South Sudan’s main opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by First Vice President Riek Machar has condemned a decision by President Salva Kiir to dismiss the speaker of the Jonglei State legislative assembly, saying it was illegal.
Speaker Amer Ateny Alier had her appointment revoked in a decree issued Tuesday evening. No reasons were given for the revocation.
Puok Baluang, the opposition group’s director for information, said they are not happy with the decision and called on President Kiir to reconsider the revocation.
“First of all, it is true that the decision made by President Salva Kiir to revoke the appointment of Rt. Hon. Speaker Amer Ateny Alier was a unilateral decision. The SPLM-IO did not recommend that decision according to the 2018 Agreement,” Puok said. “Therefore, it is illegal and a great violation of the R-ARCSS. We condemn that decision.”
The official reiterated SPLM-IO’s commitment to implementing the 2018 deal and that his party leadership is engaging President Kiir over the stalemate.
“We urge the President to call back that decision and allow Rt. Hon. Speaker Amer continue discharging her position bearing in mind that the parliament is a crucial arm of the government. There is no justification given to us so far although the decision was wrong. Our party chairperson will try to meet the president today on the matter,” he said.
For her part, Amer Ateny Alier, the embattled speaker, said the revocation of her appointment was a surprise.
“My dismissal is a culmination of a long-running conflict between me and the Jonglei governor for standing for our people over the issues like unpaid salary arrears, his continued absentia in the state for months, and that of an impeached minister who still serves in defiance,” she charged.
“What surprises us in SPLM-IO is that there was no prior consent before the decree. If the president knows what is happening in Jonglei State, I believe he would stand with me for being a voice of the people,” Amer added.
Meanwhile, prominent civil society activist, Edmund Yakani, said the revocation of the appointment of Speaker Amer violates the 2018 deal and could erode trust among political leaders.
“That is a complete violation of the agreement because there was no consent of the party (SPLM-IO) and the consent of the party must take into account that of the party members within that constituency which is Jonglei State in this case because even Dr. Machar cannot decide to dismiss the speaker without getting the consent of SPLM-IO members in Jonglei,” he said.
Yakani said until the SPLM-IO consents to the decision, it should not be implemented and therefore called for a revocation of the decision.
Jonglei State Governor Denay Jock Chagor could not immediately be reached for comment.
In several presidential decrees read on the state-own South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) on Tuesday night, Kiir fired at least 15 senior state government officials in Unity and Jonglei States.