The South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar has written a letter asking President Salva Kiir to reverse his decision sacking Unity state governor Taban Deng suggesting that this was done in violation of the country’s constitution.
Kiir issued a surprise decree on Sunday firing Deng without providing reasons and appointed Joseph Nguen Minytuil as Unity state’s caretaker governor.
Even though Deng is an elected official, Kiir invoked his powers under article 101(r) of South Sudan’s constitution which allows him to to remove a state Governor and/or dissolve a state Legislative Assembly in the event of threats to national security or territorial integrity but stipulates that a fresh elections be organised within 60 days.
VP Machar disclosed that he was not consulted but heard it on TV and challenged his boss’s assessment with regards to the security situation in the Unity state
“I was in Unity state on June 29th, 2013, there is no insecurity that threatens national security and territorial integrity in Unity state, instead Governor Taban Deng Gai and his government was very instrumental in bringing about peace and stability to the state,” Machar said in a letter dated July 7th.
“He [Deng] was solely responsible for the coming and acceptance of your timely pardon by the armed group of General Bapiny Monytuel Wicjang who abandoned opposition against the government of the Republic of South Sudan last May”, the letter reads in part.
The Vice President reminded the president that Governor Deng has won the 2010 general elections and has the same legitimacy as Kiir before the constitution and his people of Unity state.
Ironically, during the April 2010 elections Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny ran against Deng who was also the incumbent governor but the latter ended up winning by a small margin.
The now appointed caretaker was in Teny’s camp during these elections.
Machar also expressed “deep concern “that dismissal of the elected governor might heighten tension and aggravate prevailing state of insecurity in the country that may lead to political instability”.
“I urge you to live to your constitutional obligation to diligently and honestly discharge your duties and responsibilities in a consultative manner to foster the development and welfare of the people of South Sudan, promote the unity of the people of South Sudan and consolidate the democratic decentralized system of government and preserve the integrity and dignity of the people of South Sudan,” Machar said.
The Vice President implored upon Kiir to reverse his decision warning that absent of any objective reasons will be seen as politically motivated.
“In order to preserve the integrity of our new nation and avoid crisis, I urge you to rescind your decision. It was in the same election that your good-self was elected as President of the Government of Southern Sudan. As such, your action of relieving an elected governor is seen politically motivated and more importantly it is a violation of our constitution”, said Machar.
It is unlikely that president Kiir will heed to the advice carried in the letter from his deputy as he has already proceeded with the swearing in of the new governor.
Machar’s letter is latest sign of growing rift between Kiir and senior officials in his government and ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM).
The VP has stepped up his criticism of president Kiir accusing him of incompetence and failure to lead the state which came two life exactly two years ago.
He also went as far as urging the first president of South Sudan to step down.
“To avoid authoritarianism and dictatorship, it is better to change. Our time is limited now. I have been serving under Salva Kiir. I do my best serving under him. I think it is time for a change now” Machar told the Guardian interview in an interview.
Prior to that the VP has made his intentions clear to run against Kiir in 2015 during closed door meetings of the SPLM.
Unity state ex-governor appeared to say that his removal is due to suspicion by Kiir that he is backing Machar for presidency.
“Recently when I went to America the President was suspicious that I had meetings with American government that I’m pushing for Riek Machar election”, Gai told the congregation” Deng said on Monday adding that Machar is free to contest for the leadership of South Sudan if he wants.
Last month, Kiir also suspended the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor and minister of Finance and Economic Planning Kosti Manibe for alleged corruption over request and transfer of nearly $8 million to an account abroad without authorization from relevant higher institutions.
Both men denied the charges and suggested their suspension was driven by politics.
On Friday SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum also accused Kiir of targeting the two ministers for political reasons.
“The Minister who approved the transferred amount is different, how can you withdraw the immunity of Kosti and leave the person who decided and signed the transfers? I agree with Kosti that the issue was political,” Amum said.
All the four big shots who were impacted by the president’s recent actions are also members of the now 21-member of the highest organ of the SPLM, the Political Bureau.
