New Parliament Sworn In

Lt. Gen. James Wani Igga being sworn in for his second term as Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (AP Photo/Pete Muller)
Lt. Gen. James Wani Igga being sworn in for his second term as Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (AP Photo/Pete Muller)

The room feels far more like an SPLM rally than a parliamentary convention. With few exceptions, each incoming MP rises and bellows out the famous phrase, “SPLM Oyii,” which translates loosely as “SPLM on top.” The packed room echoes the phrase back to the caller. Miniature SPLM flags, known more commonly as the official flag of South Sudan, wave in the air. Verses of SPLM songs sporadically break out.

Eventually, the speaker announces the victory of a female SPLM-DC candidate. She rises defiantly and chants, “SPLM…DC!!!!” She repeats the letters four times despite pin-drop silence in the room. The leader of her party, Dr. Lam Akol, is despised by many southerners for his on-again-off-again alliance with the northern government. He challenged Salva Kiir for the Presidency of south Sudan but scored only seven percent of the vote. His ally makes a bold stand in this unfriendly room, but eventually sits down looking sheepish. The room burst into laughter.

It is clear that the SPLM plans on running the show in South Sudan for the foreseeable future. I would hate to be an opposition party in the room today. As the celebration went on, I could not help but think about General George Athor and his ongoing rebellion against the SPLA in Jonglei state. While his behavior is thus far isolated, it should certainly not be dismissed or underestimated. As I’ve written here before, I believe that the irregularities and shortcomings of April elections will have unfolding ramification for the future of South Sudan. One party rule will not suffice in this embattled land.