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Veteran Journalist Becomes South Sudan MP

FILE - South Sudanese veteran journalist Alfred Taban Lo Gune addresses the crowd at the launch of the new VOA transmitter in Juba, South Sudan, March 21, 2013. (M. Davis Rwakaringi/VOA)

A veteran South Sudanese journalist says he has joined the SPLM-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) Taban Deng faction to speak out on behalf of the people of Yei River state.

Alfred Taban Lo Gune, who was appointed a member of parliament in South Sudan's Translational National Legislative Assembly earlier this week, said he joined politics to bring about much-needed change for the people of Kajokeji.

He told South Sudan in Focus the country needed courageous leaders like himself in the national assembly to speak up for the people.

"It is my duty to do something about the situation," Taban said, adding that he could not stay aloof while his people were suffering, either in exile or in the bush.

Taban, founder and editor in chief of the privately run Juba Monitor, a daily newspaper, and a former BBC correspondent in Khartoum, said that while he was now a member of the SPLM-IO Taban Deng division, he did recognize factions within the SPLM-IO. "I have been a SPLM member for many, many years, and I still remain SPLM," Taban said.

Taban contended that the SPLM-IO was, at the moment, a unified body.

"The Arusha agreement of 2104 made it very clear that the SPLM is not under the state, so there is no SPLM former detainees, SPLM-IO or SPLM in government. It is now one SPLM," Taban told South Sudan in Focus.

Pact not implemented

Various factions of the SPLM and SPLM-IO have had their own spokespersons for the past several months. Taban said that was the problem in South Sudan.

"Even the peace agreement that we are now quarreling over, it is because the people have not decided to implement it," he said. "Likewise, the Arusha agreement has not been implemented, but it is there."

Taban vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the people of South Sudan, "the rights of journalists and the rights of the oppressed" as a member of parliament.

"In the media here, we were at the mercy of the government, but I still continued to struggle and I'm going to take the same struggle to parliament," Taban said.

On May 29, Taban declined President Salva Kiir's offer to sit on the president's National Dialogue Committee. Taban said he wanted no part in the dialogue steering team unless the president released journalists in prison and ended aggressive acts toward press freedoms in South Sudan.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon

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