South Sudan Parliament Backs Removal of Lakes State Governor

Juba — South Sudan's parliament has backed a presidential decree removing Lakes state governor Chol Tong Mayay and appointing military officer Major General Matur Chut as interim governor until further arrangements are made.

The president's decision to relieve Mayay from his elected position following a series of violent inter-clan clashes in the state was also declared constitutional.

The president's decree broadcast on 21 January drew mixed reactions at the time, with some politicians welcoming the decision and others objecting to the governor's removal on the grounds it was unlawful.

However, member for parliament Ayen Maguat said under article 101 (r) of South Sudan's transitional constitution, the president has powers relieve an elected governor and declare a state of emergency in a particular state where insecurity is deemed a threat to national security.

Lakes state has been a flashpoint for cattle raids, robberies and inter-clan disputes, with Mayay's surprise dismissal linked to an outbreak of sectional clashes earlier this month which erupted in Rumbek central county, killing 25 people and injuring more than 30.

Maguat said the House supported the president's decision to appoint someone with a military background as caretaker governor, as well as the deployment of armed forces in key flashpoint areas "to take charge of the situation in preserving security and protecting [the] innocent civil population".

She said army and police forces should remain in control until such time when the president deems it necessary for the police to take over.

"We support plans that would give [the] president powers to determine the location of the deployment and define their missions," she said.

The House of Representatives has also voiced acceptance for forceful disarmament and called for the promotion of dialogue and strengthening of social justice systems, which it says will help build trust and harmony in the area.

Lakes state speaker of parliament John Marik said the House had paid its condolences to family members of the deceased and condemned the acts of violence in the strongest possible terms. The House also urged Lakes state politicians, intellectuals, as well as youth and women's groups to disengage themselves from fuelling such conflicts.

The legislator called for the formation of an independent committee to investigate the actual root causes of the continuous conflict. He suggested a panel of highly informed individuals on social matters with expertise in traditional approaches to work with opposing parties to reach a compromise on disagreements and move towards reconciliation and peace building.

Marik said the House was ready to cooperate and work together with the incoming caretaker governor.

"Institutions of government work together, so there is no problem in working with the new caretaker governor. Whether it is Chol Tong or whether it is John Marik, or whoever, there must be cooperation and working together as leaders from independent institutions. There are clear roles and functions defined by the constitution for each of the institutions," Marik told Sudan Tribune in an interview from Rumbek last week.

The conflicts between the various clans and tribes within Lakes and other neighbouring states may not end with disarmament, but identifying the actual root causes and addressing them will help the government to develop well-planned strategies, he explained.

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 over grazing land, with Mayay ordering the resumption of forceful disarmament prior to his dismissal.

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