Constitutionality of convening Equatoria Conference 2013

BY: Jacob K. Lupai, JUBA, FEB/26/2013, SSN;

Experts in constitutional law are lecturing people that the convening of Equatoria Conference 2013 was unconstitutional. In paternalistic tones people are urged to avoid or for the authorities to stop such conferences altogether because it was feared they would destabilize and ultimately lead to the disintegration of South Sudan. However, the argument was hardly convincing other than to play on fears that regional conferences could create disunity in South Sudan. It is as though the regions are not nationalistic enough or are inherently pro disunity such that any regional conference convened is only to sow the seed of disintegration.

The above may be a wrong assumption because in Equatoria Conference 2013 most if not all of the delegates who spoke emphasized the unity of the people of South Sudan. The questioning of the constitutionality of convening Equatoria Conference 2013 is nothing but a flimsy way of discouraging such conferences from taking place because they are mistakenly perceived as propagating disunity. There are regional conferences held in Africa but there is no evidence that they are disuniting Africa. A regional conference is to address pertinent issues.

Constitutional rights
The Equatoria Conference 2013 was not an assembly of people to cause turmoil in the country. It was a peaceful assembly where unity of people of South Sudan was strongly emphasised with the President of the Republic of South Sudan being appreciated for his leadership. People expressed their opinions and views freely, something that is constitutionally guaranteed as Articles 24(1) and 25(1) of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 seem to confirm. Also, in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011, Article 49(2) stipulates that, “Any two or more states may agree on mechanisms or arrangements to enhance inter-state coordination and cooperation”.

Precisely the three states of Equatoria chose to come together to enhance inter-state coordination and cooperation in addressing challenges for common aspirations. What is wrong with that? Other states have the liberty to do the same if they so wish according to the constitution. Also, there is no such thing as Greater Equatoria. There is only Equatoria as in history books. This was also acclaimed by the people in Equatoria Conference 2011 that Equatoria should simply be known as Equatoria without the word Greater as prefix.

Are people jealous of whatever Equatoria initiates or are they scared of the misguided assumption that Equatoria has a hidden agenda? It is doubtful that Equatoria has a hidden agenda. The delegates would not have spoken their minds the way they did in Equatoria Conference 2013. Those were very courageous people who called a spade a spade without fear or favour. Announcing in public of what the problems are has an added edge in resolving the problems. This is because in private people may deny problems exist.

South Sudan as one tribe
People may talk of South Sudan as one tribe in the effort to promote unity. This is, however, a deceptive way of perpetuating domination and marginalization of others. Propagating South Sudan as one tribe will not work. What will work in promoting unity is by accepting that all citizens are equal before the law not by word of mouth but by action and that states and regions are also equal in treatment.

The resolutions of Equatoria Conference 2013 clearly illustrate an institutionalized marginalization of people of Equatoria and this is very dangerous to the kind of unity people are endeavouring to promote. The question is, if South Sudan was one tribe how come other people were so marginalized that they could no longer tolerate but to speak out loudly the truth of the fallacy of South Sudan as one tribe. South Sudan is a multitude of tribes so let’s stop fooling around.

Equatoria Conference 2013
Equatoria conference 2013 was convened partly as a follow up of the 1st Equatoria Conference 2011. It was also to articulate issues and challenges facing the people of the three states of Equatoria. It was unfortunate that some simplistic minded individuals cried out loudly that the Conference was an expression of deep seated hatred of non Equatorians. This was specially highlighted by one Manyang David, a journalist who covered the Conference for the Juba Post. As a journalist one would have expected a balanced analysis of the Conference but instead my fellow young writer spewed out venomously his deep hatred of Equatorians.

On one occasion Manyang David even went too personal. It is a mystery how the Juba Post should be keeping such a biased and unprofessional writer turned poor journalist that is not good for the image of journalism. Manyang David articulated his biased perception of Equatorians in his dispatch, Sowing seeds of hatred and disunity, that appeared in the Juba Post of February 20th–26th, 2013 Vol.7 Issue 166.

Probably as a simpleton he was not aware that his dispatch was demonstrating his hatred of Equatorians like any other non-Equatorian of his group who is not comfortable with a federal system.

Truth hurts but is liberating. What the delegates to the Conference articulated was the gross marginalization of the people of Equatoria as the resolutions show. Criticisms were not directed at non Equatorians but to the national government to find solutions to the issues raised. Probably it was the call for a federal system of governance that caused the most offense to non-Equatorians as Manyang David in his venomous hatred of Equatorians seems to suggest. As always non-Equatorians associate a federal system with division of people while Equatorians associate it with the most fair, appropriate and equitable system of governance that is satisfactory or relevant to a diverse country.

