Federal decentralization versus dictatorial centralization in South Sudan

By IAfrica
In South Sudan
Jul 27th, 2014
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By: Lul Gatkuoth Gatluakn, Minnesota, USA, JUL/27/2014, SN;

The debate over federalism to be adopted as the system of the governance in South Sudan and dictatorial centralization, has generated excitation in the country’s political spectrum. Many South Sudanese politicians had excessively overused jargon accusations which could cause malapropism to the word “federalism” among ordinary citizens.

When Dr. Riek came out of South Sudan in the first week of May, following the United States and the United Nations’ pressure to involve high profile leaders in the stagnant peace talks in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Riek brought with him the idea of adopting federal system, as the basis of ruling South Sudan once peace prevailed.

As soon as Dr. Riek revealed his intention to push for federalism, some politicians including James Wani Igga, the current vice president, threw it as rubbish, and denied the fact that federalism demand is Dr. Riek making and pointing at Nyakuron cultural center as a base of federal demand origination out of Equatorian convention.

The country’s vice president openly reacted and opposed the federalism proposal. A demand he previously agreed to support in 2010 before independence.

In his reaction, Wani cautioned his fellow Equatorians against buying the concept as majority of equatorians have seen that Dr. Riek idea on federation: will rescue them from others’ domination. In his own words quoted by Sudantribune news outlet, James Wani stated “this federation here is not the creation of Riek, we all know that Riek actually stole this renewed call for federalism in this Hall here—Nyakuron—during Equatorian consultative conference like this.”

On the other hand, President Salva Kiir has also reacted swiftly that, “it was not Riek Machar who tabled the quest of federation, federal system was what Southern Sudan demanded from North Sudan during Juba conference in 1947.” He further acknowledged, “South Sudanese politicians also asked for federalism in 1955 in Torit and 1963 during a meeting in Khartoum.”

Salva Kiir was somehow right when he said South Sudanese demanded federalism in above mentioned occasions and he is wrong that federation is meant only between North and South excluding our internal administration in awaiting. Then, James Wani is wrong when he said Riek did not start the demand of federalism.

Below are the historical facts in regard of what Southern Sudanese people wanted and whether Dr. Riek previously demanded federalism or is he just borrowing it out of Equatorian convention.

But first, one must highlight our forebearers’ historical demands before dipping and plunging into this current featuring debate.

Initially, during Sudanese nationalism, which developed to oppose to British indirect rule and advocated for a centralized national government that would be responsible for both North and South in the period of 1920-1947, (similar to what Salva Kiir is demanding at the moment), after Arab nationalists perceived British policy toward Southern Sudan as a tactical agenda that dividing Sudan and preventing its unification under an Arabized and Islamized State.

Southerners at that particular period, weren’t prepared for a statehood loyalty. Their loyalties laid or accustomed to a traditional way of life, which is cultivating the soil or grazing their herds of cattle. They were overwhelmingly illiterate and not aware of any changing world around them and how it is passing through.

Due to the lack of political consciousness or experiences, a conference of 1946 was convened in Khartoum without participation of any single southern Sudanese. Thank to British officials in the South who argued that—–another conference must be called, which will include Southern Sudanese. This culminated into the historical Juba conference of June 12-13, 1947. In that conference, thirteen Southern Sudanese delegates included herein Clement Mboro, Both Diu Thong, James Tambura, Philemon Majiok among others, had reacted by demanding a federal system of governance opposing centralization system.

When British had finally decided to give up its colonization and its stand for Southern Sudan, it drastically allowed referendum consultation. This turned into open hostility after the results of the Sudanization were announced, given the fact that, the whole process was favoring northern Sudanese interest or aspiration.

In this regard, political active southerners —–call a meeting again in Juba on October 1954 to discuss the political future of the Sudan as a whole, and the political future of Southern Sudan within the Sudan.

In their deliberations, southerners agreed they must vote for independence Sudan from condominium partners, but on a condition that a federal system for the entire country is adopted, and southern Sudan must have its own autonomy. If this demand does not prevail, the region must opt for the rights of self-determination.

Apparently, northerners reviewed this call as a tactical demand by Southerners to secure full independence within the preceded independence process of the whole country. Then, they responded by rapidly increasing the number of northerners in the South as administrators, senior officers in the army and police, teachers in government schools, and as merchants.

