22 January 2013

Sudan: Former Lakes State Governor Halts Attempted Protest

Rumbek — Thousands of people attempted to demonstrate against a decision by South Sudanese president Salva Kiir to remove the elected governor of Lakes state, Chol Tong Mayay, on Monday night for reasons which remains unclear.

Lakes state youth activists and various women's associations merged in Rumbek central county to stage a demonstration. The move was, however, opposed by the former governor, saying it had "no point".

Despite his surprise dismissal, Mayay reaffirmed his commitment to the South Sudanese government, saying "we are one team, we are one nation". He also reminded activists that the same people who had elected him to power in had also elected Kiir in the 2010 general elections.

"There is no point for people to go out and to demonstrate against the president's decision," he said. "We are still a team to save the nation - our aim in the party is to fulfill [the] expectations of the people of South Sudan," he added.

Youth leaders and women's representatives have expressed their disappointment over the dismissal of their elected governor.

Kiir announced on Tuesday he had appointed Major General Matur Chut as the state's caretaker governor. He was one of 35 top military officers removed from active military service and put on a reserve list in a separate decree broadcast on Monday on the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV)

Although no official reason has been given for Mayay's dismissal, senior government officials in Lakes state and Juba have linked the decision to recent sectional clashes in which a number of people lost their lives.

Rumbek central was among three counties in Lakes state affected by violent clashes between the Amothnhom and Panyon sections of the Dinka ethnic group earlier this month, with Mayay ordering the resumption of forceful disarmament following the surge in inter-clan hostilities.

The president's decree has drawn mixed reactions from politicians and the public in Lakes state and while some politicians welcomed the decision taken by the president, others objected to the governor's removal, describing it as unlawful.

Politicians themselves are also divided on the decision, with some in Lakes state accusing their counterparts in Juba of having deliberately misled the president on Mayay.

Philip Ater, a student, said many people were confused by the president's "unexpected" decision and that questions remain over who will be better to lead the state.

Ater said he had voted for Kiir in the previous national election because of his promises on "education and security of the people", adding that many of these remain unfulfilled, particularly in Lakes state.

Meanwhile, student unions in Kenya and Uganda have expressed anger towards the president, criticising the move as a "family decision made in Juba" without adequate and prior consultation with the people of Lakes state.

Mayay was controversially elected to the office in 2010 after winning official endorsement for his candidature by the country's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

He found overwhelming support at the ballot, winning 86.54% of validly counted votes after outlining an ambitious plan during the election campaign, promising quick reforms to improve health care facilities and tackle youth unemployment.

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