People argue that non-Equatorians are in Equatoria because Equatoria is accommodating the national capital and the seat of the central government. Fair enough! This is true and indeed Equatorians welcome fellow citizens from all over the country. However, the problem is that fellow citizens from the different parts of the country have no desire to respect the rule of law in Equatoria.

They have become land grabbers, money grabbers, terrorizing innocent farmers in Equatoria with impunity and causing unnecessary insecurity. If this is the price the peaceful and law abiding Equatorians have to pay in independent South Sudan then what is the basis for unity?

No one in their right minds or senses will put up with medieval behaviours. National unity is a voluntary coming together of diverse people and regions based on fair and equitable sharing of power and wealth, the two most important aspects in nation building. National unity that is imposed by spurious nationalists will never work. It will only promote disunity and ultimate disintegration of the country.

Fair mindedness in Equatoria
From the outset it should be asserted that self-praise is no recommendation. However, narrating instances in which Equatorians sacrificed their positions in the national interest will not amount to self-praise but is a matter of telling the truth for people to understand.

During the first war (1955 – 1972) an Equatorian abandoned his military career in the Sudanese army and volunteered to lead the armed wing of Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM). Most of the foot soldiers were either illiterate or semi-literate. However, they had one burning common desire, the liberation of Southern Sudan from Arab neocolonialism. The SSLM mounted protracted guerrilla warfare until an agreement ending hostilities and granting Southern Sudan self-government was concluded.

If the Equatorian was greedy for power he would have assumed the presidency of the self-government in Southern Sudan. As a nationalist the Equatorian accepted a non Equatorian to be the president of the self-government in Southern Sudan. The non-Equatorian was never anywhere closer to the frontline to dodge enemy bullets.

In the second war of liberation (1983 – 2005) and towards the end of the liberation war an Equatorian offered his seat to a non Equatorian who was rejoining the Sudan people’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The other non Equatorians in the SPLM from the other regions held tight to their seats. It was an act of nationalism that the Equatorian surrendered his seat to the non Equatorian for the second powerful seat in the SPLM. This might have been considered a characteristic of Equatoria’s weakness. However, there was no mistake of pushing Equatoria too far.

When the SPLM-led government was established they had no buildings in which to be accommodated. It was an Equatorian who out of nationalism offered his state government buildings to the new SPLM-led government without any formal agreement for any compensation or payment of rent. Surely others cannot claim to be more nationalistic than Equatorians. How could others including land grabbers be more nationalistic than the peaceful and law abiding people of Equatoria?

Arguably, people of Equatoria are fair-minded and also peaceful. This may explain why non Equatorians want by any means to live among fair-minded and peaceful Equatorians. Therefore, a federal system to non Equatorians may mean they will badly miss Equatoria. This is, however, flaw perception because no one will be forced to move from anywhere else against their will as long as they are law abiding citizens. The only place to be moved to is prison which is of course for law breakers.

Conclusion
The constitutionality of convening Equatoria Conference 2013 can best be left to experts’ interpretation of constitutional law. For a lay person the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan guarantees freedom of expression and assembly. The people of the three states of Equatoria have expressed their joint opinion that they are Equatorians. Indeed they are Eastern, Central and Western Equatorians. The common name in the three states is Equatoria. So no one should deny the people of the three states of Equatoria from calling themselves Equatorians.

Equatorians do not have hatred of non-Equatorians. It is only the medieval behaviors of non-Equatorians that is of concern to national unity. Stop the medieval behaviors and marginalization of people then hard feelings will disappear. This, however, will not happen without Equatorians speaking up boldly.

It should be understood that Equatorians are not revengeful as in other cultures where hatred for a misdeed lingers for decades. If all citizens were treated as people of one destiny with equitable access to opportunities, we would not have got the kind of resolutions produced by Equatoria Conference 2013.

In conclusion, in promoting national unity it is better to speak out the truth than to indulge in gossips and backbiting in dark corners. Equatoria Conference 2013 should be seen as something helpful in highlighting what the mistakes were so that they should not be repeated in the efforts to forge national cohesion and unity.

22 Comments

  1. Deng Lueth says:

    No prosperous nation of South Sudan without freedom of expression and peaceful assembly!
    It is sad if there are folks with little minds who see any peaceful assembly of any group of South Sudanese as a threat.
    NB: Freedom of expression; can be negative or positive (and that is Ok) and PEACEFUL assembly!