Such an action brought fear to southern Sudanese that Arabs had declared themselves as new colonial masters and this increased the mistrust that resulted into the disturbance of August 18, 1955 in Torit, when members of the Equatorian army unit refused to be transferred to Khartoum.

In preference, the soldiers have done what the army supposed to be doing beforehand and later deserted to bushes of southern Sudan under two grievances i.e. the demands of “federalism and independence South Sudan.”

The rebellion stunned the northern Sudanese impatient for independence, and the twenty-two southern Sudanese members of the parliament at that time became unwilling to agree to a declaration of independence which would perpetuate Northern control over the country. They stuck on the demand of federal system, as a form of the government that the country could adopt in governing itself.

Southern politicians proposed this ideology as a way of protecting southern provinces from being completely subordinated to a northern dominated central government. Ideologically in their intention, they were in a mood that, if northerners refused this demand, all southern members of the parliament should vote against independence.

On the other hand, Northern politicians were ironically left for nothing other than hastily consented to consider a federal solution for the Sudan. That pledge won the hearts of southern representatives and dissuaded them to vote for an independent Sudan on December 19, 1955 which led to the declaration of independence on January 1, 1956.

Moreover, the debate over southern Sudan issue resurfaced again ignited by students, teachers, ordinary workers and other professional staffs in 1964 followed by round table conference in 1965. Southern Sudanese political groups were pushing for the same two objectives. For instance, William Deng Nhial who represented Sudan African National Union (SANU) inside the country, was campaigning for federal system in the united Sudan.

Clement Mboro, Darius Bashir and Both Diu Thong also insiders aimed for federalism, and then SANU in exile represented by Elia Lupe, Rv. Fr. Saturnino Ohure, Joseph Oduho, and Aggrey Jaden among others were advocating for a complete independence for southern Sudan.

Then, in 1972 when the historic negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) was opened on February 16, 1972 in Addis Ababa at Hilton Hotel with the blessing of his majesty Emperor Haile Selassie on the fundamental understanding that the talks were to produce a plan for regional autonomy within a united Sudan, not the separate State as originally demanded by SSLM, many southerners opposed the move despite the fact that their interest laid on separation and forming a federal democratic State.

This by far became the reason why those who were not satisfied with the deal returned to bush as early as 1975 under the command of Vincent Kuany Latjor.

By 1981-2, the High Executive Council mismanagement of self-autonomous Southern Sudan affairs reached to the point where majority of Southern Sudanese especially Equatorians were dissatisfied. Under such failure, wealth, political positions, among other grievances were not equitably sha

red. This led to the claim of decentralization or division of power equally which is where Bari speaking word “Kokora” find its root in South Sudanese political system.

This claim coincided with the northerners’ decision to abrogate or get rid of the Addis Ababa Agreement by opposing a single Southern Sudan region, the secular constitution, self-autonomy for the south, English language usage, and the security arrangements; which gave southern Sudanese an equal role just as northerners.

Based on such action, Southern Sudanese rebelled and slipped to bushes of Southern Sudan which was spearheaded by Kerubino Kuanyin Bol on May 16, 1983 in Bor and Pochalla and William Nyuon Bany on June 6, 1983 in Ayod and Waat respectively.

Following the Ayod, Bor, Pochalla and Waat uprisings, many Southern Sudanese leaders start moving to Ethiopia to establish a rebellion aiming to solve the problem of Sudan one and for all. The new movement must include former 1975 and 1983 mutineers. However, the situation were soon turned in different angle when different ideologies regarding the objective of the movement emerged.

One group wanted to fight for independence South Sudan and another one wanted to fight to liberate the whole country and replace the old Sudan with the new Sudan within the context of united Sudan under socialist system that afford democracy and human rights to all nationalist and guarantee freedom to all religious believes and cultures.

This ideology became foreign to Southern Sudanese whether in government or in the rebel held areas. Unfortunately, the strangeness of the United Sudan objective, trigger the 1991 internal division.

The split brought about by the dissatisfaction of the movement’s misguiding objective, absence of democratic principle, human rights abuses and lack of a decent strategy among the leadership.

When Dr. John Garang realized the genuineness of Southern Sudanese quest for self-determination and democratization, he called 1994 first SPLM Convention in Chukudum to resolve the grievances rised by the Nasir group and later incorporated all the demands into the movement policies.

