressed the need to handle the issue at the local level by bringing the two sides together to resolve the dispute including return of the expelled aid worker to his job.

"Attempts are being made to bring the two sides together to resolve the dispute instead of taking it to the President or the National Assembly and the general public", a source close to governor Nyandeng said on Thursday from Kuacjok.

The official preferring to remain anonymous over the issue said "actually we have seen reservations and justifications being made by the two sides to cover themselves but I believe these ways are not helping. Instead they are increasing tension and widening mistrust".

But another source, also one of the closest allies to the governor, and who holds a cabinet position, said the remarks were correct and that nothing was fabricated. He accused those cited in the meeting as calling members of their community as "bunch of idiots" working for their "own interests" which does not in any way represents view of the cited Kuac community.

"These are just bunch of idiots. What they say is all bullshit. They make irresponsible remarks which do not make sense; even a headman in the village can not talk the way they talk".

"Their talks show the type of the people they are. They do not represent anybody even those they claim to be speaking for them do not listen to them anymore. They should just be fair and honest enough to say what they want as individuals, without claiming that they represent [the] interest[s] of the community", he explained.

"How can they claim they have not been represented in the state government while they have members in the state assembly? They also have senior government officials at the national government all representing Warrap and their purported community. This childish thinking must be discouraged by all means", he said.

He gave example of South Sudan's Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Joseph Lual Achuil, who hails from Gogrial West. "When people keep quiet, other thinks the rest are foolish. No. this is to create harmony and peaceful coexistence amongst our people", he explained.

Attempts to reach Hon. Machok Majong and Madut Malual, the expelled aid worker have failed. Both of whom are in Juba following up the case at a high level. Sources in the office of the president have accepted receiving the complaint although the President has not yet been informed.

Copies of the complaint were given to the internal security, office of the minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management, South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission both at the national and state levels. Other recipients include Gogrial West County commissioner, and Warrap's Deputy Governor, Colonel Akech Tong Aleu.

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