Parliament chief whip announces support for Kiir

South Sudan’s chief whip in parliament has come out in support of President Salva Kiir, saying that the president should not be toppled by force. 

Tulio Odongi Ayahu, chief whip and member of the national parliament from Eastern Equatoria, also called for dialogue and warned that the Equatoria region would not participate in a civil war engulfing the country.

“We Equatorians will promote dialogue. We will not accept undemocratic methods to come into power. At present there is a leader in place. And this leader will have to complete his term of office. Those who may be thinking to take over power by means of violence will not be accepted by the Equatorians,” he said.

He suggested that the opposition is making “premature challenges towards the elected president,” saying they should have used the SPLM party convention and congresses next year as vehicles for their ambitions rather than “circumvent the procedure.”

Ayahu claimed to be representing a group of parliamentarians from South Sudan’s Equatoria region. He was speaking at a press conference after consultations with Vice President James Wani Igga today.

‘Equatoria will not be battleground again’

The current vice president has a key role in backing President Kiir since he took over from Riek Machar in July. As the most senior Equatorian leader in government, he is also seen by many as informally representing the peoples of the greater Equatoria region, which comprises the three southern states of Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria.

Dinka and Nuer, the country’s two largest ethnic groups, are largely absent from Equatoria, except in army garrisons and key urban centers such as Juba. But in the previous civil war the region was divided with some groups loyal to the Sudan Armed Forces, others to SPLA, and others to the SPLA breakaway faction led by Riek Machar. 

Chief Whip Ayahu declared that the region would not be drawn into war again. “We will call for dialogue and that is the most important thing people want. We need dialogue and we need peace. And Equatoria will not accept to be the battleground again. We stand behind our leader. We stand behind our president,” he said.

“The President is an elected president and the Equatorians express that they will stand behind the elected president,” he said. 

File photo: National Parliament of South Sudan in session (Gurtong)