South Sudan Appoints First Female to Head Parliament

The incumbent secretary-general of Sudan’s ruling party, Jemma Nunu Kumba has been appointed to become the first woman to preside over the parliament of South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir, also chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), on Friday afternoon announced Kumba’s appointment as head of the newly “reconstituted” parliament.

“Jemma (Nunu Kumba) will be the next Speaker of Parliament,” he said at a general assembly of the party in the capital Juba.

Jemma Nunu Kumba was born in 1966. She joined the SPLM rebels in the early 1990s in the civil war against Khartoum.

She became an active member of the party and participated in peace negotiations between the SPLM and the Sudanese government, then led by Omar al-Bashir.

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After independence in 2011, Kumba held several official positions, including the governor of the southwestern state of Western Equatoria.

In late 2013, the country plunged into a civil war between Kiir and Riek Machar, sworn enemies, killing more than 380,000 people and displacing four million in five years.

Under a peace agreement signed in 2018 between Kiir and Machar, now president and vice president in a government of national unity, parliament was dissolved and then “reconstituted” last May, from 400 to 550 lawmakers.

Of these, 332 were appointed by Kiir, 128 by Machar, and 90 by the other signatory parties.

Kumba takes the helm of an assembly in which nearly 40 percent of the members are former members of Machar’s rebel party, the SPLM-IO. The vice-president, who has not yet been named, will also emerge from that party.

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“It’s not going to be easy. The current exercise of politics calls for the diligence of all, calls for common goals,” Kumba said after her appointment.

In addition to political and economic challenges, the country is currently facing its worst food crisis since independence, with some 60% of the population suffering from severe food shortages, according to the World Food Program.

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