If federalism cannot be achieved why not try confederation!

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

October 10, 2014 (SSNA) — It is fairly true to say that a good chunk of the history of South Sudan has largely been about the quest for self-determination and to some extend a search for a federal system of governance. Both were believed if achieved would guarantee for our people an equitable participation in the affairs of their country and a fair distribution of its wealth, power and opportunities among its different peoples and regions.  

Without doubt the well-deserved sovereign status of South Sudan remains the best thing that has ever happened to its great people. However there are still many mind boggling issues that someone like me who believes in more than one Sudan continues to struggle with. The worst of these is of course how the same Old Jallaba practices of political opportunism has made its way into the new country’s political life.  

MPs in South Sudan hit their lowest when many of them were literarily bought into silence on the issue of federalism. 

Some have no shame as they try to express their pro-government position by saying that the federalism they called for is different from the federalism being championed by the rebels of the SPLM – IO and its leader Dr Riek Machar.

Of course many have secretly shifted their stance on governance to support the incumbent corrupt, centralized unitary system.  Shame on them if they don’t know that it was this centralized unitary system of governance albeit cosmeticized to appear as a devolved system that in fact represented the tool used by Jallaba to oppress and dehumanize our people in the Old Sudan.

Whatever cons and pros of decentralisation is being discussed the onus is that the hired apologists will always argue in the interest of their masters who pay them to do so.  During the course of this extremely important debate on governance in the world’s newest country PR has no room and should better be avoided. At best we have heard apologists trying to repackage and resell the same old empty decentralization (in fact heavy centralized) which failed the old Sudan and eventual broke it into two.

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does this quote apply to the way you run our country?

Barely three years into its independence, South Sudan went ahead to surprise the whole world when its leaders chose in   this record time to surrender the country and the fate of its 11.0 m people to a home grown dictator who heads a system that not only oppresses the people, but is already on record for indiscriminately killing its citizens. It has so far butchered tens of thousands of children, women, and old people I just a few months.  

When a country’s long awaited and hardly won independence turns out only to mean a replacement of the foreign oppressors with local and home bred dictators you know that finger biting, frustration and sense of having been betrayed can be expected to dominate the scene.

Security agents of this new home grown oppressors continue to commit untold crimes while they unquestioningly serve their oppressive president and help him achieve his egocentric dream of becoming a sole dictator. Yet one of the main things that set our country apart is its huge diversities. The illusion of setting up a central government for the sole aim of promoting ethnically driven supremacists’ agendas is not going to succeed.  Have the South Sudanese not walked away from one such rotten system in the January 2011’s self-determination referendum?

Anyone in their right state of mind should have known better whether our people can accept a new imposition of basically the same rotten unitary centralized system of governance in an independent South Sudan! It is not about who presides over such systems. The simple fact that it sets to produce more than one class of citizenship is a reason enough to class it as a nonstarter for our hard won independence!

What we are seeing today is a political betrayal of our people by a handful of politicians who are bent at reviving the long rejected “Jallaba” ideology of dividing our people based on their ethnicities into rulers and the ruled. That ideology was fought and defeated and anyone who wants to reproduce it will taste the same defeat that our people inflicted on the “Jallaba”.

Even the mountains, the woods, the rivers and the wide sky of South Sudan are out there to tell everyone  in the most unwavering terms  that  federalism has not only  been the most  outstanding demand by our people throughout the long history of the struggle for equality and justice, but in fact it is still the most  popular demand.

This time around the political elites have unfortunately chosen to swap positions. Many in search of material gains have moved from the liberation camp to the oppression camp just over night.  Yet we are not surprised at all at such changes in principles. We had in the not far past witnessed how politicians were bribed into abandoning the very masses whom they represent.  

The same “belly-first” politician are at it again. They have suddenly gone back to their old ways and dropped their support for federalism in the current political power wrangling the moment they received financial favours and promise of positions in what essentially is a directionless and visionless government.

No wonder weak hearted people will continue to be lured into serving under the current dictatorship and the price to pay once in positions of power is the all too known sudden retreat in principles.  No one should waste time wondering why this particular kind of behaviours are becoming a common place in our country’s politics.

Were you not there when even the most prominent of politicians,  were  equally made to commute endlessly between Khartoum, Rome and Mecca in the effort to keep their CVs up to date (religious status)  in order to remain relevant in what was an ever changing political atmosphere as it existed in the Old Sudan.  “Always keeping pace”, was the name of the game!

So while the situation remains fluid as it now is, why don’t we continue with our responsibly and ponder further into other options giving special consideration for other alternatives like confederation.  Because by considering confederation as one of the options in our search for the best form of governance that can appeal to our unique historical background, South Sudanese will surely find an opportunity to revisit how well they as both ethnicities and individuals fit into this political equation called Republic of South Sudan.  

Discussion on confederation will essentially enable South Sudanese to test……… maybe for the first time, whether they are all fine with who and what they are in the context of their citizenry in South Sudan and how they actual look at themselves in the new socio-political set up.  They will seriously need to re-evaluate how they relate to other communities within what is now a sovereign state of south Sudan.  

Importantly the people will have to openly discuss and express how they independently and without any external influence rate all these complex intercommunal relationships as they play out in in real time. The  different forms of how communities interact with and react to issues like cattle rustling, child abduction, rape as a tool of war and revenge, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, impunity…………etc …..etc, are all worth revisiting?

Decentralization like education only works well, when you have enough of it.  And as little education can be dangerous so is the case with decentralisation. This without the least doubt leaves confederation as our best choice.  When considering which type of decentralization to adopt in South Sudan as it languishes today under the rule (misrule) of self-proclaimed liberators now turn oppressors, no stone should be left unturned. Our common oppressors’ single priority at this cross roads in our turmoilous history is to consolidate a system that will provide them with the legal means to decriminalize their appalling human rights records.

There are those who oppose federalism to the extent of unjustifiably declaring an all-out war on its advocates.  Thinking that they will succeed in pushing the status quo down the peoples’ throats is something that needs a rethink. But why should we not just say enough is enough and stop these lunatics from further subduing the others while denying the new country any chance of democracy, meritocracy and justice or even a good name among nations!

All that said above, there still is an important missing connection here before we are done with this issues. Can someone tell us why our politicians don’t remain consistent in their demand for a federal SYSTEM, when every logic says that it is the only system to stabilise our country.  For as things stand now, it won’t be too long before even this popular call for federalism becomes irrelevant once again. What we may all end up with couldn’t be any less than a confederation of three regions! Our history is our teacher.  

At this juncture it makes sense to say if we cannot make President Kiir and his coterie see the  benefits of  a fully blown  federal system  for our downtrodden masses ( citizens of South Sudan), then we are duty bound to lower the bar and settle for the confederation of the Three Regions (Bahr Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile ).

That is as far as people can go in perusing a peaceful settlement. But if the cost is made to include bloodletting, unnecessary loss of valuable lives and loss of properties,  then lie assured  that our bitter history with the Jallaba wont tale long before it savagely repeats itself.

Dr Justin Ambago Ramba is a columnist and a blogger on South Sudan politics and member of the South Sudan political parties’ delegation to the IGAD mediated Peace Talks!

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