By: Justin Ambago Ramba, UK, FEB/10/2015, SSN;
As the peace talks in Addis Ababa enter its critical stages, several positions taken by either sides will have to come under scrutiny.
Nevertheless the important issues will have to centre around the ability of the anticipated peace agreement to tackle the very root causes that led to the unprecedented levels of corruption, bad governance, lawlessness, impunity, lack of political space, human rights violations, lack of freedoms …etc .
On a very special note we would all want to believe that the people of South Sudan deserve to live under a better system of governance, for it would be a gross injustice to leave them entrapped in the status quo.
We would also want to make it abundantly clearly to the IGAD mediators that no any amount of struggles over power, influence or positions should be allowed to overshadow these core issues.
Besides ending the viscus cycle of killings we believe that there is much that this peace agreement can bring to South Sudan. We also believe that the transitional government of national unity is capable of setting the right foundation for the country.
In this piece of opinion article, I don’t intend in any way to go back in time and discuss those traditional areas of federalism, definition, types, cons and pros…..etc.
It is my believe that the readers have over the past four years or so read enough of that stuff from either myself or many other better articulated writers. So I will limit myself to the ongoing peace talks and its position on federalism.
South Sudan needs a peace agreement that clearly spells the federal system of government as its new system starting right in the transitional period and beyond. Of course we are aware as to why a handful of politicians in the incumbent regime are having a second thought about it.
Unfortunately our country has had a whole decade of the current fake decentralization under President Salva Kiir Mayardit. If anything to go by, it is this existing system of governing the country which has landed it into the current mess.
In the case of South Sudan the federal system of government has ever since been the one popular demand that the majority of South Sudanese will go to an length to see it implemented.
At this critical moment in our history the decision to implement federalism cannot be left at the mercy of the incumbent politicians in Juba to have the final say when we already know that they can be more than happy to have it suspended altogether indefinitely.
Worse still we are seeing a worrying shift in initial stand on federalism among a few politicians from Equatoria who beforehand had identified themselves as supporters.
Although we have had our doubts from the very beginning and rightly suspected that the genuine call for federalism among Equatorians have long been hijacked from the masses by certain well known quarters, we still call upon them to cease from doing what clearly is not in the best interest of their people in the long run.
For as things begin to unravel we are seeing more of those opportunist politicians changing camps and the call for federalism to them is a way of winning political support. A call that they can easily sell to the highest bidder once the going gets tough.
If some governors think that they can now trade federalism for top jobs during the transitional period and those from Equatoria included, it better be said that they are about to board the wrong ship.
Why don’t we want to part ways with old habits and begin a transitional period that embraces plurality, and less power in the hands of a ‘One Man Ruler? After all unless it is so or otherwise there won’t be peace any soon!
One can sense the degree of resentment that some old-school politicians have against the project set forward by the SPLM-In-Opposition to restructure the country into 21 federal states.
Solely basing the 21 federal states on the old colonial districts of the former southern Sudan that existed during the Anglo-Egyptian rule, the SPLM-In-Opposition has given us the best structure on which to implement new federal system of governance.
In fact only a few who harbour anti-progress beliefs can be seen disagreeing with this.
Incumbent state governors are obviously anticipated to resist the most. Seeing their current power base divided into two separate states to make the total of 21 federal states may not go well for some of them.
But to say the least, everything suggests that there a great deal of wrong reasoning associated with this kind of thinking.
Our historical records state that what became known as the Bahr Ghazal Province was in fact part of the Equatoria Province after South Sudan ceased to be part of the former Lado Enclave (Congo Free State).
If any of these never happened then Southern Sudan would have remained only as the two provinces of Upper aged Nile and the Equatoria.
This clearly shows how administrative requirements have long dictated the division of bigger provinces into smaller ones for better management and governance.
Later on successive regimes in Khartoum also divide the Southern provinces into smaller ones. The three old provinces became six under late Ga’far Nimeiri .
Even the existing ten states which some people want to cling to as if it were their grandfathers heritages are in fact the works of ‘Jallaba’ National Congress Party of Omer Al Bashir and his mentor Sheikh Hassan Abdalla Al Turabi.
The irony now lies in that our land had witnessed all kinds of administrative restructurings under the previous colonial rulers, the last being the Jallaba of Khartoum.
All that was seen coming from us was and still is how we comfortably embraced those restructurings, although none of them actually devolved any true powers and funds to those new administrative units.
Going back to the new position of the Equatoria governors who almost succeeded in deceiving us that they were indeed pro-federalism to the last drop their blood, only tells us that we need to step up our efforts for the enemy is not sleeping.
The incumbent system with all its icons have for a long time perpetuated and protected the fake decentralization system which they solely inherited from the ‘Jallaba’ and they are still prepared to continue doing just that if given the choice.
Over the past ten years they have gone on to perfect every vice they learned from NCP in Khartoum.
From underfunding strategic service sectors like education, health, roads…etc, to never funding them. They have also heightened levels of corruption, of impunity, of tribal favouritism and of course of lawlessness.
With reference to federalism our people have had many bad experiences with the way politicians sometimes triumph through the use of ‘delaying tactics’.
And any attempt to defer federalism still further this time around is no different to deny it altogether. The question that must be asked is, “who are you to hold the people of South Sudan hostages this time around after they have seen the light of independence”?
Let us face it for South Sudan has had enough of policies that are wickedly sold to its lovely people all wrapped up in the name of nationalism.
So what does a non-representative tribal micro-nationalism got to do with a multi-national society like South Sudan when we all know that it doesn’t even have what it takes to appeal to the other nationalities in the country.
Thus one ethnic group’s nationalism regardless of how big the group is, it still doesn’t speak of everyone in the country. At best it remains a non-inclusive approach and incapable of representing the multi-ethnic nature of our country.
Neither can such micro-nationalisms provide for the much needed spirit of pluralism often required in such situations.
It is true that while our individual tribal nationalisms is likely to set us against others, federalism in its crudest form has never been meant to promote any of the currently existing ‘strong’ regional sentiments.
These regional sentiments are often sought after as means of facing up to other regional blocks. But federalism is the opposite of the prevailing regional political polarisations and antagonisms.
Yet federalism doesn’t in any way aim at disrupting any of traditional ties that our people have built between themselves over the years; individuals, families, or even communities.
Where the peace talks now stand, the important issue is no longer about the proposed 21 states as it came in the documents of the SPLM-In-Opposition. To me they have perfectly settled that issue. It just can’t be any better!
Hence, anyone finding problems with the 21 federal states’ structure, but claims to support federalism is in fact being a hypocrite who is serving the interests of the anti-federalists.
However what we as support of federalism have to tackle head on is the ‘sick centralism mentality’ which still exist among the old fashioned – the Neo-Jallaba expansionists, a.k.a the liberators.
These kind of politicians have traditionally blocked any powers and funds from finding their way to the states, counties, payams and bomas. Even the little that found its way outside the centre in Juba will quickly be brought back one way or the other.
As I write now the quest for federalism in South Sudan has already reached the point of no return.
Through an irreversible ‘collective position’ on governance, we must seriously acknowledge that the implementation of federalism is a popular demand that has been there even long before the independence of South Sudan.
And to be very sincere to you my dear reader, many of us were terribly shocked when the ‘John Luk’
Transitional Constitution for South Sudan kept silent on the adoption of federal system of government in the newly independent country.
The independent South Sudan by all measures is still a multi-ethnic country very much so like the ’Old Sudan’ and can hardly be successfully governed from one single centre.
To the many compatriots who don’t know, I would like to draw their attentions to the dirty tricks that the incumbent government of South Sudan has chosen to play in the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, especially on the issue of federalism and its implementation.
A few but dangerously manipulative politicians and interest groups representing the ‘ centralists’ in Juba are now on an all-out aggressive diplomacy in which they plan to misrepresent the positions of the so-called internal front.
It is unfortunate that the heads of the IGAD member states are now acting under the spell of the self-proclaimed Patron of East African, President Museveni of Uganda.
The plot to block other parts of the negotiation agenda in which federalism and power sharing are the top priorities, is squarely planned to find its way through him (Museveni).
As you can see, the anti-federalism camp are not all imbecilic. They too have some strategists who know what to say without giving away the government’s true intentions.
Thus on federalism they have adopted the sweet expression that, “Federalism is indeed a popular demand by South Sudanese”.
Unfortunately they don’t intend to stop there. They will continue to seek ways of blocking it using the old Jallaba tactics of buying time by deferring it for the constitutional committee to decide on or better still leave well after the transitional period.
