By Jacob K. Lupai
March 21, 2014 (SSNA) — This is a response to an emotive and provocative article, “Why is States Parallel with National Government in Foreign Investment?” that appeared in the Opinion Column of The Citizen Vol. 8 Issue 701 of Wednesday March 19, 2014. The article was written by one Anthony Agiem Akot. I read the article with keen interest as the author raised a number of issues, mostly challenging the constitutional powers of the States of South Sudan in relation to foreign investment. According to the author foreign investment is the exclusive prerogative of the National Government.
It was apparent that the author did not mask his contempt for the States with reference to foreign investment. He said, “With Independence of Republic of South Sudan almost two years time now, there have been parallel foreign investments approaches of the States with the National Government. It started with those of Central Equatoria State, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, Unity State, Warrap State, Western Equatoria State etc to mention them that their Governors visited Capital cities and National Corporations of the host Countries to go and to make deals. Deals worth lot of millions of United States of America Dollars without consulting Central Government Agencies allocated such activities”. The problem here seems to be too much imagination in the absence of objective reality.
The author asked sarcastically, “Is there any article or articles in our Constitution that allow States’ Governments to make such expensive foreign investment projects and programs agreements out of overall foreign South Sudan Republic policies?”
I am responding here with reference to Central Equatoria State. The other States mentioned by the author have capable individuals to respond on behalf of their respective States.
The Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011
From the article there seems to have not been sufficient familiarization with theTransitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011. In Schedule (C), Concurrent Powers, the Constitution is very clear in that the National and State governments shall have legislative and executive competencies on any matter such as “Subject to regulation by and approval of the National Government, the initiation, negotiation and conclusion of Bilateral and Regional Agreements on culture, sports, trade, investment, credit, loans, grants and technical assistance with foreign governments and foreign non-governmental organizations” can be undertaken. What does one think of the Concurrent Powers in the Constitution? Was it an error on the part of Republic of South Sudan?
The Concurrent Powers in the Constitution suggest that with the approval of the National Government, Governors are allowed to solicit foreign investment for socio-economic development in raising the living standards of people in their respective States. This is precisely how the States are taking advantage of attracting foreign investment for development. I was amused when the author asserted that, “For our Country to avoid invitation of problems, States have no right to overstep their local boundaries for International boundaries responsibilities”. Is it a problem seeking foreign investment for development to improve the standards of living at home? Does it depend on the whims of somebody else to stop the States from seeking foreign investment in contradiction to the Concurrent Powers in the Constitution?
Central Equatoria State complementary to National Government
It can be said with confidence that Central Equatoria State is not parallel with the National Government in foreign investment. This should be clear to those who do not want to see Central Equatoria State developing as expected. It must be understood that when the States are developing it is in fact South Sudan developing. It is important that the States and the National Government should not be perceived as poles apart operating on different wavelengths.
The Republic of South Sudan is one country but with different levels of government. It is still too early for people to realize that a federal system of governance may help the Republic of South Sudan to resolve some of its burning issues. However, it is fundamental that people should first reach a consensus on governance to resolve the ongoing crisis in the country.
Central Equatoria State is keen on development. The allegation that the Constitution of South Sudan is being abused by Central Equatoria State is very unfortunate. Central Equatoria State is on record of abiding by its obligation to seek approval of the National Government for foreign business trips. For example, a trip to China to conclude an investment agreement was approved by the National Government. How then could a knowledgeable person erroneously conclude that Central Equatoria State was abusing the Constitution of South Sudan? On the contrary the endeavours of Central Equatoria State are complementary to the effort of the National Government in realizing socio-economic development in South Sudan in general. Any State is home to any South Sudanese and the more a State is developed the better services may be delivered to the people.
Hopefully the strides Central Equatoria State is making in development do not make others to feel they are being left behind and so development in Central Equatoria State must be sabotaged. We should all be positive about development in our respective States through foreign investment brought about by energetic and development-oriented Governors.
Playing politics is not helpful in our effort for national unity and sustainable development to improve living standards. Although it was probably intended to score a point, the mention of Dr Riek Machar was irrelevant in relation to foreign investment in the States. Unlike Dr Riek Machar the State Governors are loyal to the National Government. In addition the Governors have a constitutional right to solicit foreign investment with the approval of the National Government as indicated in the Constitution, Schedule (C), and Concurrent Powers. So the claim that Central Equatoria State is abusing the constitution is erroneous and grossly misleading.
In conclusion, the article, “Why is States Parallel with National Government in Foreign Investment?” focusing on Central Equatoria State, seems to mask deep-seated pessimism and contempt for the powers of the States. National cohesion cannot be achieved in this way. Positive thinking and culture of innovation may be helpful, and I hope people understand what national cohesion or unity entails when antagonisms fracture.
The author can be reached at [email protected]