By Isaac Vuni
February 25, 2009 (JUBA) – Members of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) debated yesterday’s fighting in Malakal, the northernmost state capital of the semi-autonomous region, accusing Khartoum of instigating the fighting.
The SPLM caucus secretary of greater Upper Nile, where Malakal is located, Hon. Bol Gatkouth, said SPLA is in full control of Malakal airport while the forces of Major General Gabriel Tang Ginya are being pursued in residential areas within Malakal.
Tang, a militia leader expelled from Malakal in 2006 after deadly clashes, fought SPLA elements yesterday following his unwelcome arrival Monday afternoon from Khartoum.
President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who was in the southern capital for a scheduled presidency meeting, ordered a high-level delegation to the flashpoint town led by South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar Teny. Machar previously led a Khartoum-backed faction which included Tang.
In press statement this afternoon, lawmakers from greater Upper Nile denounced Al-Bashir’s one day visit, claiming the presidency meeting was only a pretext to draw away the attentions of Government of South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and other concerned southern politicians while armed forces were busy launching the attack on Malakal.
Upon Al-Bashir’s arrival in Juba at 10 am Tuesday, national security forces barred even MPs and governments officials from driving or walking in streets as the president was due to pass through. The scheduled sitting of the August House was somewhat postponed.
Addressing the parliament today, Hon. Elias Biech wondered why Kiir failed to take Al-Bashir to Malakal to solve the attacks which the MP alleged were instigated against SPLA forces.
Hon. Biech further stressed that Tang Ginya is a general of Sudan Armed Forces, alleging that Tang held a secret meeting in a house in Khartoum with President Al-Bashir who then sent the militia leader to Malakal before coming to Juba. The move was an apparent effort to pressure the southern government into denouncing the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment against Al-Bashir, he said.
He further demanded that Al-Bashir should be held responsible for lives lost in Malakal and calls on the ICC to speedily intensify the arrest warrant on the president.
In an unrelated development, the chairman of the specialized committee of Security and Public Order, Hon. Daniel Deng Monydit, outlined resolutions on insecurity within Southern Sudan that had been in preparation since before the Malakal fighting this week.
Members were divided on whether to focus on reading the recommendations or approve suggested draft bills.
The number of MPs initially present was only 82, so Speaker James Wani Igga adjourned the sitting for 25 minutes until a quorum of 101 was attained.