S. Sudan academics call for free debate on federalism
August 30, 2014 (JUBA) – A group of South Sudanese academics from have unveiled a paper, which demands freedom of expression for those debating federalism.
Such freedoms, the paper argues, is the only way people will understand the system of governance to be adopted when the ongoing peace talks between government and the opposition are successfully concluded.
“There must be room for free, open and frank discussion on the merits and setbacks of federalism to educate the general populace, who would then be able to make informed choices. Intimidations, harassment and attempts at silencing people with different views from the established one, should have no place in a democracy worthy of its name,” partly reads the academics’ report.
“It is only through the process of earnest and open dialogue, free from intimidation, that the people of South Sudan will understand and appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of federalism in general and for South Sudan, in particular,” it added.
The group also called on the South Sudan’s warring parties in the conflict to accept dialogue and end the suffering in the country so that the people from affected areas return to their homes.
“Let’s put South Sudan first, before party politics, regionalism, self interest, ideology and ethnicity so that we become part of the solution rather than the problem, the document points out adding serious soul searching and compromises have to be made by all, for the sake of the people of South Sudan,” says the 18-page report.
Federalism, they argued, should not entail people returning to their respective states of birth or villages, but instead focus on devolving power, making government to be more accountable to the people in each state, introducing transparency into government accounting and involving every local citizen in decision-making processes.
The document further argued that the call for federalism is being considered as an alternative governance modality for an independent country, where 10 states already exist, rather than being viewed as dividing the country and its citizens into tribal zones.
“We believe that, the fear expressed about kokora as aimed at dividing the people of South Sudan, is therefore weakened, especially when there are already ten states that are embraced and clutched firmly to by both the opponents and proponents of federalism,” the academic paper said.
“The call for federalism is today coming from a variety of sources: political parties, academics, civil society organisations, the youth and the ordinary citizen. The status quo is already proving to be unmanageable for both the rulers and the ruled. South Sudan cannot be in a state of perpetual strife or war. We believe that all options of possible models of governance must be on the table for discussion, for those opposed to federalism, an articulation of their points in favour of an alternative system is eagerly awaited and encouraged,” it added.
The framers of South Sudan’s 2011 transitional constitution avoided mention of federalism and instead opted for a nominally ‘decentralised system’.
In June, however, South Sudan president Salva Kiir said citizens should be allowed to decide on how they want to be governed instead of imposing federalism onto them.
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