From there, the rights to self-determination had become a solid objective and some sort of democratic debates start rooting. While those grievances were being pushed to be adopted in the movement, in many occasions, southern Sudanese slowly sought each other in terms of reuniting their forces.

Hence, on February 5-6, 2002 in Nairobi Kenya, Southerners became one again through a deal that was christened Nairobi declaration marking the end of 1991 quest for objective and internal institutional democratization.

After the reunification of all Southern Sudanese Factions besides remaining forces that formed alliances with the north, the move coincided with the international community rising to pressure Sudanese warring parties, to come to negotiating table and debate peace.

As the result, the first peace talks among Sudanese was opened at Karen Nairobi on May 2-5, 2002 under able, energetic, persevering lieutenant general Lazarus Sumbeiywo as Kenya special envoy for IGAD peace process toward Sudan. The second session took place on June 18, 2002 at Machakos Kenya. After a month of intense negotiations, the machakos conference ended on July 20, 2002 with a signing of self-determination document.

It was a landmark agreement where the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A agreed that the right to self-determination will be settled by a referendum after six years interim period. During the heady atmosphere at Machakos, the three critical issues brought on the table, predicated on extensive sharing of power, wealth, security arrangement and the establishment of asymmetrical federal system, with the government of Southern Sudan to exist as buffer between the central government and southern Sudan.

In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was finalized, as a good clean document emphasis good governance in Southern Sudan, democracy, institutional transformation and reconstruction of southern Sudan under federal structured system.

In the beginning of the interim period, both government of national unity (GONU) and government of southern Sudan (GOSS) were formed. In the government of southern Sudan, all functions of the federal system were put in place. On top of these functions has been the establishment of the institution of presidency, Southern Sudan council of ministers, southern Sudan legislative assembly, the judiciary of southern Sudan (Supreme Court and courts of appeal) and southern Sudan States’ governors, States’ council of ministers and legislative assemblies.

According to the structure, counties in ten Southern Sudan States will be led by commissioners, Payams and Bomas/Bumas administrations will be run by administrators, who will be appointed locally in their respective areas. Then, the newly adopted constitution of the southern Sudan (ICSS) provides the framework for assigning governmental powers and decision-making that included protecting of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

It also outlined fundamental objectives and guiding principles for the GOSS related to citizenship, the decentralization system of governance, the judicial system, independent institutions and commissions, local government and finally economic functioning governance.

Based on the above structure, south Sudanese began to hope that democratic system where public servants should enter political arena through adult franchise is rooting. However, that turned out not to be the case.

Kiir turned the country around and began ruling the nation by the so-called presidential decrees. He can appoint, order court persecution, and most of all fire elected public servants. That kind of practice is picked up by governors to appoint individuals who are loyal to them. Commissioners as well appoint close aids or relatives to available jobs or send them to training which will later result into their employment once they return.

Federal functioning practices where leaders can be elected by ordinary citizens is absent and the whole system became a big mess or an ultimate nightmare. Citizens particularly journalists are daily harassed, censored and even killed. Dictatorship, corruption, nepotism, tribalism and brutalization has engulfed the country. Ordinary folks are only expressing dismay given the fact that none is for them and the bread is for elite.

To reverse and correct the trend and how Salva Kiir is running the country, many political players particularly in Equatoria region, setup public gatherings in 2011-14 aiming to discuss system of governance or how South Sudan as a nation should adopt and rule itself.

Majority of Equatorians since the dawn of CPA negotiation, started to debate on how sustainable peace will be implemented throughout post-conflict Sudan. Many of them believe during the war time, they have been driven out from their homes or faced with economic and political oppression under the SPLA occupation.

Therefore, they wanted a government by and for the people where accountability and transparency transcended. However, when people start talking too much about democracy, federalism or multi-partism, Salva Kiir is always seen as very reluctant in allowing such a change.

He is only interesting in centralizations where wealth of the country concentrated on him and his chosen few that is why he had driven the country to war and adamantly stated if anything touched his position, war is eminent and it is the only solution.

His worry is dwelling only on keeping the power not on solving the suffering or the flight of the people.

As the world is tirelessly engaging on finding a solution to stop the spilling the blood of South Sudanese, they must know beyond the reasonable doubt that—-Salva Kiir is the only problem—who perpetrated and implanted the hatred among South Sudanese tribes, who almost coexist and mutually live side by side.

