South Sudan: Kiir Appoints New Environment Minister

Juba — South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has appointed Deng Deng Yai Hoc as the new environment minister, replacing Abdalla Deng Nhial, who was dismissed last week after reports emerged that he had been involved in a physical fight in parliament.

Prior to his appointment, Yai was under-secretary in the ministry of education. He has also held several other key positions, including executive director of the Anti-Corruption Commission and director for special programs in Kiir's office.

Yai was one of the few South Sudanese to go to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, Egypt, during the civil war with the north, where he pursued a university education before moving to London, where he lived until the end of the war.

Yai comes from Northern Bahr el Ghazal state's Aweil South county, and was among those politicians lobbying for a ministerial appointment after Kiir dissolved his entire cabinet in July.

His appointment as Nhial's successor has been cautiously welcomed by MPs.

While some see it as a well-deserved promotion, others have claimed he is too young for the position, an assertion his political allies say is not a "plausible argument".

"They say patience pays. That's what happened now, you did a lot for the national government", Tong Deng Anei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal's minister of health, said of Yai's appointment.

Yai's appointment comes after Kiir issued a presidential decree relieving Nhial from his position, effective from 26 November.

No reason has been given for the decision, although many believe it is related to his altercation with Gogrial West MP Machok Majong on the premises of the national parliament last week.

It's understood an argument between the pair over the contested Abyei region escalated, with Nhial slapping Majong.

Following the incident, Majong attempted to raise a motion in parliament, calling for a vote of no-confidence against the minister. Politicians from Warrap state, as well as a youth group, had also lobbied the president to take disciplinary action Nhial.

According to a report broadcast on the state-owned South Sudan Television, Kiir has also appointed Awan Guol Riak as the new minister at the presidency, ending months of intensive lobbying for the position among politicians from across South Sudan's 10 states.

Like Yai, Riak left Khartoum for Cairo during the civil war, later moving to Australia, where he lived until Sudan signed a peace agreement with the South, ending the more than two-decade-long conflict.

Like other South Sudanese, he returned to his home state of Lakes and became state security advisor to former governor Daniel Awet Akot, who later appointed him as his deputy.

Riak, who is originally from Rumbek East county, was removed as deputy governor after Chol Tong Mayay was elected governor in 2010.

He has a number of business interests in Rumbek, where owns a number of hotels and guesthouses, one of which was previously a governor's residence.

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