February 20, 2013 (JUBA) – The governor of South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, Simon Kun Puoc, on Wednesday called for unity within the leadership of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), a move seen as a direct response to president Salva Kiir asking him to reconcile with his political rivals.
A senior government source told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that South Sudan’s president has asked Governor Puoc to reverse his decision to expel the secretary-general at the SPLM branch office in Malakal, John Kor Dieu.
The Governor, who has a long-running political dispute with Dieu, was asked by President Salva Kiir, according to an anonymous presidential source, not to be influenced by emotions and to retract his decision to expel the party’s secretary-general.
“It is time we come together and be doing one thing. We must be united. Work together, holds our hands together because we have a lot of things to do together a head of us as leaders and as members of the SPLM”, Puoc told state-run South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Wednesday.
The Governor downplayed the significance of the current political crisis in Upper Nile, South Sudan’s northern most state, which borders Ethiopia and Sudan.
“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences peacefully. Together, we can do a lot of things. Our journey is not complete until when the economy of this country is our in hand. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to make use of our diversity in such a way that it becomes our strength. The people of Upper Nile and South Sudan at large need peace. They need better security and stability. They need development”, he stressed.
He described the people of his state as civilized because they do not hide their differences and they do not fight among themselves.
“Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. We must unite. And I must tell you why I like the people of Upper Nile. They are open. They do not hide things. They come out and tell you what they do not like. This is civilization and I called them civilized people because this is how people who are civilized do things”, Puoc said.
The Governor’s comments come after he has issued a series of contentious decrees, including closing state’s parliament and dismissing some Upper Nile MPs.
Puoc’s critics within the government issued a petitioned to President Kiir on Monday asking him to urgently resolve the political crisis in the state.
Twelve top officials in the central government signed the petition including the country’s Minister of National Security in the office of the president, General Oyay Deng Ajak, Deputy Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Ali Keta, Chairperson of Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Peter Lam Both and Ambassador Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol.
Members of parliament representing all of Upper Nile’s counties in the state at the National Legislative Assembly also backed the petition against Puoc.
Peter Gatkuot Hoth, a member of the SPLM, who is currently visiting Juba from Malakal, said he agreed with the way Upper Nile’s national and state-level leaders had approached highlighting their issues with the governor.
The way the Governor Puoc is running Upper Nile state “is not good” he said, as it “discourages unity of our people and I have said time and again this country will never move an inch of prosperity if it remains governed by the same people with the mentality that does not tolerate different opinion”.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday at the premise of the ministry of information and broadcast services, Hoth accused Governor Puoc of running the state as if he was in an island.
He expressed hope that Kiir sacks Puoc as he did the Governor of Lakes state last month for failing to contain cattle raiding and other violence. South Sudan’s constitution allows the President to sack governor’s if issues of national security is at stake.
Hoth said Upper Nile was “a great state” where the people are “open” and “peace loving” said citizens were “being let down by a weak governor”.
“He is the wrong man for these times. The president should remove him”, he said.
However, the head of the Upper Nile State Coordination office in Juba, Paul Biel Chuol, said that the officials who wrote to the president complaining about Puoc’s record should be isolated because they have an interest in destabilising the state government and cause insecurity in the area.
Chuol, in a letter addressed to the president on Tuesday, said the governor was right to expel the SPLM’s Secretary General from the state.
“We believe that the governor of Upper Nile State, Simon Kun Puoc did not violate any law. He acted according to the transitional constitution of the state under article 99 (1) which gives the governor the powers vested on him in the office to expel any[one] for security reason”, Chuol said in the letter, which Sudan Tribune has seen.
Chuol’s letter claims that article 99 (2) of the South Sudan’s transitional constitution gives the governor powers to preserve security in the state and therefore he was right to expel SPLM Secretary General in the state because he was involved in activities which created insecurity.
“The governor acted within the law. There is nothing he did outside the powers given to him by the law”, he explained.
The Governor and his supporters accuse Dieu of collaborating with South Sudan’s main opposition party – the SPLM-DC – to destabilise the state.
The SPLM-DC, which broke away from the former rebel movement in 2009, is regularly forced to deny allegations by the SPLM that it controls illegal militia groups backed by by Khartoum in order to destabilise the nation, from which the South seceded in 2011.
Dieu says that the Governor’s allegations are “nonsense” and have been “cooked up” as Puoc wants to run Upper Nile like his “personal property” without regard for the rule of law.
Thon Bol, a native of Melut, currently in Juba denied that it was legal to expel a person from their home state under South Sudan’s constitution.
“I am not aware of the existence of such a law. I do not think there is a law that allows governors in South Sudan to expel citizens from their own home state. Even the president cannot expel a citizen from his home country let alone state governor”, Bol told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday