The leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), Dr. Lam Akol, has indicated his willingness to engage in bilateral talks with President Salva Kiir and other parties concerning the upcoming elections.
Implementation of the 2018 peace agreement has been slow, and the opposing forces have frequently disagreed over how to share power.
In August 2022, the parties agreed to extend the transitional government’s time in office for another two years, meaning elections would be held in December 2024.
Speaking to reporters in Juba on Thursday, Dr. Lam, who recently returned to South Sudan, said that all options are under consideration, including the potential for bilateral talks with President Kiir’s SPLM party as part of the preparations for the elections.
When presented with the idea of Kiir proposing him as a running-mate for the forthcoming elections, Dr. Lam Akol diplomatically remarked, “Also, this is a question of cooperation between the parties. You cannot ask me [to be your running-mate in a presidential election] if we did not agree on how to cooperate. Our mission now is to talk to the parties, either individually or collectively, who have signed the peace agreement.”
He further noted that the decision on cooperation between political parties needs to be addressed before any specific roles are discussed.
Responding to speculations about the presence of the Minister of Presidential Affairs at Dr. Lam Akol’s reception at Juba International Airport, the NDM leader clarified, “First of all, regarding the reception, my party people from NDM were also there. Maybe you did not see them because you wanted to see the minister.”
Dr. Lam Akol also explained the protocol of informing President Kiir about his return, stating, “I cannot come into the country without informing the president because he is the head of the government.” He expressed gratitude for the welcoming gesture extended by the president, emphasizing the collaborative aspect of their roles as signatories to the peace agreement.
Upon his return, Dr. Lam Akol held discussions with President Salva Kiir, during which they explored three key areas of focus. Dr. Lam highlighted the potential for their involvement in bridging the gap between different political parties and fostering unity.
The upcoming 2024 elections were also a crucial topic of discussion. Dr. Lam stressed the necessity of creating a conducive environment for the elections and the importance of dialogue among competing parties to ensure a peaceful process.
Addressing his NDM political party’s stance, Dr. Lam Akol pointed out, “For us as NDM, the government of national unity should not continue to be seen as [comprising] ministers from various parties.” He emphasized that individuals nominated to the government become part of the Reconstituted Transitional Government of National Unity, serving the collective interest rather than their respective party affiliations.
Regarding his potential candidacy, Dr. Lam Akol responded, “We have not yet arrived at that.” He underlined the need to focus on creating a conducive atmosphere for the elections before discussing candidacy matters. He affirmed that decisions such as selecting a flag bearer would be made through a democratic process within the party.
“A conducive environment starts with the parties understanding each other better, being able to talk and discuss their differences. That is the start of everything. We should create a situation where each and every person is free to go anywhere in South Sudan in order to propagate and disseminate their message as a party or as a person or as a journalist,” he said.
“You should be able to go to Nimule and hear what the people say and report it without somebody censoring you. These two things do not need any money and they don’t need any law, but they are vital for any atmosphere for elections. And this is actually seen by the common person that everybody is free. Then if you now tell them that there will be elections, they will believe you. But if you have some members of the SPLM-IO going to Aweil and they are chased, and you have members of SPLM-IG going to Fangak and they are chased away, this cannot be the atmosphere for elections,” he concluded.