In this time period they expect to frustrate any attempts at implementing true federalism or probably set it on a tract to either die a natural death.
They may even attempt to politically strangle the life out of it through the combined actions unfavourable executive policies and an augmentative manipulation from a rubber stamp parliament.
But the bottom line is that neither Salva Kiir Mayardit nor his coterie who all flourish on the corruption that centralism guarantees for them, will never at any time implement federalism. Not now and not in a million years to come!
The truth be said and be said loud. The people of South Sudan cannot allow themselves to be bitten twice from the same hole.
Any delays to implement federalism immediately during the transitional period should remind us of how the former northern Jallaba politicians deceived our fathers and elders in connection to this very issue of federalism during the run up to the 01/01/1956 partial independence of the Old Sudan.
Those who don’t know it let them understand that in the run up to the Old Sudan’s independence from the Anglo-Egyptian rule, the Jallaba promised to declare a Federal Republic in Sudan on January 1st 1956 as demanded by the Southern representatives in return for their votes in favour of an independent United Sudan.
The way the Jallaba reneged on federalism in 1955 continues to influence our relation with them even after we have become to separate countries.
That infamous backtracking on federalism by ‘Jallaba’, started the Old Republic of Sudan on the wrong footing, setting the scene for all subsequent wars that consumed the country.
It can be said that even following the secession of south Sudan, the republic of Sudan it is still paying the price through the multifactorial civil wars that are going on now in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile regions.
Of course a naïve person support the incumbent regime in Juba may argue that, how can I dare to compare those of Salva Kiir Mayardit, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Michael Makuei and Nhial Deng Nhial to the Jallaba of 1955.
Good point! But what do you say about the overwhelming similarities that exist between these politicians and their counterparts in Khartoum!
My fellow reader, apparently South Sudan is no longer ruled by Northern Sudanese Jallaba politicians, at least that is what appears on the surface.
However following the details of how the SPLM/SPLA government of Salva Kiir Mayardit ruled South Sudan from the date they took office in 2005 to date, there is a lot that raises the eyebrows.
All that President Salva Kiir and his severally recycled colleagues did and are still doing was and is still typical of not only the Jallaba, but in fact his regime by all accounts is the twin sister of the NIF/NCP iron fist regime in Khartoum.
When it comes to reneging on agreements and promises no one can do it better than the trio, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Barnaba Marial Benjamin and of course their mouth piece Michael Makuei the incumbent minister of information, but mostly disinformation in Juba.
Talk of the mistreatment of journalists, summarily executions of opinion writers, absence of free speech, lack of political space and so on.
You may even say they have learned well from the Jallaba and now they even gone not only to perfect it, but in many cases they are now the authors of their own methods.
On the very dark side, while Omer Al Bashir massacres his victims in the remote Western Regions of Darfur, Nuba Mountains, the Southern Blue Nile, President Salva Kiir Mayardit might have done what the mass of murderer of the neighbouring Sudan failed to do when by carrying out a full three days massacre right inside Juba, the seat of his government.
The massacre of civilians in Juba happened right on the watch of all the diplomats representing their foreign missions in the country, the international bodies and even organisations including the United Nations as represented by the 12,000 strong Peace Keeping Forces, the UNIMISS.
Down the line new strategies have to be sought by all supporters of federalism as we put up temporarily with the fact that the IGAD has again limited the final negotiations to the principals of the two warring Parties to the exclusion of the other stakeholders.
With this being the case, many of us are left with very limited options to pick from, and there isn’t any better decision than to give all our support to those who are for the immediate realisation of federalism in the transitional period and not otherwise.
In the end one can only say that the true intentions of these two leaders can only be verified by the contents of their positions a wide range of issues and not just limited to power sharing and security arrangements as it clearly ascertains to us how genuine their approaches are. .
Again it is equally important if not the most important, how the issues around justice and accountability and a genuine devolution of powers and finances to the 21 new federal states are addressed and given the top priorities they deserve in the final agreement.
And again without any element of doubt the immediate implementation of federalism beginning right from the transition period is in fact in the best interest of South Sudan. This is so because there aren’t any other options left if we are ever to realise our dream of making South Sudan a home for all.
Dr Justin Ambago Ramba. Member of the South Sudan Political Parties Delegation to the IGAD Mediated Peace Talks for South Sudan and a Voice for the Voiceless.