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South Sudan's SPLM-IO, OPP Demand Chief Justice's Resignation

FILE- Chan Reec Madut, chief justice of the South Sudan Supreme Court, in his office in Juba, 05/04/2012.

JUBA — The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition, SPLM-IO, and the Other Political Parties group, OPP, are demanding the resignation of South Sudan's chief justice, Chan Reech Madut, for allegedly displaying behavior favoring one signatory of the nation's 2018 peace agreement.

A photo of South Sudan's chief justice at President Salva Kiir's endorsement rally in Western Bahar el Ghazal State last week was circulated widely on social media, triggering strong reactions from signatories of the peace agreement.

Officials in the SPLM-IO and OPP accused Madut of revealing his political allegiance by attending the political rally organized by President Kiir's party, the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement, SPLM.

Kuol Atem Bol, the SPLM secretary for parliamentary and executive caucuses, acknowledged Madut's attendance at the rally in Wau, the capital of Western Bahar el Ghazal State, but clarified that the chief justice's presence did not signify his membership in the SPLM.

"For you to attend any ceremony or occasion does not mean that you are now a member of that particular party," Bol said.

After circulation of the photo, Puok Both Baluang, SPLM-IO's director for information, questioned Madut's ability to remain unbiased should disagreements between parties arise during the elections.

"How could he resolve or make a verdict on this matter while he is biased because he is supporting one party at the moment?" Baluang asked in an interview with VOA.

He emphasized the need for a neutral individual to occupy the position and called for Chief Justice Madut's resignation.

Peter Mayen Majongdit, a member of parliament and chairman of OPP, drew lessons from Kenya's recent contested elections, highlighting the importance of an independent judiciary.

"The judiciary must be independent not only from political affairs but even from the executive itself. If the interference of the judiciary extends into political matters, it raises questions," Majongdit explained.

He praised the progress made by the Kenyan judiciary, stating that it demonstrated how democracy can be achieved through the judicial system.

VOA reached out to Chief Justice Madut for comment on the allegations of bias, but Madut declined to provide an official statement.

The 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement, which focuses on conflict resolution in South Sudan, includes provisions for judicial reforms in preparation for upcoming elections.

Baluang insisted that these reforms should commence with the removal of Madut from his office.

"We call on the president to replace him with another South Sudanese who is neutral and will ensure that he remains impartial, as required for this position. Reform has no starting point. We are calling for reform in the whole system," he asserted.

South Sudan is preparing for its first general elections scheduled for December 2024. However, last week, the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan expressed concern that the country's leaders have not yet created a conducive political and security environment necessary for conducting the elections.

President Kiir’s SPLM is the only signatory of the 2018 peace agreement to formally declare its intension to participate in the pending elections. The SPLM-IO and some parties under the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, SSOA, have said the conditions in South Sudan are not suitable for elections as some tasks in the agreement have not been fully implemented.