Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, the First Deputy Speaker of the TNLA. (File photo)

Q&A|SPLM-IO alarmed by unfair reconstitution of commissions

Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, the First Deputy Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) and the Deputy Chairman for Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) sheds light on the critical issues surrounding recent reconstitutions of commissions in South Sudan in an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj.

Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, the First Deputy Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) and the Deputy Chairman for Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO)  shed light on the critical issues surrounding recent reconstitutions of commissions in South Sudan in an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj.

Oyet addressed discrepancies in the allocation process, highlighting concerns with the National Elections Commission and the National Constitution Review Commission. He emphasized the lack of political will, challenges in the implementation of the peace agreement, and the potential ramifications for the upcoming 2024 elections.

Read the edited excerpts below to uncover the details of this insightful conversation.

Q: There have been concerns raised by the SPLM-IO regarding some of the bills passed by the TNLA and the formation and staffing of commissions. What are the main issues surrounding these appointments?

A: Our party’s concern, particularly concerning the recent reconstitution of commissions, focuses on the National Elections Commission. In the appointments made two weeks ago, instead of the three commissioners allocated to us according to the power-sharing agreement, we have only been given two of the required 10 members, as specified in the act. The third position, which was designated for us, has not been announced.

The allocation process saw the SPLM Party assuming the chair of the National Elections Commission, SSOA taking the Deputy National Elections Commission chair, and SPLM-IO securing the third position of Chief Electoral Officer. However, this position was not awarded to us instead, it was announced again to the SPLM. This indicates manipulation in the reconstitution of the body, where the SPLM will now hold both the chair and the Chief Electoral Officer positions, while the SPLM-IO will have no position, except as ordinary commissioners, minus one member. We have formally launched a critical objection against this.

In the National Constitution Review Commission, our objection revolves around the commission’s size. According to the act, the commission is supposed to consist of 57 members, but the announcement specified 58, which is inconsistent with the act. We have raised this observation as well. Additionally, we noted that one member, Mary Akech, has been appointed to two commissions —the National Constitution Review Commission and the Political Parties Council. We have raised these issues to seek resolution and ensure that the bodies are inclusive and reflect the composition outlined in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

Q: Hon. Oyet, to whom did you address these issues, or more precisely, where have you lodged your complaints?

A: We have raised our concerns with the President of the Republic of South Sudan. As per the Revitalized Peace Agreement and the power-sharing arrangements outlined therein, each party is expected to nominate its members to various governmental positions, whether in the council of ministers, parliament, or commissions.

Following this procedure, we submitted the names of our nominees to the president who holds the authority to make these appointments. Our complaint has been lodged with him in the hope of resolving the issues. However, should our concerns not be addressed, we retain the option to escalate the matter to the RJMEC (Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission) and involve the peace guarantors.

Q: What are the likely outcomes or consequences now that the third position in the commission has been given to the SPLM or SSOA?

A: If we are unable to secure the third position in the commission or reinstate our dropped member, and the issue remains unresolved, we will assert that the Electoral Commission is not representative of the nation and has been formed predominantly by one or two parties. This is the scenario we are anticipating.

However, if the RJMC or the guarantors fail to ensure a resolution, we are confident in our ability to address and resolve this matter.

Q: Considering this is not the first instance of changes being made without consultation, why do you believe the situation will be different this time?

A: We have experienced challenges in implementing the peace agreement, and while one would hope for a smoother process with political will, the reality is different. Due to a lack of political will, we encounter fluctuations and continually address points of concern through ongoing dialogue and negotiation. We persist in raising critical matters related to peace implementation, as our ultimate goal is the peace and stability of the Republic of South Sudan. Our commitment remains unwavering towards ensuring the peace agreement is faithfully implemented in both letter and spirit.

Q: As SPLM-IO, do you hold hope for elections in 2024?

A: Currently, we are not optimistic about the possibility of elections in the Republic of South Sudan. The lack of preparation by the Transitional Government of National Unity is evident, and what we perceive is merely political maneuvering by the parties, especially the SPLM-IG. They seem inclined to replace the peace agreement with illusory elections, a scenario we vehemently oppose.

Our concern lies in the unmet tasks from the three-year transition period, extending through the roadmap agreement that added two more years. Critical institutions, such as the National Elections Commission, face issues like insufficient budgeting, limited to salaries and wages, with no allocation for essential goods and services required for election preparations. The commission’s headquarters, which has been in a rented facility for the past two years, faces eviction threats due to unpaid rent.

Preparations for elections demand substantial funding allocations, including infrastructure at various levels. At the national level, proper office space is essential, and at the state, county, and local government levels, logistics, enumerators, voter registration personnel, and warehouse space for electoral materials are crucial. Unfortunately, these necessities are not budgeted for; the allocated funds are limited to salaries and wages, and even those payments are in arrears, with staff awaiting payment for over four months.

Considering the National Constitution Review Commission’s role in shaping the electoral process based on a new permanent constitution, there is an evident lack of initiation and budgeting for this critical step. The conduct of a population census, a prerequisite for electoral planning and constituency demarcation, is anticipated by the National Population Census Bureau. Still, they are currently planning for it, possibly in 2024. The census data will inform key aspects such as electoral constituency boundaries and voter population size.