19 February 2013

Sudan: South Sudan's Kiir Seeks to Contain Growing Political Crisis in Upper Nile State

Juba — South Sudan's president has asked Upper Nile state's governor Simon Kun Puoc to reverse the expulsion of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement's (SPLM) Secretary General at the branch office in the state, a move seen as an attempt to resolve a simmering political dispute between the two officials, according to a senior government source.

The presidential source, who spoke to Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity, also quoted Kiir as calling on the governor not to be influenced by emotions and to retract his decision to expel SPLM SG John Kor Dieu.

He also asked for the reversal of a number of other contentious decrees, including the closure of the state assembly and dismissal of parliament members.

In a letter dated 28 January 2013, which was copied to various senior figures in the ruling party, the governor asked Dieu to leave Upper Nile state within 72 hours, warning that he would face severe consequences if he failed to do so.

"Call and sit down with him so that you resolve it peacefully. Do not let other things be added. I have been told that the secretary-general has already asked you to resolve it. I think this is the way it should be handled, just retract [the decision] so that it avoids creating tension", Kiir reportedly told Puoc.

The president is said to have given the advice at a meeting with Puoc on Tuesday, during which he was briefed on the general situation in the state and measures being taken by the state administration.

Speaking to reporters shortly after meeting Kiir on Tuesday in Juba, Puoc said he had briefed the president on security and other issues, including construction of a road linking South Sudan with neighbouring Ethiopia from Fangak, food production in the area and internal administrative matters.

Puoc acknowledged that Kiir had asked him to retract his decision regarding the secretary-general before adding that the matter was related to internal administrative issues which he did not want to discuss with the media.

"These are administrative issues. We will [keep] them as administrative matters and I believe a solution will be found. They will be addressed", Puoc told reporters, without providing further details.

Attempts to expel Dieu came after the governor accused him of collaborating with members of the country's main opposition party - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) - to destabilise the state.

The SPLM frequently accuse the SPLM-DC, which broke away from the former rebel movement in 2009, of being backed by the government of neighbouring Sudan, from which the South seceded in 2011.

In an interview with Sudan Tribune earlier this month, Dieu said the governor's allegations against him were "nonsense" and had been "cooked up", adding that Puoc wants to run Upper Nile like his "personal property" and had no regard for the rule of law.

The state governor is yet to react to an ultimatum by senior government officials giving him four conditions to resolve the conflict in a reasonable period of time, otherwise they will recommend his removal to the president.

Among those on Monday to petition the president to intervene, in what has been described as a crisis in the state, were South Sudan's minister of national security in the office of the president, General Oyay Deng Ajak, chairperson of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Peter Lam Both, deputy minister of water resources and irrigation Ali Keta, ambassador Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol.

Members of parliament in the National Legislative Assembly in Juba representing different counties in the state were also on the list of top-level government officials calling for immediate intervention by the president and accusing the governor of unilaterally closing the state parliament and dismissing the heads of specialised committees and the deputy speaker without legal basis.

"If the governor cannot comply, we would be left with no option but recommend his [dismissal] from the state before [the] situation could escalate further", the letter which Sudan Tribune has seen reads in part. Some of the conditions which the president is asked to address include:

• Resolving the problems in Upper Nile between the governor and SPLM secretariat

• Reinstating of chairpersons of the specialised committee who were dismissed by the governor and deputy speaker without due process of the law.

• Reinstating of the government chief whip in the state parliament.

• And withdrawal of his letter ordering the SPLM secretary to leave the state within 72 hours.

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