More than a dozen members of South Sudan's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have quit the party and sided with rebels led by Riek Machar, saying they can no longer work with a government that kills its own people, foments tribalism, and commits other ills.
“We decided to defect because we see we can no longer work with a government that is killing civilians," Gatluak Riek Jak, the member of parliament from Maiwut in Upper Nile state, told VOA News on Monday.
"Those are the people that elected us to parliament. If they are being killed there is no need for us to be working with the same government,” he said.
Kiir accused of interference
Ramadhan Laku, a member of parliament from Terekeka in Central Equatoria state, said Mr. Kiir has also interfered in the business of the parliament by appointing and dismissing key legislative personnel, including chairs of parliamentary committees and speakers.
It shows that the government is crumbling from within.
Laku also accused Mr. Kiir's administration of not providing sufficient security to communities in parts of South Sudan. He said conditions in Jonglei and Lakes states have been allowed to become insecure to the point that killings are commonplace in both states. The government has done nothing to restore order, he said.
Laku also said that, under Kiir, one tribe has been allowed to dominate political life in South Sudan. The other 35 or so have not been given a voice.
"We, as leaders, do not want these things to continue like this... All these things have not been implemented during Salva Kiir Mayardit’s term,” he said.
Other reasons cited by the lawmakers for defecting were corruption, poor governance and bad foreign relations.
'Indication the government is going to fall'
SPLM Acting Secretary General Ann Itto said she would not comment on the defections until she has confirmed them with the lawmakers in question.
Opposition spokesman Lul Ruai Koang welcomed the defectors to the side of the rebels and said he expects more lawmakers to follow in their footsteps.
“It shows that the authority of Salva Kiir is declining. It shows that the government is crumbling from within," Ruai said.
"It’s an indication that the government is going to fall. It's a matter of time..." he said.