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S. Sudan’s Kiir appoints Marial new foreign affairs minister

July 27, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir has issued a republican order appointing Barnaba Marial Benjamin as the country’s new foreign affairs minister.

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A file photo where President Salva Kiir shakes hands with minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Photo Moses L. Lomayat)

Marial, the ex-information minister replaces Nhial Deng Nhial who was removed together with his counterparts in Tuesday’s cabinet dissolution.

Marial’s lone appointment was triggered by the vacuum created, which has paralyzed contacts on foreign relations as well as with the country’s diplomatic missions abroad.

The former government spokesperson recently volunteered to explain to the public, through media, the constitutional rights of the president to relieve the cabinet; a stance believed to have earned him trust for the position.

He may now try to establish contacts with the outside world and further explain the situation.

Marial is admired by the general public for the role he played in the conduct of the referendum he ensure that both international and local media gets full access to cover the event without difficulties.

The public is also happy with him for playing another active national role during South Sudan army’s brief military confrontation with their Sudanese counterparts over territorial claim of Heglig/Panthou in April last year.

In a separate matter, Kiir has also issued another order adding two members to the five-member committee that is tasked with investigating the suspended SPLM secretary-general, Pagan Amum.

The Human Rights Commission chairperson, Lawrence Korbandy, and former parliamentary affairs minister Michael Makuei have been included on the committee, bringing the total number of investigating members to seven.

The order was read on the national television on Saturday, with Marial the first minister to be named following the reshuffle.

The president issued a decree on Tuesday removing his long-time vice-president, Riek Machar and the entire country’s cabinet.

According to media reports, deep divisions in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have delayed the formation of the next cabinet and left a power vacuum since Kiir’s announcement.

There has also been fears political uncertainty in the country could spark unrest in different parts of the country, with extra troops deployed around the capital, Juba.

In a joint statement issued earlier this week, the African Union Commission, Canada, the intergovernmental Authority on Development, along with Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States called for calm, urging leaders in the country to expedite the formation of a new cabinet.

AMUM TO CHALLENGE DECISION

Kiir’s newly-appointed committee will probe allegations that Amum made comments inciting tribal sentiments in the country after he criticised a presidential order that lifted the immunity of cabinet affairs minister Deng Alor Kuol and his finance counterpart Kosti Manibe Ngai.

The duo have been implicated in a questionable $8 million transfer for the purchase of fire safety equipment without the president’s knowledge or authorisation.

Amum is also accused of using the public media to discredit the party and its leadership, as well as impeding the proper functioning of party structures.

Amum said he intends to challenge the decision, saying his suspension and the pending investigation is a violation of the ruling party’s charter.

In an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, he stressed any issue with his performance should be handled directly by the chairman of the party, the political bureau or the Liberation Council.

It is still not known who will replace Machar, although a number of potential candidates have been named publicly, with speaker of the parliament James Wani Igga, former head of the National Congress Party (NCP) in South Sudan Riek Gai Kok, former justice minister John Luk Jok and the current chief of general staff, James Hoth Mai among those touted for the position.

The former vice-president’s removal came after he recently declared his intention to contest the party’s leadership at the 2015 presidential elections.

CALL FOR NOMINEES

According to a statement published on the South Sudanese government’s official website, Kiir held a consultative meeting on Saturday with the leaders of South Sudan’s 17 political parties, during which he briefed leaders on the current political situation in the country.

The statement said each of the party leaders had been asked to submit a list of three nominees, from which the president will select whom he believes is fit to be given a portfolio in the coming government.

Kiir assured the country’s political leaders, the incoming government will be an inclusive, representative and gender sensitive government.

They leaders of the South Sudanese political forces congratulated the president for peacefully managing the political situation in the country and particularly for his decision to reduce the cabinet to 19.

"Political party leaders expressed sincere gratitude to the president for consulting them on formation of the coming new government, which they say shows democratic governance", the statement said.

(ST)