Activists sue ruling SPLM for not honouring affirmative action

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Mr Michael Wani, Executive Director of Okay Africa Foundation. (Photo credit: Radio Tamazuj).

Two South Sudanese activists have sued the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party for violating the affirmative action provision in the peace agreement during the appointment of state governors in the Transitional Government of National Unity.

According to the 2018 revitalised peace agreement, women are granted a 35 percent quota representation at all government levels. SPLM was granted six gubernatorial slots, SPLM-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) three slots and one governor slot for the South Sudan opposition Alliance. 

But in June, President Salva Kiir appointed nine state governors and three administrators for the three administrative areas. The only one-woman governor was appointed by SPLM-IO, its fair quota.

“The SPLM decided to appoint six male governors of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes and Warrap and they did not appoint any woman. That violates the constitution under Article 16 (4a), which demands the representation of women. So, 35 percent of six is supposed to be two governors. We went to court; we want the Supreme Court to challenge that appointment,” said the petitioner, Mr Michael Wani.

Mr Wani filed the petition alongside Mr Geoffrey Luke Lou last Thursday in the presence of his Lawyer, Mr Philip Anyang. These presented the petition to the Deputy Chief Justice, Mr John Gatwich Lul.

“Thirty-five percent is the constitutional rights of women that nobody should take away from them. It does not mean only in ministries, 35 % means that all levels of government including governors. So, our appeal is that the Supreme Court will be able to deliver justice to the women and ensure that women are represented at all levels of government,” Mr Wani stressed.

The petitioner further explained that they now await the Chief Justice to respond to the petition and give a way forward.

Mr Anyang, Mr Wani’s lawyer said the petition’s main aim is to annul the appointment of state governors and sanction new appointments guided by the constitution.

“We moved to the supreme court to make a decision and revoke the presidential order appointing the six governors and declare that order as null and void. The declaration for the appointment of six governors of the six states without women representation is a violation of Article 3,” Mr Anyang said.

Meanwhile, Ms Betty Sunday, a renowned women’s rights activist, has hailed the decision to seek legal redress saying the SPLM had total disregard for affirmative action.

“We are in support of that decision. The government, SPLM-IG was supposed to appoint two female governors but they did not. This is a violation of the peace agreement. The 35 percent provision is in the agreement. So, if they are not implementing it then it is a violation,” she said.

Ms Sunday further advised the government to implement the agreement in totality for the benefit of the people of South Sudan who have borne the brunt of war for years.

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