Is SPLM-IO a family business?

First Vice President and SPLM-IO leader Dr. Riek Machar (right) with his wife Angelina Nyajany Teny-the newly appointed Minister of Defense (left). Photo: File

By Duop Chak Wuol

March 13, 2020 (SSNA) — The recent appointments of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) national ministers and deputy ministers have been widely welcome in South Sudan and around the world. However, there are some people who believe that the nomination of Angelina Nyajany Teny as a minister of defense sent a wrong signal and that the armed opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar has transformed the SPLM-IO into a family business. In this article, I will argue that the decision to select Angelina Teny to become South Sudan’s first female defense minister is reasonable and that those who accuse her husband, Machar, of nepotism failed to think critically.

I would like to first publicly admit that I wish Dr. Machar acted differently. However, his decision to appoint his wife as the minister of defense should not make some people think in a limited way.

On March 12, the SPLM-IO leadership revealed the names of its nine ministers and three deputy ministers. Those who were chosen for cabinet positions are Puot Kang Chol as Minister of Petroleum, Angelina Nyajany Teny – Defense and Veteran Affairs Minister, Henry Odwar – Minister of Mining, Peter Marcello – Energy and Dams Minister, Elizabeth Achuei Yol – Minister of Health, Stephen Par Kuol – Peacebuilding Minister, Lasuba Wango – Minister of Federal Affairs, Manawa Peter Gatkuoth – Irrigation and Water Resources Minister, and Ayak Benjamin Wariali – Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare. The armed opposition also appointed Mabior Garang de Mabior as Deputy Minister of Interior, Deng Akon – Cabinet Affairs Deputy Minister, and Agok Makur Kur – Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.

It is worth mentioning that the overall allocation of ministerial and deputy ministerial positions has been done reasonably given the diversity of the SPLM-IO. But the appointments seem to disappoint some hardliners who strongly believe—in their seemingly twisted minds that one ethnic group, the Nuer, should have been given most of the SPLM-IO ministerial and deputy ministerial portfolios. Based on these selections, it can be Mathematically translated that the Nuer tribe controls 33.3% (four ministers), leaving the other 66.6% (67% to be exact)—five ministers and three deputy ministers for other tribes. It must be made clear to those who only see through ethnic lenses that the SPLM-IO is not a Nuer political party; it is a South Sudanese. Those who think in such a way should consult their consciences.

Coming back to the main topic, history and publicly available research data show that most constitutionally mandated appointments are done by political leaders who have legal authorities (be it a party or national constitution) to appoint people. This is not a fabricated fact; it is a known fact worldwide. In most cases, any leader can employ any person he or he wants, and the appointment of Angelina Teny is not immune from this practice. There is no doubt that the SPLM-IO’s military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), has capable military Generals who have the qualifications needed to run the defense ministry. There is no question that people like the SPLA-IO Chief of Staff 1St Lt. General Simon Gatwech Dual, SPLA-IO Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations James Koang Chuol Ranley, and many others are well positioned to head this ministry. But I would like to caution the people of South Sudan that having the necessary experience does not always translate to leadership success. I want to make it clear that the practice of nepotism deserves to be scrutinized since it can easily open a door for anyone in a position of power to give his or her relative, family member, or friend a job without a proper assessment. This habit can also wear down people’s confidence in any established institution. Nevertheless, the nomination of Angelina as the head of the defense should not be treated as an automatic practice of nepotism. In fact, her appointment does not need a shouting match; what it requires is a critical analysis of Machar’s decision to give his wife such a vital portfolio and why he believes Angelina is a good candidate for the post.

There are questions that deserve logical explanations before one accuses Dr. Machar of nepotism.

Is SPLM-IO a family corporation? Does Angelina Teny qualify to head the ministry of defense? Does nepotism prevent people from executing their constitutional duties? Is it logical to appoint a relative or family member? Is nepotism moral? What is the rationale behind Dr. Machar’s decision to appoint his wife? Will Machar impede Angelina’s leadership at the ministry of defense?

There is no need to exercise irrationality here. The above questions are for you to draw your own conclusions. I suggest that you put your emotions aside and thoughtfully study the questions before arriving at your conclusion.

