Kiir’s remarks on SPLM were “misinterpreted”, says minister
November 17, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, has said that media reports last week that the country’s president has dissolved structures of the ruling party (SPLM) were misinterpreted and taken out of context.
On Friday, Sudan Tribune reported that Salva Kiir, also the SPLM chairperson had dissolved the party’s highest executive organ, Political Bureau (PB) as well as the National Liberation Council (NLC), when he argued that the structures have been “illegitimate” and “outdated” since May this year.
The president made these remarks during Friday’s opening of the SPLM leadership house in the capital, Juba, at which he verbally announced that his office and the party secretariat would be the only ones to continue functioning.
A committee, he added, would be formed to start reorganising the historical party from grass roots.
“I want to say something about our structures. SPLM structures are not functioning. And we must accept that. We were supposed to hold the convention in May this year. Was it not the end of the 5 years? Do you think that today the structures still have the legitimacy to continue functioning? No, SPLM has dissolved itself alone”, Kiir said.
“Only office of the chairman is the one not dissolved, nobody can dissolve it. Now I have all the powers to set up a committee to start reorganization from the grass root. When we talk about the National Liberation Council, or we talk about the Political Bureau, all these things are outdated. Even you in the secretariat; but now you the secretariat are caretakers to continue the duty of SPLM until when you are replaced or until when you are reappointed,” he added.
However, in a statement he issued on the state-run SSTV on Sunday, Makuei had his own interpretation, implying that the president’s message was simply misunderstood.
“The chairman of the SPLM stated that yes last May we were supposed to have our convention. And since we have not done our convention up to now, so all the institutions of the party which should have been elected by now are operational outside their official period. So, he said ultimately we will dissolve these institutions”, the minister said.
“And we will only continue to operate with the secretariat general until that time when we set up a body; a secretariat that will actually begin the preparation for the third national convention”, he added.
The president, Makuei stressed, never said he had the dissolved the party’s institutions, contrary to what the media reported.
“So, it is premature for us to conclude that he has dissolved them. But he will dissolve them not just like that but by an order which he will issue as the chairman of the party”, explained the minister.
He, however, made it clear that the action to dissolve the party structures or institutions was imminent only that the chairman had not yet effected it, pending re-organizational activities.
Makuei, who is the government spokesperson, urged journalists to “respect journalistic code of conduct and understand media ethics”.
Observers wonder why it was the government’s spokesperson, and not that of the party who reacted to the statement attributed to the SPLM chairman, when he did not speak as the president of the country.
Reacting on the same matter, Daniel Awet Akot, a member of the party’s Political Bureau told Sudan Tribune that the president was only “making a reference”, but not that all SPLM structures were dissolved.
The delay to convene the party’s national convention, he said, was due “to lack of funds and other pressing national commitments”, which he did not specify.
“Calling [a] convention involves a lot of things. It needs resources and the members, but you know that the leadership has never had time. Most of the members including our chairman, comrade Salva Kiir Mayardit, have been busy all this time”, Akot said on Saturday.
“He [Kiir] has been frequently traveling to foreign countries to engage them to support peaceful resolution of the issues we have not resolved with Sudan after secession”, he added.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity, a senior member of the secretariat said the core issue was not whether the chairman had already dissolved the structures or wants to dissolve them, but rather is about his violation of the party constitution which does not give him such a power to dissolve the structures single-handedly.
“From where would the chairman derive his legitimacy to remain in office if the structures he chaired were illegitimate as he alleged?” he asked, saying Kiir’s term in office as party chairman became illegitimate in May.
Kiir’s statement on dissolution of structures also prompted criticisms from his senior colleagues, including the former vice-president, Riek Machar, who described the president’s action as a “violation” of the party constitution.
Machar, who is also the SPLM deputy chairperson, said Kiir had no constitutional power to dissolve the party structures, adding that structures should continue to operate until the National Liberation Council, scheduled for 23 November, is held.