July 15, 2014 (SSNA) — While the country lies apparently on the verge of falling apart, recent weeks have seen the infiltration of calls for federalism into the national agenda.
Typically, like any other political debate in S. Sudan, cheerleaders have already spiced it with sentiments that suggest dishonesty, contempt, and mistrust as they attempt to lure their flocks into embracing their take. Phrases like “rebel agenda”, “agenda of Equatorians”, “saving Equatoria from Dinkocrats”, “to get rid of Dinka” etc are currently floating in the mouths of many.
Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that 1) Federalism is a national agenda and deserves opinions of S. Sudanese from all walks of life. Those harboring cognitive allergies to this topic might need to see their psychiatrists. 2) It should not be used as a tool to hold the current government for disguised political ransom. It carries more value for all S. Sudanese than just individual interests.
Although I am a strong supporter of federalism, a system that would mark the next politico-economic step towards the prosperous S. Sudan in my definition, recent calls for federalism leave a lot to be desired.
Let’s be a bit rational about this. It is an overhaul of the existing system, a change easier said than done in reality.
Establishing a viable federal system would need careful study of failures of the current political system –which are countless of course, identifying common pathologies that need to be remedied by the federal governments, and ensuring that better alternatives are at hand. Otherwise, recycling the present selfish, abusive, aliens-to-the-rule-of-law, unambitious, ‘Oyee’ stooges in the national parliament, as crude as they are, for instance, would spell a whole different disaster for ordinary S. Sudanese who are certainly in dire need of change. It is in the hands of these same individuals that the nation is rocked by conflict, still nursing unspeakable poverty and poor delivery of services. What would federalism bring if it happens tomorrow? Just as the conversion of units doesn’t change the quantity of a substance, giving these lots new micro-niches in the name of federalism won’t make them any different at the look of things.
Furthermore, the federal system, whichever form it will be, would require prior evaluation of the national budget, current & future state of the economy, and terms of sharing resources, just to name a few. Yet none of the above is possible with the current state of affairs. So, how is federalism possible without any of these? Or are they not necessary altogether? These, I feel, cast serious doubts on sincerity in the voices calling for federalism now.
Although it is a commendable agenda, federalism at this point is utterly misplaced and mistimed. An unrealistic, disguised maneuver of opportunists trying to nurture safer foraging nooks for themselves, it seems. A resolute action to taming the reigning bloody thieves would have laid concrete foundation for the revolution of people’s power that can be advanced into federalism.
Whatever the motives, we must not lose sight of the future. Federalism promises long-term solutions to most of our problems. I believe. But it must be given direction. It must be geared towards salvaging S. Sudanese from the rule of elites. A slight mistake in crafting it, which is likely to happen if we choose to cloth the elites with federalism and shuffle them around, is bound to break S. Sudan into pieces that would be hard to assemble.
We must approach it with more rationale than taking it at face value!
Philips Al-Ghai is a proud S. Sudanese and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ Al_Ghai211.