October 11, 2012 (JUBA) - South Sudan has issued a “stern” warning to the country’s main opposition party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) - asserting that it could be banned from registration if it does not clear itself of allegations that it provides support to armed dissidents fighting the government.
- SPLM-DC chairman, Lam Akol (Reuters)
“Party politics is open. Anybody can create a party as they wish,” Vice President Riek Machar said in a speech in the US on 6 October, explaining that he has told SPLM-DC members that if Lam Akol is still their leader and allegations that he is supporting armed rebels are true he will not be able to register, “because the law says, no party will have an army.”
During a Diaspora meeting in his visit to Nebraska, Machar stressed the need for political parties to adhere to constitutional requirements.
Akol was a high-ranking member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army rebels which fought the Khartoum government until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, paving the way for South Sudanese independence in 2011.
Both Machar and Akol split from the SPLA in 1991 but rejoined the movement before the peace deal, which saw the SPLM - the political wing of the SPLA - form a unity government with Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party.
Akol served as Sudan’s minister of foreign affairs in the SPLM-NCP Government of National Unity from 2005 until 2007. Two years later he formed the SPLM-DC to compete against the SPLM in 2010 general elections.
As the only candidate to stand against incumbent President Salva Kiir, Akol received 7.01% of the vote. The SPLM-DC won 2 of the 170 seats in the National Assembly making the SPLM-DC officially South Sudan’s largest opposition party.
Since the election the SPLM-DC and more specifically Lam Akol has been repeatedly linked with armed rebel groups by the SPLM and national army the SPLA. Akol has previously threatened to take SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum, who is also from the Shilluk ethnic group in Upper Nile State, to court over the allegations.
After South Sudan’s independence in July last year Akol held and reconciliation summit in Nairobi and Akol breifly returned to Juba but the allegations resurfaced.
Talking to South Sudanese in the US, Machar called upon those in contact with Akol to ask him to come forward and clear his name.
The Vice President added that the SPLM-DC registration as a political party would be revoked if there was substantial evidence that accusations were true. Machar, who is the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM, denied claims that Akol is being threatened.
“Nobody is threatening Lam, but Lam is being accused of supporting armed rebellions and by law, if you raise arms against state, you’re committing treason,” he explained.
The SPLM-DC’s Acting Secretary General, Sisto Olur Erista, in a press release extended to Sudan Tribune on 10 October, said it was not the first time senior members of the governing SPLM have accused the opposition of supporting armed dissidents.
Erista claimed that such allegations have persisted since the inception of the SPLM-DC in 2009 and that they are a “convenient tool” for the SPLM “to intimidate our would-be supporters and scare off some weak-kneed members of the party.”
He also said that Machar’s remarks should be reserved for a court of law as they currently suggest a presumption of guilt, “which runs counter to our accepted principle of justice that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”