Political Parties forum held in Western Equatoria

8 Dec 2011

Political Parties forum held in Western Equatoria

7 December 2011 - Aiming to widen political space and mutual understanding, a political party forum was held today at UNMISS Yambio, Western Equatoria State.

Organized by the mission's Civil Affairs Division, the one-day event was attended by representatives of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), United Democratic Front (UDF) and United South Sudan Party (USSP) as well as State Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs Director General Nelson Bakindo.

Topics discussed included the state constitution review and inclusiveness of civil society, South Sudan's new Political Party Bill draft and the need of for a Media Bill.

All representatives agreed that the Political Party Bill would be a milestone in governing and regulating political party activities. And a well-defined Media Bill would allow the country to adopt wider political space as well as govern and regulate media houses.

The Media Bill must be based on democratic principles, representatives stressed, providing equal access to the press for all political parties.

UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer and team leader Svetlana Pancheva said the state forum was a platform for dialogue, regular interaction and information-sharing among political parties, civil society and the state legislative assembly.

"The forum provides wider political space for political parties in the state, enhancing unity, removing suspicions and facilitating peaceful co-existence and cooperation among the political parties," Ms. Pancheva said.

Party representatives agreed that the state constitution review was inclusive, democratic and participatory. It now awaited a certificate of compliance from the South Sudanese Ministry of Justice. The newly amended state constitution had been sent to Juba for approval and endorsement.

Attendees also discussed the activities of former UDF chairman Peter Sule, condemning his attempt to form a militia and use violence for political purposes. Mr. Sule was recently detained on charges that he was launching a guerilla movement to topple the government.

Manase Doboyi Agoli, SPLM State Secretary for Western Equatoria, noted that the forum brought together political parties with different programmes to discuss and reach common understandings.

"This type of forum is very important to discuss issues affecting communities, affecting the relationship between parties and the government, and it is an important mechanism to resolve misunderstandings," he said.

UDF Party Chairman in the state, William Warigo, said the forum was important in strengthening political party unity in the state as well as across the country.

Richard Zisi, Deputy Chairperson of USSP in Western Equatoria state noted that it allowed parties to come together and to bring issues of common concern to the table.

UNMISS Yambio Civil has conducted four political parties forums this year to bring together leaders in the state and engage parties in discussions on political, social and economic developments.