The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) has said that President Salva Kiir has agreed to appoint General Johnson Olony as the governor of Upper Nile state.

There has been a standoff between the two parties which led to a deadlock on the appointment of Gen. Olony-who is allied to the SPLA-IO under Dr. Riek Machar-as governor of Upper Nile state.

In July, Kiir appointed governors for nine of the country’s ten states under the power-sharing arrangement leaving the Upper Nile State. SPLM-IO submitted the name of General Olony as its preferred candidate for the gubernatorial post.

Addressing the media in Juba today, Oil minister and SPLM-IO member, Puot Kang Chuol said, “Well, we were previously informed that the president had agreed to appoint the governor of Upper Nile but I am not in a better position to tell you what transpired next. I don’t know.”

Kang also declared what amounted to conditionality and ultimatum on the appointment of Gen. Olony.

“Yesterday the leadership of the SPLM-IO met in Juba under the leadership of chairman and First Vice President of the republic, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, and agreed that lists from the SPLM-IO for the formation of the state governments are ready and we shall submit them as soon as the governor of Upper Nile is appointed,” Kang said. 

“We have finished all our consultations at the grassroots and we are ready with our lists and as soon as the governor for Upper Nile is appointed, we will submit our lists for all the 10 states and the three administrative areas,” he added. 

The oil minister said the SPLM-IO leadership decided to postpone the SPLM-IO national conference until such time the governments at the state-levels are appointed. 

“We are therefore humbly asking the public including His Excellency the President that we speed up the appointment of General Olony so that they are also not left behind,” Kang pleaded.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Oyet, the SPLM-IO representative to the National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC), told Radio Tamazuj today during an interview that an agreement has been reached between his party and President Kiir to appoint Gen. Olony as the Upper Nile State governor.

“We have been engaging the president as a party through the office of the first vice president in a dialogue over this matter. This is a matter of critical importance and the agreement assigned the issue of nomination candidates or officials in RTGoNU to respective parties and we nominated Gen. Olony to the position of governor for Upper Nile State,” 

Oyet said. “But this was being rejected by another party in RTGoNU. President Salva Kiir rejected the appointment of Gen. Olony. We have been engaging with him and we have reached some consensus that Olony can be appointed as per the nomination of the SPLM/A-IO.” 

When pressed about whether President Kiir accepted to appoint Olony, Oyet said, “In principle, the president has accepted the responsibility that lies with the SPLM/A-IO to nominate its candidate for the position of the governor for Upper Nile. What the president is waiting for is just to appoint and this is where we have been engaging with him and we have reached some critical steps towards the appointment of Gen. Johnson Olony.” 

Oyet said the last discussion between the president and the first vice president took place a week ago and indeed the president indicated no objection that Olony could be appointed but demanded security assurances for the people of Upper Nile. 

“You know Upper Nile is inhabited by the Chollo, Nuer and Dinka Ngok people. So the president was concerned about the security of the Dinka Ngok,” according to Oyet. “That fear should not have arisen if all the parties who are now in Juba trying to form a revitalized government of national unity are engaged in implementing security arrangements and permanent ceasefire, the unification of forces and all our forces, be it in the SSPDF or the SPLM/A-IO including those forces in Upper Nile, those fears should not have arisen.” 

Oyet said coming to Juba of Gen. Olony is not a matter that would hold the appointment of the governor for Upper Nile, “He can come to Juba at any time once the appointment is done or even before the appointment. He is a free citizen of this country and he is a member of the SPLA-IO, his commander-in-chief is in Juba so there is no big deal about if he will come to Juba or not.”

But government spokesman, Michael Makuei, when contacted said that if there was an agreement about the appointment of Olony he would have been appointed by now.

“If the president had agreed, he would have appointed him. He is the only governor who has not been appointed and if the president agreed he would have appointed him already,” Makuei said.

Makuei said that the president wanted some assurances because there are fears that if Olony is appointed there might be a breakdown of peace. 

“Maybe even the peace agreement might collapse if Olony is appointed. This is the reason the president has been reluctant in appointing Olony but Dr. Riek has been insisting and the president told him to make an undertaking that if anything happens like chaos and or fighting in Upper Nile then he (Dr. MAchar) will be responsible.”

“If the first vice president allows this undertaking then it is okay and Olony might be appointed but I doubt if Riek has agreed to this. If he agreed, Olony would have been appointed,” the information minister added.

Who is Olony 

Major General Olony is the commander of Agwelek forces that signed a military merger and incorporation into the SPLA-IO under the leadership of Dr. Machar in June 2015.

Last week, some internally displaced persons in Malakal protested over an increase of what they called targeted killings and called for the immediate appointment of the governor as a solution to the growing crime wave.

They called on the President to specifically appoint Johnson Olony as their governor.