SPLM factions hold joint meeting: ’28 states issue will not derail this peace’
South Sudanese ruling party officials yesterday received members of the breakaway faction SPLM-IO at SPLM House in Juba, praising the meeting as a step toward peace and reunification of the party riven by two years of civil war.
The joint meeting between the Advance Team of the SPLM-in-Opposition and the Secretariat of the SPLM-in-Government (SPLM-Juba) was chaired by the Acting Secretary-General Jemma Nunu Kumba.
Speaking to press after the meeting, both Nunu Kumba and the leader of the SPLM-IO delegation Taban Deng reaffirmed the commitment of their party to the peace agreement signed in August as well as the Arusha Agreement on Reunification of the SPLM.
Jemma Nunu Kumba described the meeting as a sign that “SPLM is coming back together”
“On behalf of the SPLM General Secretariat we are very happy this afternoon to receive the team leader of the advance team of the [SPLM] IO that has visited the SPLM House to report officially after being away for two years,” she said.
“On the 6th of December 2013, this is the very venue where the opposition was declared. Today we are happy that at the same venue the team has come back to say what was declared on the 6th of December has come to an end and they are serious about the unity of the party so that the country could be united again to move this country into a better future.”
She was referring to meetings prior to the civil war in which several SPLM leaders who would later establish the armed SPLM-IO faction and non-armed SPLM-G10 objected to the leadership of Chairman Salva Kiir and sought his removal through a party convention. Kiir later put on trial for treason several of these party leaders and sent troops to attack the home of Riek Machar, the leader of the intra-party opposition.
According to Nunu Kumba, however, Kiir is now committed to the reunification of the party per the terms of the Arusha Reunification Agreement and to the IGAD peace deal signed in August.
She clarified, “In this meeting we have talked about the commitment of all the groups to the implementation of the two agreements. We have also agreed to meet as the tripartite committee of the Arusha Agreement soon to finalize the incorporation of the Arusha Agreement in the SPLM Constitution so that we can be able to hold our extraordinary national convention. which is due early next month to pass the basic documents with all that we agreed in Arusha.”
Taban Deng: ’28 states issue will not derail this peace’
Taban Deng, leader of the SPLM-IO Advance Team and a former governor of Unity state, told journalists that his group was concerned about the recent decree by President Salva Kiir breaking up the country’s ten states into 28 states.
But he said this would not halt implementation of the peace agreement. “Of course we have concerns, as one part of the SPLM, because that was not discussed [by the party].”
He noted that his own party had proposed dividing the country into 21 states but had put this proposal on hold during peace talks at the request of Kiir’s own negotiators.
“You recall that when we started negotiating in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar, the quest for federal arrangements in the country was championed by SPLM-in-Opposition, but we have been advised by our comrades by the SPLM-in-Government, let us suspend all this quest for immediate implementation of federalism until when we go for the making of our permanent constitution. We have discussed this with the Secretariat here, and they have taken note of it. The SPLM as a party will discuss it once we come to the process of making the incorporation of the [peace] agreement in the constitution.”
Taban continued, “You will recall that the agreement is signed on the basis of 10 states – not 28 states, not even 21 states – but a wise member of the SPLM said today in this house that what is important are not the documents that are signed, what is important is that the SPLM cadres and SPLM leadership that will know what is [good] for the country.”
“We believe the issue of 28 states or 21 states will not derail this peace. We are committed to peace. And we shall implement this peace as it came and was signed by the president and my chairman [of SPLM-IO] Dr. Riek Machar Teny,” he concluded.
Both SPLM-IO and the IGAD mediation have previously said that the proposal by Salva Kiir to create 28 states in the country is “contrary to the spirit and letter” of the signed peace agreement. The president ordered implementation of the proposal in a decree Christmas Eve whereby he appointed governors for all the states.
None of the appointed 28 governors were SPLM-IO members, even though the peace agreement gives the opposition group 2 out of 10 governorships, specifically in Unity and Upper Nile states.