August 31, 2011 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s parliament on Wednesday approved the country’s first cabinet since independence amid reservations from some MPs and regionally affiliated activist groups.
The make-up of the 29 member cabinet has also received mixed reception among some of South Sudan’s ten states, including the youth and political leaders from Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Bor in Jonglei state, who claimed they have been under-represented.
South Sudan’s President announced the new cabinet ministers and 27 deputies on 26 August, making a total of 56-cabinet members besides the President and his deputy.
Daniel Awet Akot, the Deputy Speaker of the national assembly who was chairing the parliamentary session, announced approval of the cabinet. This is in accordance with the provision of the transitional constitution that requires the legislative body to approve the appointed members of the cabinet before they could take oath of office. The session was attended by 210 MPs some of whom were named as part of the new cabinet.
Reservations where raised by opposition leader Onyoti Adigo Nyikwac with the backing of six members from South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Nyikwac is a member of SPLM for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) a splinter movement from the SPLM. Sudan Tribune witnessed Weu Kong Koyang (independent), Benjamin Bol (SPLM-DC) Mary Kiden (SPLM) abstain from voting.
A member of parliament told the Sudan Tribune that there was not much debate, disagreement or reservations made in the House during the presentation of the list of names to the SPLM dominated parliament.
He said this is because the real debate took place before the parliament session among the members of the SPLM caucus during which, he explained, MPs representing constituencies from several states including the host state of Central Equatoria complained of under-representation in the new cabinet.
The MPs of the SPLM caucus also criticised the lack of consultations within the party in the process of nominations. They said the President instead informally consulted with unimportant individuals and not the SPLM as an institution.
They also initially demanded that the President should first show them the list of 13 ministers believed to be involved in corruption so that the parliament could make sure that their appointments are not endorsed.
However, the ruling party’s caucus finally compromised their position, he added, and decided to approve all the appointed ministers and their deputies during the parliament sitting on Wednesday despite the concerns about their involvement in corruption.
The parliament last week also endorsed the appointments of the new Governor of the Bank of South Sudan and the President of the Supreme Court of South Sudan, who took oath of office over the weekend.
After the approval of the appointed new cabinet on Wednesday, the ministers and their deputies are expected to be sworn in by Thursday.
OLD AND NEW FACES
Of the 31 ministers from the previous administration 11 remain in the new cabinet. Eight ministers retain their portfolios, three were demoted, nine have been dropped altogether.
Nine ministers are new or have been shuffled from the power sharing Government of National Unity in Khartoum, which was established in 2005 as part of the North-South peace agreement.
Among those who have been retained in their old ministries are John Luke Jok (Justice); Michael Makuei Lueth (Parliamentary Affairs); Ms Awut Deng (Labour); Jemma Nunu (Housing); Marial Benjamin (Information); Paul Mayom Akec (Water & Irrigation); Ms Agnes Lasuba (Gender); and Madut Biar Yel (Telecommunication & Postal Services).
Of those recycled or transferred to different ministries are Nhial Deng Nhial, Deng Alor Kuol, Gen. Oyay Deng Ajak, Kosti Manibe, Garang Diing Akuong, Dr. Michael Milly, Gier Chuang Aluong, Stephen Dhieu Dau, Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, Ustaz Joseph Ukel Abango and David Deng Athorbei.
The three politicians demoted from their full ministerial or higher positions into deputies or lower ranks are Dr. Majak Agoot (South Sudan National Security); Mary Jarvis Yak (Human Resource Development) and Dr. Priscilla Nyanyang (Minister without Portfolio).
Those who have been dropped completely include Pagan Amum (Peace and CPA Implementation); Dr. Luka Monoja (Health); Dr. Ann Itto (Agriculture); Anthony Makana (Roads and Transport); Isaac Awan Maper (Environment); James Kok (Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management); Abdallah Albert (Wildlife Conservation and Tourism); Nyaluk Gatluak (Animal Resources and Fisheries); and Makuac Teny Youk (Youth, Sports and Recreation).
The new faces in the cabinet among ministers and their deputies include John Kong Nyuon, Gen. Alison Magaya, Dr. Betty Achan, Dr. Adwok Nyaba, Afred Lado, Agnes Poni, Emmanuel Lowila and Atem Yaak Atem just to mention but few.
Regionally there are 10 full ministers and 10 deputies from Greater Bahr el Ghazal; 9 full ministers and 11 deputies from Greater Upper Nile; and 10 full ministers and 6 deputies from Greater Equatoria. In terms of full ministerial portfolios, this translates into 34.5% for Greater Bahr el Ghazal, 31% Greater Upper Nile and 34.5% for Greater Equatoria.
In the most recent national census South Sudan’s population was divided between Greater Bahr el Ghazal 33%; Greater Upper Nile 35%; and Greater Equatoria 32%.
At the state level; Jonglei has 5 national ministers and 5 deputy ministers; Upper Nile 4 ministers and 3 deputies; Unity 0 ministers and 3 deputies; Warrap 4 ministers and 6 deputies; Western Bahr el Ghazal 2 ministers and 2 deputies; Northern Bahr el Ghazal state 2 ministers and 0 deputies; Lakes 2 ministers and 2 deputies; Western Equatoria 3 ministers and 1 deputy; Central Equatoria 5 ministers and 3 deputies and Eastern Equatoria 2 ministers and 2 deputies.
These numbers indicate that Jonglei, Warrap and Central Equatoria states have been allocated more seats in the cabinet relative to other states within their respective greater regions, population size notwithstanding. While Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states have been proportionally marginalised in comparison to other sister states within their respective greater regions, notwithstanding the population size.
OPPOSITION AND GENDER
President Kiir promised citizens on July 9 when he took oath that he would select a lean and a broad-based government but only 4 full ministers and 5 deputy ministers are non-SPLM members.
South Sudan’s largest opposition party, the SPLM-DC – a splinter movement from the SPLM – has no representation in the cabinet. The United Democratic Party also has no representatives.
Some of women activists have said that there are not enough women in the cabinet. The interim constitution of South Sudan (2005-2011) gave women 25% share in any structural arrangement including the cabinet positions. Of the 29 full ministers and the 27 deputies, there are 5 full national ministers and 10 deputies representing women in the government.
Garang Guot Mawien, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that although he appreciates regional representation he believes some states were underrepresented.
However, Mawien said that South Sudan’s first cabinet since it became an independent republic has attempted to address the issue of regional balance, which has been a source of dissatisfaction since a 2005 peace deal granted autonomy to the region.
He said that it set a “a very good precedent” to allocate the key ministries of “defence, interior, finance, foreign affairs, justice, agriculture, education… fairly” to various regions.
“This for me was a fair distribution of all the key positions meant to preserve national unity”, Mawien said.