SPLM-IO keeps political cards to chest as SPLM hits the road

SPLM-IO keeps political cards to chest as SPLM hits the road
Oyet Nathaniel, the Deputy Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) speaks during an interview at his office. [Keji Janefer, The City Review]

As the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM-IG) embarks on mega rallies to endorse the candidature of President Salva Kiir in Bahr el Ghazal, the touted close challenger, the Sudan People’s Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), is keeping its cards closer to the chest.

The SPLM-IO, which enjoys the second-biggest membership in Parliament and is steered by First Vice President Riek Machar, argues that it will not be enticed into copying and pasting the political moves employed by their rivals.

Speaking to The City Review yesterday, the Acting Press Secretary in the Office of the First Vice President, Puok Baluang, said that the party has its own script, which it will follow religiously in preparation for the forthcoming elections.

“We cannot rush the campaign because there are other parties doing it now because these parties have their own policies. We (IO) are not for copy and paste,” Baluang said.

According to Baluang, the plan of the SPLM-IO is to launch state secretariats that will pave the way for membership registrations and then peace dissemination to the grassroots.

However, Baluang said the SPLM-IO has many reservations about the country’s political atmosphere, which he said lacks political space judging from a series of past incidents.

“We definitely will do a rally, but to conduct a rally now, we have experience in different states,” he said.

“When we were in the process of launching our secretariats, some security elements belonging to the SPLM-IG harassed our members and arrested them and other South Sudanese who were found wearing blue T-shirts,” he lamented.

“We have also experienced members of the SPLM-IO being harassed and detained by security, which is why we are saying there is no political space,” he added.

Several times, the SPLM-IO has expressed concerns over what they called shrinking political space that is preventing the exercise of political rights.

In July 2022, during the launch of SPLM-IO membership registration in Juba, SPLM/A-IO Deputy Chairman Oyet Nathaniel said his party was not afraid of political competition, save for the lack of political space in the country.

Oyet, who also serves as the First Deputy Speaker of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA), said, “To be honest, the SPLM-IO is not afraid of elections, but lacks political space for our activities to succeed.’’

 ‘‘It is the biggest challenge we need to fight for because we do not want an election that is not free, fair, and a sham to take place in South Sudan,” he said.

Also in August 2022, during the launch of the road map spelling out the extension of the term of the peace agreement, Machar lamented that he had been domiciled in Juba and was unable to move to the states. He said it was necessary for the leaders to move to the grassroots and disseminate peace messages.

“You need these political parties to be active at the forefront so that the people can own it. So this needs political space. If there is no political space, you can’t,” he said.

“I have not been invited to go to a rally, and the reason is that people are afraid to hold political rallies. Political parties cannot survive if there is no political space,’’ he added.

The SPLM-IG blamed their peace partners, the SPLM-IO, for obstructing the membership recruitment drive. The SPLM Secretary-General, Peter Lam, Both alleged that they were hitting 4.5 million but had hitches penetrating SPLM-IO controlled areas.