JUBA - A key institution in South Sudan came to a halt Wednesday as lawmakers stopped doing parliamentary business to bicker over the way the speaker had appointed 18 new committee heads.
Among the victims of the lawmakers' anger was the presentation of the 2014/15 budget by finance minister Agrey Tisa Sabuni and a debate by lawmakers of the speech delivered last week by President Salva Kiir. Both were delayed by the hullaballoo over whether the appointment of the committee chairs was done by the rules.
Members of the ruling SPLM party were angered by the fact that speaker Manasseh Magok Rundial failed to consult with chief whip Tuilio Adongi Ayaha before he made the committee appointments last week. Then, opposition chief whip and acting minority leader Andrew Okony objected because the new chairs have previously headed other committees. Both are against parliamentary rules of procedure and led to the lawmakers rejecting the newly named committee heads.
A lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity said the speaker met Wednesday morning with several parliamentary officials to try to resolve the crisis, but failed to find a way out of the impasse.
Okony said the ruling party held a caucus to resolve the controversy and allow parliament to resume business.
Parliament grinding to a halt is the last thing South Sudan needs. Six months of fighting in the country have forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes and pushed it to the brink of famine.
Peace talks led by regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), adjourned when the opposition failed to show up for the latest round and none of the January cessation-of-hostilities agreements have been respected.