South Sudan: Upper Nile - Deputy Governor Denies Arrest of Lawmakers

Wau — The Deputy Governor of South Sudan's Upper Nile state of Upper Nile, on Saturday dismissed reports alleging eight members of parliament had been arrested a plot to impeach the Governor, Simon Kun Puoc allegedly over a financial scandal.

"No member of parliament has been arrested. I am not aware of this development. Who told you members of parliament have been arrested in Upper Nile State and why? What did they say was the reason? I think this is a political allegation", John Obi Muntu told Sudan Tribune by phone.

Pouc is among others, also accused of creating a city council and appointing a mayor within Malakal town, subsequently leading to the displacement of the county commissioner.

Some lawmakers reportedly questioned the Governor's inability to consult members of the communities, prior to the decisions made, with his critics describing him as "very weak" in the management of state affairs.

However, Muntu, in his capacity as acting Governor, dismissed such claims, saying although the state lacks a functional assembly; the matter was between the speaker and his deputy, not the governor's office.

Upper Nile state assembly, which comprises 47 members, remains closed since October over what appears to be a wrangle over tender between the assembly heads.

Muntu meanwhile insists the decision to close the assembly was made in consultation with the central government, after it emerged the wrangle in the house has become a security issue.

"Actually the house not been closed for good. This was just a temporary closure so that members can go on a short break. This was so because the dispute between the speaker and his deputy was getting out of hand. It divided the members of the party and the house itself," explained the acting Governor.

Therefore, the government chief whip thought it would be better to allow members go for a short break until when governor returns, he added.

Venansio Cowang Adwok, the government chief in the state assembly, also confirmed assembly closure, which he mainly attributed to what he referred to a "parliamentary dispute between members."

"Frankly speaking, let me tell you the cause of this problem. The problem is between members of the assembly and the speaker with his deputy. The Speaker and his deputy have been fighting each other for almost one year now. The governor has tried to intervene to reconcile two of them but it seems they are not ready to work together anymore," Adwok said in a separate interview.

A meeting, he added, was convened in the state during which MPs agreed to have the speaker removed, a decision reportedly backed by 23 lawmakers. Others reportedly rejected the move to impeach the speaker.

"This is what happened. It has nothing to with governor or his deputy. In fact the two leaders as I have said earlier have wanted this dispute to be resolved peaceful because they are all members of the same party", said the chief whip.

Meanwhile, Chol Deng Kiir, the speaker of Upper Nile assembly confirmed the closure of the law-making body, but declined to divulge further details on the matter.

"I cannot discuss it on telephone. It is still an administrative matter. If you need an interview with me, then arrange face to face. I think I will be ready it. Just let me know when you will come", Kiir told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

Unconfirmed reports also say the assembly was closed after it emerged lawmakers had planned to have the governor impeached governor over allegations he misappropriated $5m of state funds.

These allegations could, however, not be independently verified as efforts to reach the governor, currently in Australia were unsuccessful.

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