South Sudanese Academics Letter to the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan

January 7, 2014

Lucy Tamlyn
Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
Washington, D.C.
Mr. Donald Booth
U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Booth:

January 8, 2014 (SSNA) — We, the undersigned South Sudanese academics, wish to acknowledge and commend you for the active role you are playing in finding a resolution to the tragic events currently unfolding in South Sudan.

The long suffering people of South Sudan, like any other people on earth, deserve better from their leaders. We suggest a short term and a long term approach to end the current tragedy.

In the short term, pressure must be brought to bear on the warring leaders of South Sudan to enter into immediate and unconditional ceasefire arrangements.

Once a ceasefire and monitoring mechanisms have been agreed upon, any long term solution, in our view, should include:

1. Restructuring of the Army (SPLA). This is essential to the realisation of long term stability in South Sudan. Currently, the two major communities – the Nuer and the Dinka – constitute more than two-thirds of the army, at all levels. Any of the two can hold the country at ransom, as recent events have demonstrated. In the interest of long-term stability, the three greater regions of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Gazhal, should be equally represented in the armed forces.

This is a tried formula that held well in 1972, following the Addis Ababa Accord. At that time, while Equatoria alone could have supplied two-thirds of the absorbed Anyanya forces, for the sake of stability the leadership at that time in its wisdom decided to absorb 2000 soldiers per region.

Restructuring the army in this manner would aid the process of professionalizing and de-politicising the army. At present, the army’s loyalty seems to lie mostly with the SPLM party, rather than with the state of South Sudan.

2. National Dialogue. It is important, in our view, that the discussions in Ethiopia be followed by a National Conference where representatives of all stakeholders would be invited. The relevant stakeholders include all the political parties, church leaders, youth and women organisations, veterans groups, and various other civil society groups. The problems facing South Sudan are national and thus require a comprehensive approach.

If need be, a transitional government headed by technocrats should be put in place with the mandate to organise the forthcoming election, reorganise the army, and conduct a national census.

3. South African Type of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The institution of such a commission would help to heal the deep wounds of hurt following the unspeakable violence and destruction and help to restore a sense of trust between the various nationalities in South Sudan.

The choice of the chair is important. There are few individuals with the moral authority to chair such a body in South Sudan. The natural choice would be Emeritus Bishop Paride Taban, who stands morally head and shoulders above everybody else in South Sudan. In the absence of the Emeritus Bishop, or other South Sudanese religious leader of high moral standing, it may be necessary to recruit someone from outside the country for this purpose.

4. Overhaul of the civil service. There is great need for a professional civil service, where appointments mirror experience and objective qualifications, rather than the current sense of entitlement based upon an individual’s perceived role in the liberation struggle. Unless the civil service is reformed in this manner, the delivery of much needed services to South Sudan’s citizens will remain elusive; in turn, leading to dissatisfaction and possible civil and political unrest.

5. Constitutional Review. The current Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan needs to be thoroughly revised with the aim of reigning in the excess powers given to the President, which includes wide discretion to fire elected governors. A fixed term of office for the President must be enshrined in the constitution. A fixed term may have help to avert the current power struggle between the incumbent and the deputy. The absence of a fixed term means that there is no definite entry point for any aspiring leader and creates undue political uncertainty.

Additional constitutional measures include strengthening individual rights, enacting greater separation of powers than now exists among the branches of government in South Sudan, and empowering the judicial and legislative branches.

6. Investigation into the Killings. We call upon the international community to ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken into the reports of ethnically motivated killings of people of any national origin in all the theatres of war: Juba, Jonglei, Unity State, Upper Nile and any other areas. Anyone found guilty should be made to feel the full wrath of the rule of law, even if this means being referred to the Hague.

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Mairi Blackings
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK.
Professor Laura Nyantung Beny
University of Michigan
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