Adding to Kiir’s woes was a public letter sent to him by ‘Friends of South Sudan’ in the US, who were staunch supporters of Juba during its struggle for independence from Khartoum, expressing their concern about the deteriorating political situation and human rights abuses.
Machar also expressed concern three months ago that since the removal of the elected governor of Lakes state, Chol Tong Mayay six months ago, the constitutional 60 days for the military caretaker governor, Maj. Gen. Matur Chut Dhuol had elapsed for a very long time.
In a letter he wrote to the president on 13th May 2013, the vice-president rang an early warning to his president about the constitutional violations in respect to non organization of elections in the state.
“I believe the main issue is the status of the Care-Taker Governor. I think your comradeship will either relieve him and re-appoint him or re-instate the elected governor Chol Tong Mayay to avoid the looming constitutional crisis,” Machar told the president, citing a petition written to the president on the matter by a number of former constitutional post-holders in Lakes state.
The South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) faction that signed a peace deal with Juba hailed Kiir’s decision saying it is “profoundly delighted” for the appointment of Wicjang.
“It should be recalled that the mismanagement of the affairs of the Unity state by the former governor was responsible for rebellions which threatened national security of South Sudan. The failure of the former Unity State government to pursue developmental policies anchored on peace were responsible for widespread insecurity in Lakes and Warrap States. The prevalent of cattle rustling which arrested development in three states of Warrap, Lakes and Unity was caused by decadence of leadership of the former governor of Unity State” SSLA statement read.
“The appointment of Dr. Nguen Monytuil will bring permanent peace in Unity, Lakes and Warrap states and shall put to end the insecurity in Unity State which usually threatens the national security of South Sudan. It should be seriously noted that a threat to peace in Unity State is also a threat to peace in the entire South Sudan. As one of the oil producing states of South Sudan, any insecurity in Unity State could jeopardize the economic progress of South Sudan” SSLA added.
The incoming caretaker governor, who was the former national minister of health in Juba, is the brother of the recently pardoned rebel leader Maj. Gen. Bapiny Minytuil Wicjang, based in Unity state.
But some in the state expressed dismay at Kiir’s decree.
Gatkuoth Bol, a citizen of Unity state in Juba told Sudan Tribune that it was clear the president’s action was politically motivated and unconstitutional questioning the timing of it.
“You see this is purely politics. When Unity state was in crisis years ago and we the citizens of that state were crying to the president to remove governor Taban Deng even before the elections, the president himself was just laughing at us and ignoring our plea simply because Taban by then was his best friend,” Bol said.
“The president is wrong to abuse his powers by removing leaders who were elected in the same manner he was elected. He has been quoting wrong and unnecessary provisions in the transitional constitution which do not apply to the situation under which an elected governor should be removed. And even to make it worse the president has further violated the very constitution which gives a caretaker governor only 60 days in office with the only mandate to organize elections. But the president is now letting a caretaker governor stay in office indefinitely without people’s popular mandate such as in the case of Lakes state’s caretaker governor,” Gatkuoth further decried.
He also blamed what he called the “sitting duck” national legislature for allowing the president to continue to violate the transitional constitution with impunity by removing officials at will based on his own political perceptions without any intervention from the lawmakers.
“The leaderships of the national legislature are very weak and there is no capable judicial system in place to check on the actions of the president. Members in these institutions have proved to be money-makers who have nothing to do about the future of the people they allege to represent,” he said.
He also alleged that the president’s intention was to cause a division within the people of Unity state, advising that governor Taban Deng should accept to step down and provide a free entrance for the caretaker governor Joseph Nguen Minytuil, in order to avoid the intended internal crisis in the state.
Another citizen of Unity state from Bul-Nuer section where the incoming caretaker governor hails from said if Kiir’s intention was to cause a rift in Unity state between the Bul-Nuer and the rest he was wrong.
The Bul-Nuer section has been at odd with the citizens of Warrap state as they share a common border.