He has proven to be a pure dictator who does not know how to share power with different organs of the government. In that regard, he will not bring back the trust South Sudanese started building during the interim period.

The only person who will bring mutual understanding is Dr. Riek Machar who is a natural democratic oriented person. James Wani was wrong when he said “Riek borrowed the idea of federalism out of Equatorian convention,” for the reason that, when Dr. Riek signed the political Charter with Khartoum on April 10, 1996, he was aiming to resolve the conflict in the Sudan through peaceful and political means.

He has recognized that during the interim period, a constitution will be developed to form the relations between the South and north. Such relations shall be based on federalism and this type of federal structure have to be built on the values of participatory democracy, so that the people of then Southern Sudan can behave and act freely without any sort of intimidation or fear of blackmailing.

This is the idea he has carrying all along and not just borrowing it yesterday. This writer hope James Wani, Salva Kiir and all their likes, had now satisfied Dr. Riek meant democracy in all its functionalities.

The proposal of 11 more States plus Abyei…God willing, is an indication of federal model similar to American federalism. This kind of leader needs to be given a chance to pave the way so that South Sudan has to be ruled under constitutional supremacy.

It will be a country where the president, governor and/or commissioner will only appoint their cabinet members. All civil and public servants starting from president, governors, commissioners and members of the parliament in both national and State governments, in addition to Payams and Bomas administrators, must be elected and rule for a short specified time frame else one has a potentiality to convince people to bring him/her back to power.

Sycophancy, nepotism, and loyalty will stop. Members of the media outlets, will not be censored or killed. Wealth will be shared and businesses will start booming. Life in that given occasion will start going back to normalcy.

Creating a transitional government under Salva Kiir, the country will not be a democratic State. It will be a country similar to that of Russia under Stalin, Germany under Hitler, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Uganda under Idi Amin Dada or Museveni, just to mention only a few.

This is the reason why we are eager to remove him from the leadership of South Sudan. Had it not been for his increasing dictatorship tendency, the country would not have been driven to war.

One strongly believe that the unity of South Sudanese will be restored when Salva Kiir is out of way. That is when our society will enjoy a democracy which will freely allow them to speak, to publish and most importantly, the freedom to criticize the government.

Although freedom of expression is enshrined in our current constitution, yet, it’s just symbolic, we need a remarkable/workable federal system that will honor the freedom of the press. The freedom of expression can be found almost in every nation constitutions, but only few countries such as the United States that guarantees the freedom of expression as the people and the government are dedicated in making the ideal come true.

In conclusion, as we are debating trying to find ways of how our country should be governed, we ought to avoid unnecessary collaborations. There might be people among us who had and will choose sides before analyzing and correctly identify the cause of the problem.

If that would be the case, one would like to illustrate and educate such people that, accordance with the SPLM party constitution, every five years period leadership of the party has to expire and the party must convene a national convention to either reinstall its serving leaders or elect new leaders, that made Dr. Riek, Pagan and Rebecca Nyandeng a room to challenge the incumbent party chairperson.

Is that a crime which can cause the war? If it is a crime, only in South Sudan it might be seen. Had the leader called the convention and allowed democratic voting manner, Dr. Riek would not drag the country to war.

Promptly, leadership failure and lack of vision from the country’s top seat dragged us into this mess. Had the leader of our nation chose democratic principle, the blood of our citizens that is spilling daily, would have been prevented.

Ruling the country on iron fist rarely succeed in today’s world. National unity that is imposed on people through dictatorial tendency or spurious nationalism will never work. It will only promote disunity and ultimate disintegration of the country.

No one in their right mind or senses will force the medieval behaviors like centralization of power on people. National unity is a voluntary coming together of diverse people and regions based on fair equitable sharing of power and wealth, imposing it will stir the people to dissatisfaction and anger.

IGAD and its partners must bear in mind majority of South Sudanese are longing for a federal republic State that excludes Salva Kiir since he already had shown oddness to it. Once he steps aside, the country will be at peace and national healing will soon follow.

Very respectfully,
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
The author is a political commentator who have written several articles on both Sudan and South Sudan, he is also a member of the SPLM-In Opposition in the State of Minnesota, he could be reach via simonlul2000@yahoo.com or (651) 500-7397


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