Why the Minister of Labour and Public Service resigned from South Sudan cabinet

awutdeng

Minister of Labour and Public Service, Mrs. Awut Deng Acuil, resigned over the weekend upon rejection of her civil service reform agenda by the cabinet..

(Juba South Sudan NSV) - The details surrounding the unexpected resignation of Awut Deng Acuil, the former Minister of Labour and Public Service from the first cabinet of South Sudan have been scanty.

Although NewSudanVision.com hasn’t read Mrs. Awut’s reasons for quitting, accounts from two cabinet ministers, some MPs, and others familiar with the story, are offering us a rare glimpse into why she opted to submit her resignation.

An acrimonious debate ensued at last Friday’s Council of Ministers concerning Minister Awut’s proposal for retrenchment in civil service, one of the sources told The New Sudan Vision Monday on condition of anonymity.

Mrs. Awut was campaigning for far-reaching reforms in the civil service to scale down the bloated workforce. She proposed to replace those serving in the civil service without certificates, diplomas, degrees, or PHDs, with workers with credentials. This process was to affect those employees who served in the SPLM/SPLA during the liberation struggle, under the banner of Civil Authority for New Sudan (CANS).

In 2005, an exemption was passed to exclude this group of “liberators” from any future reform.

What’s more, the Ministry of Labour and Public Service was tasked with empowering and training the “CANS generation” to upgrade their skills and train them on the job, according to one of our sources who charged the Ministry fell short of meeting this vital objective. 

Mrs. Awut’s desire to see sweeping restructuring in the government employment system put her at loggerheads with her colleagues, The New Sudan Vision understood from various accounts.

Those who objected to Mrs. Awut’s idea said the outgoing Minister’s plan unfairly targeted the “freedom fighters.” The reform process didn’t put a package or alternative in place for the “liberators.” The plan would render homeless the former freedom fighters, who did not acquire credentials because they were busy fighting the war, Mrs. Awut was told by some opponents.

A senior member of the SPLM, who preferred anonymity, dubbed Mrs. Awut’s reform agenda as “politicized reform.” He saw it as problematic issue for the SPLM whose members would be disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

In the heat of the discussion in the cabinet session, Mrs. Awut was reportedly upset and allegedly charged some members  of “targeting her.” It was there at the Council of Ministers meeting which Vice President Riek Machar chaired, that she made known her intentions to quit.

When the cabinet finally voted on her proposal, Mrs. Awut was “outvoted,” a source tells NewSudanVision.com.

A day later, her resignation reached the President Kiir’s desk. He then assented to it and issued a decree relieving her of her duties. A replacement has not yet been announced.

In addition, on the day of her resignation, Mrs. Awut and Dr. Pauline Riak of the Anti-Corruption Commission were sent off to India on a state-sponsored mission to go and receive body of Barnabas Majok Barnabas, the former auditor general for southern Sudan, who lost his job in 2007 due to corruption allegations. He was in India for treatment and passed away there recently.

Mrs. Awut and Dr. Riak will oversee whether the late Barnabas Majok’s body would be cremated in India or flown to be buried in South Sudan.

For some members of the women parliamentarians’ caucus, Awut was seen as representing their aspirations, and her unpredictable departure was a “surprise” and a blow to many of them.

A member of the caucus in the National Legislature expressed her shock over the resignation. She said the matter should have been handled differently, saying Mrs. Awut didn’t apply a “correct procedure.”

As a member of parliament representing Warrap, said this member of the August House, Mrs. Awut should have consulted the women caucus at the parliament to examine her reasons and decide on appropriate course of action, instead of unilaterally tendering in her resignation, she said.

Another member of the women parliamentarians’ caucus also shared her disappointment about Mrs. Awut’s exit. She alleged Awut was “frustrated” for constantly clashing with men, who she accused of being “jealous” of her position. As a result, men have been trying to defame and to discredit her, she said. She added the reform agenda was not Awut’s alone, without expanding on the thought.

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