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South Sudan Lawmakers Vote to Impeach Governor

Lawmakers in Northern Bahr el Ghazal voted in a special session on Jan. 26, 2015 to remove the state's caretaker governor from office.

Lawmakers in Northern Bahr el Ghazal voted in a special session on Jan. 26, 2015 to remove the state's caretaker governor from office.

Lawmakers in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have voted to impeach the state’s caretaker governor, accusing him of corruption, nepotism, sympathizing with rebels, defamation and violating the state constitution.

But Kuel Aguer Kuel said it's the lawmakers who voted to impeach him who have violated the constitution.

“That impeachment is unconstitutional and not procedural because the assembly was not in session and those who requested an emergency meeting were only 19 people, contrary to the constitution that talks about 25, or half of the assembly," Kuel said.

The lawmakers said 34 out of the 42 members of the state parliament who attended the special Monday session in Aweil voted to impeach Kuel.

In a statement, the members of parliament listed seven accusations against the governor, including the misappropriation of state funds, nepotism for awarding a letter of credit for 3 million pounds to his son; sympathizing with rebel movements and defaming state lawmakers in public speeches.

Presidential decision

Kuel said all the charges against him are baseless and insisted that, under state law, he cannot be impeached unless South Sudan’s Constitutional Court approves the lawmakers’ action against him. Kuel also said that, as caretaker governor, he is immune from the state assembly’s vote against him.

"It should be the president to tell me to leave the office... Second, the process of impeachment has not been completed," he said. "Until it is completed, I am still the legitimate care-taking governor of Northern Bar el Ghazal state with all my constitutional powers."

Kuel was appointed in April last year by President Salva Kiir after the previous governor, Paul Malong Awan, was named general chief of staff of the army. Under South Sudan's transitional constitution, caretaker governors are only supposed to hold office for six months, after which elections are supposed to be held to fill the post. Kuel has been caretaker governor for nine months.

He said he is being hounded out of office because local politicians are unhappy with his efforts to fight corruption in the state’s tax department. Kuel vowed to pursue all the legal options before him to remain in office and make Northern Bahr el Ghazal a corruption-free state.

First impeachment attempt

The attempt to remove Kuel from office is the first time that South Sudanese lawmakers at the national or state level have voted to impeach a leader.

When the lawmakers met for the impeachment vote, Kuel was attending a meeting of the ruling SPLM party in Juba. He said Northern Bahr el Ghazal lawmakers have threatened to arrest him when he returns to Aweil. If they make good on their threat, Kuel said it would be an attempted coup.

No Northern Bahr el Ghazal lawmakers were available for comment.