How controversial impeachment motion fueled downfall of Jonglei speaker

How controversial impeachment motion fueled downfall of Jonglei speaker
The former speaker of the Jonglei State Legislative Assembly, Amer Ateny Alier, who was dismissed in a presidential decree on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. [Photo: courtesy]

The speaker of the Jonglei State Legislative Assembly, Amer Ateny Alier, was dismissed on Tuesday evening via a presidential decree read on the national broadcaster SSBC, after spending more than a year in office.

A succinct decree by President Salva Kiir did not give any reason for the sacking of Jonglei’s first female speaker, but leads have emerged on what could have led to the last-minute calamitous downfall of Alier.

The City Review has established that the former speaker walked a tightrope as her stint was tainted with controversial decisions that put her leadership at loggerheads with the executive, and threatened the smooth running of the state government.

A Jonglei State lawmaker, Wanj Bum Makhor, who heads the state parliamentary committee on information and communication, said the speaker’s decision to preside over the impeachment of the state minister of finance and planning, Abraham Yuek, in August last year may have contributed to her woes.

He said the parliament summoned the minister on August 10, 2022, to explain the circumstances behind the delay of civil servants’ salaries, to which he obliged, but in a turn of events, the house reconvened the following day and passed a vote of no confidence in him.

The speaker then wrote to the governor to have the minister fired, but her deputy wrote another letter to the same state boss nullifying the impeachment, arguing it was not “legally binding,” said Makhor.

“She could not cooperate with the executives since the reconstitution of the parliament. She had been at loggerheads with the government. “These tensions resulted in the unnecessary impeachment of the state minister of finance, as well as some MPs like myself who were either impeached or suspended,” the lawmaker said yesterday in response to the speaker’s dismissal.

“After the finance [minister] was suspended, the acting speaker wrote to the governor contradicting the motion that was taken against the minister, saying it was not legally binding,” he said, adding, “When the speaker returned from leave, she never wrote another letter to the governor. The minister remained impeached but continued to work normally. “It is confusing how the issue was handled between the parliament and the executive.”

The impeached minister never resigned, and the state governor, Denay Jock Chagor, refused to sack the minister as would be required by law when an official refuses to resign after being impeached.

Makhor also alleged that the former speaker had resigned during a meeting chaired by the governor and his deputy. According to the lawmaker, the meeting was convened between the leadership of the assembly and that of the executive to discuss ways to resolve contention and enhance cooperation.

“In that meeting, the former speaker tendered in her resignation in November,” he said.

These events would further strain the relationship between the legislature and the executive, leading to a lot of bickering between the lawmakers from different parties for the next few months until the parliament went on recess in October.

 But in the face of administrative challenges, the state parliament made certain resolutions that appeared to redeem the legacy of the former speaker, Alier.

IDPS resettled

Makhor said one of the resolutions includes the resettlement of internally displaced persons who have been living in UN camps since 2013, when the conflict broke out.

“One of the achievements since we were reconstituted, we have passed some of the resolutions, including the resolution on the resettlement of IDPs, which the town mayor is currently working on,” he said.

“The resolution requires that the IDPs currently in the camps be given land and reintegrated into the community,” he said. The City Review contacted the former speaker for comment, but she did not answer multiple calls by press time.

Alier was appointed to lead the state legislature in November 2021 after being nominated by the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) as part of the peace agreement.