The SPLM’s Independents Should Blame the Political Bureau’s Small Clique, Not Pagan Amum
February, 12, 2010
As a prominent member of the SPLM, I am profoundly disturbed and dismayed by the call of SPLM members who demanded the resignation of Pagan Amum, the party’s Secretary General, because of the Political Bureau’s mistake in selecting the official candidates who will represent the party in April election.
Ever since the announcement of SPLM’s official candidates, the members of the party have been going through emotional and political disturbances due to the Political Bureau’s violation of all rules enshrined in the SPLM Interim Constitution, Manifesto and Rules & Regulations. Members who aspired to create New Democratic Sudan began to question undemocratic procedures that selected unelected individuals from seven electoral colleges of South Sudan States.
For instance, the rejection of popularly nominated candidate such as Lt. Gen. Mark Nyipuoc of Western Bhar el Ghazal is a case to be cited. Lt. Gen. Mark was elected with 98% of the vote by the electoral college of SPLM in Western Bhar el Ghazal; however, the SPLM Political Bureau selected somebody else. Another glaring injustice is the case of Upper Nile State, where the SPLM Political Bureau selected somebody who did not make it to the list of Upper Nile State Electoral College. His name was not even on the list of three candidates from Upper Nile State sent to the Political Bureau.
It is indeed an understanding of every member of the party that the primaries that were conducted to select qualified and popular party members to contest in the upcoming election would be based on well established democratic principles enshrined in the SPLM Interim Constitution. To the surprise of many, the Political Bureau failed to live up to the democratic ideals that every member expected. As the Secretary General of the party admitted, there were
“irregularities” in the process used by the Political Bureau during the nomination process of candidates for the upcoming April elections.
Members of the Political Bureau were supposed to remember that
the SPLM is the political party charged with providing the vision, guidance and leadership for the achievement and consolidation of the New Democratic Sudan. This means
a democratic New Sudan in which equality, freedom, economic and social justice and respect for human rights are concrete realities, rather than mere slogans. Being a party which professes in transforming the country from old to new, the Political Bureau should have ensured rigorous checks and balances and guaranteed democratic powers to the SPLM Electoral Colleges—powers which could be neither withdrawn nor impaired by the organs of the party such as PB.
But the Political Bureau’s decision went contrary to the very reason why the Electoral Colleges were set up in the first place. As per the SPLM’s Interim Constitution, the Political Bureau could have just endorsed the candidates on the top of the lists sent from various Electoral Colleges. The reason why each Electoral College was required to send three names was because if it appeared that the one on the top could not meet the requirements of Sudan National Election Act, the PB would then endorse the second candidate who may not have legal impediments to represent the party as per the rules of the NEC.
However, a small clique within the Political Bureau usurped the democratic will of the majority of SPLM’s Southern sector Electoral Colleges by imposing undemocratic rules unknown to the Rules & Regulations of the party. It is noted that Pagan Amum warned the members of the PB against turning down the popular choices of the party members in the grassroots. But his appeal was not successful because his position became a minority one within the PB.
The conundrum which is facing the SPLM is a concern for every person who wishes that the SPLM should be a vehicle to transform the Sudan via upcoming election in April. The arguments of those who declared to run as independents seem to be buttressed by the shortcomings of the PB because in any democratic setting, members of a party cannot abide by the undemocratic decisions of the party’s organs. In the case of the SPLM, the PB lost its Constitutional legitimacy to expect the members of the party to abide by its undemocratic decision based upon “irregular” processes which appeared antithetical to the democratic principles governing the party.
However, allowing the independents to run as well may undermine the party’s official candidates selected, though undemocratically, to represent the SPLM in the upcoming election. On the one hand, suspending or dismissing members who are already approved by the NEC to run in the upcoming April election would be unjustified given the fact that the PB’s decision was undemocratic in the first place and was unsupported by any known law of the party. On the other hand, allowing the independents to run would be an introduction of a situation in which the two groups of the SPLM would split the votes, making it more likely for the party to lose in election to other political parties’ candidates.
Since the mistake of the PB may ignite an internal popular democratic uprising and rebellion within the SPLM, the solution to the conundrum facing the party is not only to admit the mistake as Pagan Amum did, but also to come up with a solution that would rectify the procedural injustice committed by the PB on the one hand, and the need to preserve the integrity of PB’s decision making apparatus on the other hand.
The SPLM leadership needs to strike a balance between preserving a democratic will of the grassroots and the implementation of an undemocratic decision already taken by the party’s highest organ. In the Electoral Colleges where the PB is satisfied that there were “irregularities” as Pagan Amum admitted, the independent candidates should be allowed to run. However, independent candidates from areas where “irregularities” did not take place should not be allowed to retain their SPLM’s membership if they refuse to withdraw from election because they don’t have a case akin to those independents using democratic and due process arguments. It appeared that there are individuals who declared themselves as independents although irregularities did not take place in their Electoral Colleges. In the category where this group of independents falls, the PB would be justified to discipline them should they fail to withdraw from the upcoming election.
In conclusion, the issue of those independents who have legitimate claims should not be mishandled for it may lead to popular rebellion against the PB with serious consequences in the upcoming election. Any PB’s decision should take into account its own prior shortcomings in order to appear legitimate in the eyes of the world and its members.
Mr. Gordon Buay
Prominent Member of the SPLM