August 4, 2014 (SSNA) — Juba Monitor of Thursday, July 31, 2014, Vol. 4 Issue No. 153 published on page 6, “Position of the Political Parties on the Transitional Government”. The position of the political parties in relation to the proposed transitional government was interesting. One would have expected the position of the political parties to appear as part of the peace agreement signed between the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Government and the SPLM in Opposition. In other words the position of the political parties should have been presented during the peace discussions to become part of the overall peace agreement.
The position of the political parties appears as if peace were already attained that people were now eyeing for positions. However, it is still too early to say what the peace agreement will look like if at all there will be one. It is also difficult to speculate what the peace agreement will include. The position seems to be pre-empting what should be in the peace agreement. Nevertheless, foremost what is of interest in the political parties’ position paper is the programme of reform, the most essential for peace and stability in South Sudan.
The political parties in their position paper have come up with a structure and composition of the would-be transitional government of national unity in post-rebellion South Sudan with the main purpose of establishing and consolidating peace, instilling confidence in the government and leading the country to a genuine multi-party democracy. The proposed transitional government may contribute to bringing pressure to bear on the belligerents in the current senseless war which should come to a speedy end. This senseless war is a manifestation of a naked greed for power in which egoism may be a factor.
The SPLM needs to come back to basics. The Vice President of the Republic seems to concur with this when he said that the SPLM is a disorganized party lacking in discipline and commitment (Juba Monitor, Friday, August 1st, 2014, Vol. 4 Issue No. 154, Front Page). Ending this senseless war can only happen through a peace agreement that can also facilitate reconciliation between the warring factions of the SPLM, SPLM in Government and SPLM in Opposition. Without reconciliation between the two SPLM factions, participation of the factions in the transitional government of national unity may make them to be two distinct groups.
When the two SPLM factions participate in the transitional government of national unity as two distinct groups, there will never be a way to establish peace in South Sudan. There will always be antagonism. Another complicating factor is the so-called group of eleven (G11) members of the SPLM who were previously detained for their alleged anti-government activities. The G11 claims to be neutral in the ongoing conflict. As SPLM members, to claim neutrality in the middle of a serious conflict within the SPLM leadership, the G11 is untrustworthy and therefore unreliable, and should be on their way to the dustbin of history.
The position of the political parties on the formation of transitional government of national unity is commendable, though with some reservation, to bring pressure to bear on the SPLM warring factions to conclude a peace agreement. The cabinet proposed is of 21 ministers, excluding the president, vice president and the prime minister. In addition proposed are 5 deputy ministers and 18 commissions and authorities. This is a huge government by all means with substantial budgetary allocation. It is therefore not very strange when a big chunk of the budget is spent financing the government machinery at the centre leaving the states probably gasping for funds for development.
In the interest of national unity the SPLM cannot afford to ignore the other parties. The other scenario is for the SPLM to reconcile its internal differences for peace within itself. The SPLM needs to sort out its problem in order to bring the badly needed peace and stability to South Sudan. It is very disappointing to the vast majority of people to see the SPLM, the architect of independence of South Sudan, in a great state of disrepair. The SPLM will do an irreversible damage to its image as a political party if the indiscipline in its ranks is not addressed quickly to salvage the country from destruction. This can be done through dialogue.
Since one SPLM faction is in armed rebellion for more than half a year now with devastating effect, a peaceful solution is utterly desirable. The longer the rebellion drags on with untold sufferings of the people, the lower the confidence will be in the SPLM as a political party. People will look at the SPLM in Government as the one capable of bringing peace because it is in charge. The rebellion has little to lose as it is not in charge of running the affairs of the country. The SPLM in Government has the moral ground to offer an olive branch to bring pressure to bear on the rebellion for people the world over to see the difference.
There are two main levels of government in the Republic of South Sudan, the central and state government. There are ten states and a state is headed by an elected governor. The state is autonomous and has a council of ministers of not less than 13 ministers. However, in the political parties’ proposal for a transitional government the state will only have 6 ministers with the governor and deputy governor who is also supposed to hold a ministerial portfolio. The structure and composition of the state government is interesting.
It is noted that the size of the state government is drastically reduced. It is not clear whether this is something to do with austerity measure that the size of the state government has to be reduced. At any rate the proposed size of the state government seems to be a hasty proposal with superficial understanding. In simple terms taking the state government as an implementer and the central government as a policy maker, which level of government needs a bigger size in technologically less advanced economies.
It should have been the other way round. The size of the central government should have been smaller than that of the state government. The deputy governor should not have any ministerial portfolio. There are other talented individuals who can equally have that ministerial portfolio. This is in order to relieve the deputy governor for his or her appropriate duties in the state government. The other thing to note is that the size of the state government should not be limited to what the centre thinks. The state should have the liberty to have the size of government appropriate to its development needs as long as its economy can sustain.
In South Sudan people sometimes hear of national projects even if such projects are within the competence of the state. The concept of national projects is used carelessly by people who only day dream. We have experience of the negligence by central authorities of the so-called national projects. At least a national project should be the one that covers more than one state and the central authorities should be collaborating with state authorities concerned for success instead of imposing. However, quite often central authorities ignore the collaborative role of states in implementing projects. This is where problems at times occur.
As the tip of iceberg in agriculture, for example, the central authorities take it as their prerogative to distribute seed to the states instead of the states to distribute the seed to the farmers timely. The central authorities control the funds for the seed and the question is why, where there is so much inefficiency. Due to this poor system this season the central authorities failed miserably to distribute the seed on time. The states received the seed distribution list very late and even the seed have not yet reached the states to distribute to farmers where unfortunately the planting time has long passed. Is this how to develop agriculture? In agriculture timeliness is extremely important. Unfortunately the centre seems to ignore this probably for other motives.
Instead of supporting the states the central authorities think they can also be the implementers without understanding that they are making the technical staff in the states redundant. For example, how could the central authorities work directly with the farmers in the counties, payams and bomas without the collaboration of states authorities? This is what happens in what is supposed to be a decentralized system. Officials in the centre seem not to be aware of the competencies of the states.
As they are in the centre the officials erroneously assume they are in charge of everything in the states. This, of course, defeats the concept of decentralization leave alone federalism which is still a long way off. With the programme of reforms, hopefully, the proposed transitional government of national unity will put things right in the interest of ordinary men and women of the Republic of South Sudan.
South Sudan is bleeding and so peace is a matter of death and life for those who have experienced nothing but destruction and devastation on daily basis. The SPLM must by all means rise above the unnecessary wrangling over leadership and save innocent lives. It is utterly unacceptable for South Sudan to be a laughing stock in the world after emerging energetically as an independent state in decades of relentless liberation struggle.
Our Sudanese counterparts and those who were opposed to the independence of South Sudan are by now laughing hysterically at how primitive South Sudanese are, only know how massacring each other over earthly leadership; people barely two years of independence are tearing the country apart. What is so sweet about being a leader of a country that is burning or bleeding when those innocent faces with angel smiles are perishing everyday under unnecessary gun fire?
In conclusion, protecting leadership does not necessarily mean fighting for leadership come what may but it also means relinquishing leadership as the price to pay for peace, stability and unity as the ultimate manifestation of deep nationalism.
The author can be reached at [email protected]