Federalism in South Sudan’s Political History:
Federalism was a historical demand by South Sudanese in the former unified Sudan. And in the light of this fact, the demand for federalism in our political arena in South Sudan nowadays is not something new at all, because our leaders demanded for it in 1950s and 1960s of the last century.
Dr Mansour Khalid, a great Sudanese intellectual, writer and historian, asserted in one of his books that the southern Sudan MPs in the Sudanese parliament in 1950s demanded for federalism.
Late Hon. Benjamin Loki who was then representing Yei, voiced out this political demand in the parliament on December 12, 1955. He suggested the formation of political parties conference in order to come up with the position of including the emergence of a federal state in the declaration of the independence of the Sudan.
The demand was rejected by the northern political parties, but they later on accepted the inclusion of the following provision into the declaration of the Sudan’s independence: “The demand by Southern Sudanese for federation shall be put into consideration”, but it was soon thrown into the dustbin of history and considered to be a political sin and treason.
Among South Sudanese politicians who demanded for federation were: Stanislaus Abdalla Baysama, Both Diu, Aggrey Jaden, William Deng Nhial and Fr. Saturnino Lohore.
The demand for federation for the second time in 1956 Round Table Conference after the first demand for it in the 1947 Juba Conference, later on resulted into the assassination of William Deng in 1968, three years after the the Round Table Conference and the assassination Fr. Saturnino Lohore at Sudanese-Ugandan borders.
The plan for his assassination was coordinated by the Sudanese Military Intelligence with Ugandan Military Intelligence.
Hitherto, federalism is a historical demand that had resurfaced in Equatoria region conferences.
Resurfacing of Federalism after self-determination
A Technical Committee was formed in 2011 after the announcement of the results of the referendum in which our people exercised the right for self-determination. The Committee was under the chairpersonship of Justice John Luk Jok and its task was to write a constitution for the new country.
The SPLM party that had been talking about ‘How the Sudan should be governed, not who should govern it’ came up with a system of governance known as ‘Decentralized democratic system’ which was accepted and adopted by its members in the committee and in the parliament two days before the declaration of the independence.
It must be clearly stated here that the issue of system of governance is not a major reason that triggered the ongoing war in the country.
The main issue that triggered the war is originally an internal party issue. It was the amendment of basic documents namely: SPLM Manifesto and its Constitution, and more specifically, the issue of open and secret vote that determines the election of the party’s chairperson who should later on become the SPLM presidential candidate in 2015 general election.
Machar opted for secret vote and Kiir opted for open vote. The two gentlemen were on their two opposite directions!
The last Equatoria Conference came at the time in which the country is facing a terrible fighting. It was at this time that the demand by the people of South Sudan in Equatoria for federalism became connected to the rebel’s agenda.
The rebels held their own conference in Nasir in February this year. Federalism was one of the recommendations of that conference as the best system of governance.
Alfred Lado Gore, the second man in the hierarchy of rebellion, who is from Equatoria region, and his boss Riek Machar adopted the internal demand for federalism by the Equatorians for the purposes of political polarization in order to win the Equatorians to their side and support their rebellion.
There were secret communications in this regard.
Machar’s call for federalism is not genuine
The call by Riek Machar for federalism is not genuine and it is not emerging from his personal thinking and conviction because Equatorians have been calling for federalism before the independence and during the two year time he has been occupying the position of Vice President after independence and he never joined them or backed their call.
Therefore his abrupt call now for federalism is a mere tactical necessity for winning the people of the region to his side to support his rebellion and convert their peaceful call for federalism into violence and the use of guns; and hence push their region into abyss and oven of war.
And indeed the rebels have succeeded in communication with the people of Equatoria, but their attempt to convert the peaceful call of the Equatorians into a hostile demand has drastically failed.
The country almost slipped into another chaotic situation of bloodshed last week, worst than that which took place in Juba, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu and other areas that had witnessed war since December, but all the efforts to do were frustrated.
The attempt was preceded by strong war propaganda in form of rumors spearheaded by pro-rebels websites such as: (Nyamalepedia, South Sudan Tribune and South Sudan News Agency).
The rebel activists took their time and carried out their war propaganda in social media by circulating rumors in order to create confusion and strike the internal cohesion through dangerous rumors, such as claiming that President Salva Kiir was planning to arrest the three governors of the region (Konga, Bakasoro and Lobong) to kill them.
The two governors (Konga and Bakasoro) played a great role in refuting these rumors. Their public appearance to speak to address the citizens was a great contribution towards maintaining relative peace and the saving the fragile situation.
War aggrandizement and targeting the Dinka tribe
The most dangerous part of this propaganda is that the rebel activists do not differentiate between the Dinka tribe as a community and the government of South Sudan as an official body that is running the affairs the country on behalf the people. To them, the Dinka tribe is the government and vice-versa.
The essence of their mobilization and polarization is calling on the other tribes of South Sudan and allying them against the Dinka tribe, not the government of the Republic of South Sudan and its.
Have you now seen how those who had claimed to be fighting for democracy are now calling and trying to wipe away the Dinka from existence instead of fighting to bring about the democracy they passionately claimed?
I personally appreciate what the governor of Central Equatoria state Hon. Clement Wani Kong said on Thursday, July 3, 2014 in his last press conference, when he clearly stated that: “I will not accept federalism that is brought through blood”.
This was a clear rejection of bringing about federalism through the use of an armed violence. This is what Mr. Jacob K. Lupai articulated in his last article published here on this website, and I must acclaim him for that.
War must be rejected for reasons well known to all of us. My personal opinion on federalism is clear. I don’t reject it and I don’t oppose those who are talking about it.
It is their legal right to talk about it peacefully. And I have added my voice to those who have proposed earlier that we better sit down as South Sudanese to discuss the system of governance that is fit for our country in a national constitution conference, and reach consensus around it, be it federalism or unitary or parliamentary system or any other system we deem fit.
I have also said that the current ‘Decentralized system’ doesn’t differ very much with federalism. In a nutshell, federalism is devolution of powers between the central government and the states and equitable sharing of resources in one country.
Our states now have their executive, legislative and judicial organs with fair share of national resources, and there is separation between central and state powers in the constitution.
I reached this conclusion after making a thorough comparison between the two, Decentralized and Federalism.
I believe in peace and peace will surely prevail. The pursuit of peace will overcome the propaganda of praising war and bloodshed and all the ongoing attempts aimed at plunging the country, particularly Equatoria, into another atrocious and horrendous war like the ongoing war in Upper Nile region, will surely die away.
I call on all my fellow South Sudanese in the country and around the globe to work for peace and stop war propaganda and sowing seeds of hatred, tribalism, disunity, discord and aggrandizement of war through social media. Peace will surely come and war propaganda will end.
O God, we praise and glorify you
For your grace on South Sudan,
Land of great abundance,
Uphold us united in peace and harmony.
Mr. Ayok lives in Juba. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org