By Jacob K. Lupai
February 21, 2016 (SSNA) — This article had appeared earlier in some daily newspapers in South Sudan. It focused on a scenario that took place on Friday, 2 October 2015 watched in the evening news when the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, issued an order cited as “Establishment Order number 36/2015AD for the Creation of 28 States in the Decentralized Government System in the Republic of South Sudan”. Before the announcement of the Order the news caster kept on advising viewers to tune in to South Sudan Television (SSTV) for an important announcement by the President. The 8pm news broadcast was delayed because of the said important announcement.
After some waiting the President at last appeared on the SSTV screen to make a historic announcement of the Order number 36/2015AD for the Creation of 28 States in South Sudan. The fundamental objectives of the Order highlighted include the devolution of power and resources closer to the rural people, gradual reduction of the size of the national government to free financial resources to the states and local governments, attraction, encouragement and mobilization of national experts to work at the state and county levels, and promotion of social and economic development among the rural communities.
The announcement of the Order by the President immediately drew mixed reactions from some of the viewers. One viewer reacted by saying the Order was good because that has freed them from the arrogance of a certain ethnic group. However, others questioned the basis of dividing up the country on ethnic lines as states and how would that promote the unity of the country. Some people were not so sure whether the Order could be modified as it was perceived rigid. Nevertheless, after a careful analysis it could be deduced that there was some flexibility in the Order according to Order 10.
Compromise peace agreement
On 15 December 2013 a violent conflict flared up within the ruling party, the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The conflict spread rapidly to Greater Upper Nile, bringing along untold sufferings to people who should have been enjoying their independence barely two years old. The SPLM was sharply divided into two factions with the division getting wider. One faction was known as the SPLM in government (IG) and the other as SPLM in opposition (IO). The two SPLM factions could not make headway in the form of striking a peace deal to end the devastating and senseless conflict.
In order to prevent South Sudan from sliding into a collapsed state, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) exerted enormous pressure on the SPLM (IG) and SPLM (IO) because they were seen reluctant to reach a compromise to end the senseless conflict. To sustain the pressure on the two parties, IGAD-Plus was proposed. The proposed IGAD-Plus, as an international partnership for peace, consisted of the African Union, China, the European Union, the Troika States (US, UK and Norway), the United Nations and IGAD Partners Forum (IPF). IGAD-Plus was to have a strong and indispensable role to push the South Sudan peace negotiations towards a final peace deal.
The relentless IGAD-Plus pressure exerted, indeed, worked when the two parties to the senseless conflict finally signed what has now become known as the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement to be implemented 3 months after having been signed. The agreement should have been implemented byf November 2015. South Sudanese of the various walks of life were unanimous in taking the implementation of the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement as priority number one. This was because the conflict was causing enormous damage to the country that it should have been stopped by all means. However, there is a very tiny minority of the opportunistic who are welding enormous power and have a silent vow to torpedo the implementation of the peace agreement.
Creation of 28 states
The announcement of creation of 28 states in South Sudan took many by surprise as people were preparing for the implementation of the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement. The implementation of the Order number 36/2015 for the creation of 28 states is to take place in 30 working days from the date of signature by the President. This is precisely to take place on 12 November 2015 as the Order was signed on 2 October 2015.
As a related development the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement which was finally signed by the President on 26 August 2015, stipulates that to initiate the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), a 3-month Pre-Transition will commence on signature of the Agreement. This clearly suggests that the implementation of the Agreement with the formation TGoNU would have been in the 4th week of November 2015. Interestingly the implementation of Order number 36/2015 for creation of 28 states would have been in the 2nd week of November 2015. This shows that the implementation of Order number 36/2015 and the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement would have been concurrent.
The concurrent implementation of Order number 36/2015 for the creation of 28 states and the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement is a mammoth and a steep uphill task that is backbreaking. No one should have any illusion about the daunting steep uphill task ahead. Instead of addressing challenges of this magnitude one at the time, the people of South Sudan have created a deadly double-edged sword that they may find it difficult to handle.
In line with the consistent and popular demand of the people for a federal system of government in South Sudan, the Establishment Order number 36/2015 for the creation of 28 states may not be a bad idea. It is in agreement with the concept of taking towns to people. However, one great challenge is thatthe criteria for the creation of 28 states in South Sudan are not clear. Such a national task of creating states would have needed countrywide consultations for an informed decision.
First of all, the timing of the establishment order for creation of new states is questionable when the country is facing a situation of economic collapse and enormous task of forming the TGoNU for stability and reconciliation in promoting national unity. It seems the architects behind the scene were nothing but ethno-centric and cared less about the IGAD-Plus Compromise Peace Agreement. Land grab and hegemony seem to be the hidden agenda.
