National unity: a project for each and every South Sudanese

By Jacob K. Lupai

May 20, 2013 (SSNA) — South Sudan has just attained independence from an imposed unity that had failed miserably to take into account the objective realities on the ground. In the old Sudan people did not take national unity as a project for each and every Sudanese. Greed and insensitivity preoccupied people’s minds and the result was the breakup of Sudan into two independent nations, the Republic of South Sudan and Sudan.

Probably conscious of its struggle against unpalatable unity, the newly independent Republic of South Sudan has opted for a decentralized system of governance. It was fundamental how to establish the basic patterns of governance in realizing national unity in diversity. Decentralisation is a growing trend in Africa and the Republic of South Sudan is therefore not an exception. Indeed the Transitional Constitution, 2011 recognises the need to devolve some key central government administrative and political authority to governments at the state and local levels.

In the First Governors Forum after South Sudan’s independence in July 2011, the governors of the ten states spelt out the need for further decentralisation. The governors were indeed calling for a federal system of governance in the Republic of South Sudan. However, it is very unfortunate that in some quarters federalism is negatively associated with ethnicity hence the loud cry that federalism for South Sudan is ethnic federalism. This is, nevertheless, not only blackmail but a total advertisement of profound ignorance of the essence of federalism.

Federalism in essence is envisage as an administrative and political solution to problems of underdevelopment, marginalization and to problems of the lack of active participation of people in running their affairs. Another misleading generalisation is that there is no need for federalism in South Sudan because “federalizing federalism and/or replacing federalism with federalism is unrealistic if not an illusion”. What a piece of garbage! Is there any existing federalism in South Sudan when, in fact, it has been rejected?

The Equatoria Consultative Conference which took place at Nyokuron Culture Centre in Juba under the theme; Fostering Equatoria Leadership in Building Cohesive Nation, reaffirmed the commitment of Equatoria to a federal system of governance in the Republic of South Sudan. Equatoria has spoken and is committed to objective federalism as opposed to ethnic federalism of the dependent scaremongers. Objective federalism may be defined as that federalism which addresses underdevelopment in contrast to the so-called ethnic federalism which is perceived by the lacking in confidence as putting up massive solid walls of divisions between ethnic groups that are denied interaction.

With a population of 2,628,747 which is about 32 per cent of the total population of South Sudan, the demand of Equatoria for a federal system of governance cannot be ignored. Equatoria clearly sees federalism as of benefit for all. It is therefore up to the other regions to see the benefit of federalism. People should not be put off by those of tunnel vision and lacking in confidence.

Federalism is not monolithic. It is dynamic because there is no one single definition of federalism that people may rigidly adhere to. Indian federalism is not the same as that of the United States of America. Federalism guarantees equitable sharing of power and wealth, and participation in the various aspects of running the nation and this can only be good for national unity. A system that is advocated by insensitive tunnel visionaries or pseudo revolutionaries is a sure way to doom and gloom because it will inherently be a monopoly of the tribalistic as others are treated with contempt.

South Sudan will be vibrant with federalism because national unity will be a project of each and every citizen. Development will be accelerated as major decisions are taken at the state and local level. The fear expressed that federalism divides people along ethnic and regional lines hence disunity is nothing but a mental problem. With reference to development, in federalism the regions and states will gain enormously from each other. This is by regular conferences to identify common challenges for a united effort in addressing the challenges.

In federalism expertise will be shared. I will have no problem to work in Northern Bahr el Ghazal provided I am under the governor of that state. The role of the central government should be that of a facilitator and coordinator. Implementation of projects should be the responsibility of the federal states or regions. The central government is to provide the needed assistance and a back up to realise the overall government policy for socio-economic development in the nation.

The fear of federalism that it is ethnically and regionally divisive does not hold water. South Sudanese have come of age and are mature enough that they cannot be divided by mere levels of government in federalism. It is dependency culture that seems to be the issue here. People seem to depend on Equatoria for anything that there is an exaggerated fear of losing anything that is Equatorian in federalism.

The exaggerated fear is the type of naivety the anti-federalism lobby seems to have. However, one can assert that South Sudanese will never be divided because they are not as simple as the naivety of the anti-federalism lobby seems to suggest. Didn’t South Sudanese fight as one people but of different ethnic groups, regions and states to achieve that one common terminal objective, independence? In their diversities South Sudanese were united in their struggle for freedom. What will divide them in federalism with the same diversities?

In conclusion, the anti-federalism lobby may need to rid themselves of playing games with national unity. It is possible that South Sudanese understand national unity as a project that must be achieved through each and everyone’s effort in all their diversities. Equatorians understand that the unity of South Sudan is paramount but not at the expense of any other region or state.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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