A group of ruling party MPs have walked out of South Sudan’s parliament on September 18, accusing President Salva Kiir of violating a peace agreement after the adoption of a controversial electoral law.
The dispute centers on the new law’s extremely complex system for appointing members of parliament for the elections due to take place next year. The group of protesters accused the Speaker of Parliament, Jemma Nunu Kulba, of pushing the text through without giving them “a fair opportunity to express their views on this crucial issue”.
“The proposal to give new powers to the President to appoint more MPs is tantamount to taking away the mandate and sovereignty” of the people of South Sudan, denounced the group, which supports Vice-President Riek Machar, President Kiir’s rival in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). “It’s undemocratic, unfair and not credible,” he added.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into a civil war that left almost 400,000 people dead and millions displaced between 2013 and 2018. A peace agreement signed in 2018 provided for the principle of power-sharing between rivals Salva Kiir and Riek Machar within a government of national unity.
But tensions and violence continue in the world’s youngest country, rich in oil but where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line. After a transition period, elections were due to be held in February 2023. But the government has so far failed to meet key clauses of the agreement between Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar, notably the drafting of a constitution.
In August, the two leaders extended their transitional government for two years beyond the scheduled date, citing difficulties in implementing their peace agreement. However, Mr. Kiir promised that elections would be held in 2024.