It is clear that Machar’s decision to give the defense minister position to his wife raises ethical questions and creates doubts in the minds of many people. I am calling on the SPLM-IO leader to thoroughly address these misgivings triggered by his decision. In addition, Dr. Machar should lay out his reasoning on why he believes Angelina is the right person for the job and explain to the people of South Sudan why he picked his wife instead of an experienced military General from the SPLA-IO. However, people need to understand that being a defense minister does not require military knowledge. It should also be clear to anyone who questions Angelina’s experience that the defense minister position is theoretically a civilian post. Consequently, it is logically irrelevant to claim that the defense ministry should always be headed by someone who has military experience. I urge South Sudanese, especially the supporters of the SPLM-IO to judge Angelina Teny based on her own experience, not from the notion that she cannot run the defense department simply because her husband is the country’s First Vice President and chairman of the SPLM-IO.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition is not a family-run enterprise as critics of Angelina’s appointment would like people to believe. The SPLM-IO was not formed by Machar as his own political entity—this seemingly fallacious argument just does not hold water. The party was formed by a diverse group of South Sudanese who felt after the civil war broke out in December 2013 that there was a need for political, economic, and military reforms in the country and that establishment of a different political party to challenge the existing dictatorial system was necessary. If reforming South Sudan’s political system is still the main focus as it was the case when the SPLM-IO was formed, then people should not exaggerate the situation merely because Dr. Machar gives his wife the defense minister position. Angelina Teny is capable of running any ministry in the country and her nomination as the head of the defense has nothing to do with nepotism. Her leadership capability and experience justify her appointment. Angelina’s rise to the ministry of defense deserves criticism but these criticisms should be constructive, not based on wild assumptions that her being the wife of Riek Machar automatically disqualifies her to be a defense minister. Please try to think rationally. Petty political squabbles over one position should not be allowed to change SPLM-IO’s most important goal, political reform. People should not waste their time on trivial political pursuits. Let us embrace peace and work to make sure it is fully implemented. Enough of groundless accusations!

Duop Chak Wuol is an analyst and editor-in-chief of the independent South Sudan News Agency ( He can be reached at [email protected]. Note: The views expressed in this article are his and should not be attributed to the South Sudan News Agency.

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • All we need as south Sudanese citizens is peace, good governance, service delivery and accountability. Angelina is a right candidate in this position at a right time and my prayers is that God should give her the wisdom and the knowledge to successfully do her duties in her position for the betterment of our nation – south Sudan. Long live mama Angelina, long live our country south Sudan.

  • Wani Jiling lo keji
    March 13, 2020 3:27 am

    What we need is silencing of guns and land grabbing must stop and cattle raiding and sexual gender based violence, disarmament, retirement of old civil servants , roads constructions, building airports . education, health , accountability for the crimes committed from both sides, economic growth, halting corrupting, food security in the country. we see what happen during election after three years of transit.

  • Dickson Laat Magueng
    March 13, 2020 6:05 am

    Her appointment made the confusion to the entire South Sudanese and especially #Nuer_tribe, some people asking themselves which capability that made Angelina to came a defense minister, or IO became enterprise, where the two powerful positions headed by same family (Husband and wife). Let us came down as a concern citizens of this Country analysis this move in IO.

  • We know it is a family business even though you are trying to cover it

  • Dak Bijour pal
    March 13, 2020 9:07 am

    I’d personally like to agree with Dr. Machar’s decision without hesitation, why? Because if he had done it the way most people think, that would have caused a huge dissolusionment to other tribes who are not Nuer. I would also argue that Dr. Machar was reasonable when he appointed his wife Angelina Teny as a defense minister. Generally speaking, women are more sympathetic unlike men, for that reason Machar appointed Angelina not that she is qualified to handle military issues but to help in maintaining peace alongside with him. Finally, most of SPLM-A IO staff are not 100% loyal to this organisation(SPLM/M-IO) however they are just shouldering greedy interests, so they are not fit in that position (defense minister).

  • Abrham Lul Mamor in Upper Nile State
    March 13, 2020 10:26 am

    We are happy we have people like this writer who observe political issues with a good mind. Stupid people criticising Riek Machar because he appoints is wife is nonsense. stupid people have life.

  • Yes we are for peace but Machar has forgotten his major ally out from the national government and has share power with least supporters .Giving his back to his strong may render his weak in the near future he better look back again

  • you have been given money to write the article.
    what do you cover here?
    it is obvious that Io is a family business.
    it belongs to Nuer.

  • To address our dirvesity has nothing to do with Angelina Teny being appointed to the ministry of defense.The question is what will happen in the future of duration of the three years of Transition of national government of unity. Should SPLA.IO soldiers will be integrated as time count? Will Angelina Teny, will be able to work or United both Military forces of government and those IO?

  • I wish South Sudan Peace and development to become better country To help their people and protect the country and children to be safe no more warMuch love God bless all Sudanese peace and justice first Sudan 🇸🇩🇸🇸✍️🤲🤝🕊🏩🏡🏗⛪️🕌🛣🛤🏦🏭📡📩💌💚💝✅🚸

  • Alyaba Alumai
    March 13, 2020 8:11 pm

    People always complain but one I wanted to tell you is when time for the struggle no one a question why did Dr joepadize his family’s in Bush, now that to the struggle comes to an end people who were quite during the struggle raise question y Dr appoint the wife as defense minister is she not educated, is she not capable I beg stop nonsense IO is not like other party you may think we have come and we are ready to produce the quality changed we promised to our own people south Sudan

  • Mel Ahou Ariech
    March 14, 2020 1:04 am

    some of people are saying what we need silent of gun, land grusing and so; do you think giving two bigger position to one family bring peace/ silent gun for i do not think so it can bring all these things because SPLA/M-IO his party to all south sudanese whether you are in Upper Nile Equatoria or Bhal El Ghazal his not Machar family party


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