As a federalist this author had written extensively about federalism in the print media but was always branded as an ignorant and dangerous man of “Kokora”. He was accused of intensively hating others. This author had called for what would be regarded as regional federalism but not ethnic federalism. The creation of 28 states seems to show a tendency towards ethnic federalism similar to tribal homelands or as Bantustans in apartheid South Africa. The question one may ask is that, is this appropriate for South Sudan in promoting national unity? There are already signs of problem brewing.
This author, nevertheless, is more than delighted with the Establishment Order number 36/2015 for the creation of 28 states which has exonerated him from being previously accused as an ignorant and dangerous man of “Kokora” when he was only positive about regional federalism but not an ethnic one. Now who are the real people of “Kokora”? Those who had insulted me and opposed my positive attitude to federalism may now owe me an apology
Analysis of new states
As stated somewhere above the criteria for the creation of 28 states are not clear. This undoubtedly has created confusion. For example, in Greater Bahr el Ghazal the newly created Gok State with Cueibet as its capital town, is composed of only one county and is mainly populated by one tribe. The population is 117,755 and occupies an area of 4,824 square kilometers (sq km). In contrast, Yei River County in Equatoria has a population of 201,443, more than that of Cueibet, with more than one tribe, occupying an area of 6,668 sq km, also more than the area of Cueibet. The population of Gok State is only 58 per cent of the population of Yei River County
Despite the statistics Yei River County has not been created as a state. Similar examples can be cited in the created 28 states in South Sudan. In Equatoria the newly created Yei River State has a population of 590,748. This is in contrast to the newly created Aweil State in Greater Bahr el Ghazal with a very tiny population of only 115,633. That is also in contrast to the newly created Ruweng State in Greater Upper Nile with a mere population of only 99,455. The population Ruweng State is only about 17 per cent of the population Yei River State.
Partly due to the creation of 28 states shrouded in utter confusion with unknown agenda, there are already mounting complaints of unfair creation of the new states. For example, the newly created Lol State in Greater Bahr el Ghazal is being seen as unfairly created. The people of Raja are demanding the creation of their own Raja State instead of being dominated by Aweil West and North which were in the former Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.
In Equatoria the people of the newly created Namorunyang State are demanding a name change of their State. The people of Tombura in the newly created Gbudwe State like the people of Raja are also demanding the creation of their own state.
In the analysis, it has been clear that all the demands for a further creation of new states illustrate the unfairness in the creation of 28 states and the lack of wider consultations with the people in South Sudan. The unnecessary confusion could have been avoided with farsightedness and absence of a hidden agenda.
Flexibility in the order
In the Establishment Order number 36/2015 for the creation of new States in South Sudan, Order 10, Amendment of the Order, highlights that “This order shall not be amended save by another Order issued to that effect by the President of the Republic”. Depending on how people may interpret Order 10, it can be deduced that there is a glimpse of flexibility in the Establishment Order number 36/2015.
When people complain the President is likely to listen. He can have all complaints channeled to his desk for scrutiny and possible action. It is possible that some complaints can persuade the President to take a course of action that may cause the amendment of the Order in the best interest of all. The President may response to people’s complaints and amends the Order accordingly as a sign of flexibility.
The implication here is that people should not despair or panic that the Order is rigid and that the created 28 states will never be change whatsoever. The President may listen to people’s genuine complaints to amend the Order.
In principle, any creation of new states should always be in the interest of taking towns to people but not the domination and marginalization of others. If ethnic federalism effectively takes towns to people without damaging national unity, then there is nothing wrong about it. The challenge is when the newly created states become the compartmentalization of people in their ancestral lands, when free movement and settlement of people in places of their choice in the country is curtailed and when people look at others as foreigners, and then this will be the breeding of disunity that we must all work hard to avoid. The main problem South Sudanese seem to have is that, they do not see each other in themselves. People are so ethno-centric that they only see their tribesmen in themselves but not any other from any ethnic group.
In addressing challenges there is a need to clearly define the system of governance to be adopted. This is important for people to have a common understanding and appreciation. However, the choice is already federalism because this is the popular demand of the people of South Sudan. It is important to assert that federalism is not the confining of people to their ancestral lands. It is rather about strict separation of powers between the federal, state and local governments where the three are vested with three branches of public power: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. In federalism the exercise of state powers and the discharge of state functions are matters for the state without interference from the federal government. In other words the state and federal governments are independent of each other in some aspects.
In conclusion, as a matter of principle without any hidden agenda, the creation of new states in taking towns to people is a positive approach in development but there should be wider prior consultations for consensus in promoting national unity.
Jacob K. Lupai is the author of the book: South Sudan, Issues in Perspective published in 2014. The book is available in St Joseph Bookshop opposite Juba Teaching Hospital, in JIT Supermarket in Juba and at Juba International Airport. For students who would like to borrow the book, copies owned by the University of Juba are available in their library. The author also has copies of the book and those who are interest in the book can contact him on: 0913937146 or 0927434038.