7 February 2014

South Sudan: President Declares Two Top Party Positions Vacant

Juba — President Salva Kiir Mayardit the chairperson of South Sudan's ruling party - Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - has declared two senior positions are now vacant after weeks of conflict triggered by party infighting.

One of the positions in question is that of deputy chairperson, Riek Machar Teny who is currently leading a rebellion - known as the SPLM/A in Opposition - against the government. The other position, which is vacant, according to Kiir, is that of the party secretary-general previously held by Pagan Amum Okiech.

Amum was dismissed at the same time as Machar for alleged corruption and other charges and now faces treason charges for alleged involvement in coup attempt.

This announcement comes as the government said it holds former SPLM vice-president accountable of treason and will be tried for organising a rebellion against the legitimate leadership of the country.

Kiir's remarks also confirm statements made by the information minister Michael Makuei Lueth who told the Arabic language Asharq Alwsat on Thursday that the SPLM Liberation Council recommended to sack Machar from the ruling party and the parliament.

In his announcement Kiir did not name any immediate replacements.

The president said he would decide on the status of membership of members of the SPLM National Liberation Council - the party's highest decision making body - and members of parliament who have defected to the SPLM/A in Opposition in protest against the killing of civilians in Juba, allegedly at the hands of soldiers from South Sudan's army (SPLA) loyal to the president Salva Kiir.

It remains unclear who he will name as Machar's replacement as first deputy chairperson, although many have speculated that the current second vice chairperson, James Wani Igga could be promoted to the post. Igga was appointed as Machar's successor for the position of Vice-President of South Sudan in August.

The acting SPLM secretary-general, Anne Ito, also appears interested in becoming the next secretary-general should the leadership endorse her bid, but it is not guaranteed.

Multiple party officials have expressed a need to ensure an equitable regional distribution of power in all the SPLM's structures across South Sudan's three regions. Kiir is from Bahr el Ghazal, while Igga hails from Equatoria.

"I don't know what criteria the leadership would use to make appointments into these positions which the chairman had declared vacant. But I guess the appointment would reflect regional distribution of power and resources in all the structures" said a senior SPLM member on conditions of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such matter with the press, on Friday.

"If comrade James Wani Igga [who is from Equatoria] takes the position of the first deputy chairperson to replace Riek Machar, then the position of the Secretary-General will definitely be given to the people of Upper Nile region to fill. If this reading becomes the criteria, then I think comrade Anne Ito may definitely not be able to become the Secretary General", he added.

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