  2. Danide says:

    In my own understanding, the unconstitutionality of such gatherings stems from the fact that they are regional groupings which derive their names from former regions that are no longer recognised by our current interim constitution. This is what i see was wrong with such groupings.
    As it is often said, “history repeats its self”, these gatherings often bring suspicions among the people that call themselves countrymen. While the old days of kokora and its execution are still fresh in the minds of some non-equatorians who had experienced the terrible eviction.
    It is assumed by analysts that these conferences are nothing more but kokoro brewing! Those who question the legality of these conferences don’t have a hidden agenda but people convening them are the ones assumed to be having an hidden agenda!

    • Kenyi Alex says:

      Danide,
      I wish you fear the root causes of Kokora the way you fear Kokora itself. If we do not refrain from what brews Kokora, then
      it will one day be ready to be drunk!

    • Aj says:

      Danide,
      it’s people like you who have rotten thinking making simple things complicated. Whenever Equatoria are doing what is democratically known as interest to it people, you just jump into fear.

      Not sure where your hometown is, but if you are not from Equatoria, then you are one of those dinkas who cry for peaceful coexistence and yet call Equatorian “Arab Allies” and yet dinkas are majority working for arab to this day.

      Your dead constitution is sleeping 24hours with your dinkas lawmaker. Was the new constitution supposed to be introduced in national parliament by now? Why not just shut your mouth and allow everyone to have peaceful gathering? The gathering in Abyei went silently without you guys talking about it.
      Equatoria will remain and if we decide things are not balanced and dinkas are doing what they are doing now, then we will have a problem and you cannot stop it. Someone mentioned it could be worse than Rwanda. Let dinkas keep doing what they are doing and time will catch up.
      Aj

  3. James Lual Garang says:

    You seem to be a doctor, someone with high profile I guess. I don’t think it is necessary to be proud, no one chooses a tribe in anyway. Whether you are dinka, nuer or bari, you did not choose!!!

  4. Dan says:

    Jacob Lupai,
    keep encouraging that regionalism crap but we may live to see its nasty consequences.

  5. Nothing wrong with the Equatoria family convening. It is healthy to have a healthy family that promotes peace and unity in the bigger table- south Sudan. The disorganized, violence-prone Nilotics should do the same and clean their filthy houses, and make south Sudan healthy. Otherwise, the only other option is ethnic Federalism like now in Ethiopia. That would be the only best guarantee for equal rights, and equal opportunity for all citizens of south Sudan.
    The current laws and rights in the south Sudan do not apply equally to all. Lakes State cannot even convene a non-violence convention by itself, that the three Equatoria states did peacefully. what does that tell you?

    I do believe this author did an unbiased analysis with little bit of boasting that might have stemmed from an outdated old memory/nostalgia or a bit of an old mentality involved. But he has every right to be proud of that peaceful family convention. The tribalists and the corrupt elements in Kiir’s government and their supporters use “kokora” to blackmail Equatorians, which is not fair. Equatorians know their rights and should know when they can compromise in genuine national unity. There is no such thing today in south Sudan. There only exists illusions and Kiir’s quiet tribalism, the worst kind. Kiir is the worst quiet tribalist and pretender that south Sudan ever produced.

  6. Thiang Geka says:

    What is wrong with Equatoria Conference? This question is repeatly being asked and shall be continuing by any good hearted S. Sudanese who likes to see our people in unity. I’m saying this because some people are worrying about Equatoria Conference. Equatorians are South Sudanese who fought for this country and they have an undoubtful constitutional right to hold a meeting or conference at any time, anywhere. I have been reading and hearing from a group of Dinka including those of Ateny Wek Ateny, since the end of the Conference that Equatorians should not held the conference. A question to be answered is why Bahr el Ghazal Conference, Upper Nile and not Equatoria’s? Otherwise, Equatorians are free and have a constitutional right to speak out what they feel in mind like any other regions.

  7. Brave elder lupai for the nice work, please keep it up. While for those who are trying to use a threatening language to silence other tribes, please you are doing nothing but rather fueling the unbearable sentiments within many people who are already tired of your primitive and medieval mentality.
    Why didn’t you talk of the secret meetings been held in private houses, hotels and even abroad, meetings only to find ways how to dominate and marginalize other tribes. please let’s stop fooling around as stated by elder lupai. you can’t protect the interest of your tribe or uncle at the expense of the entire nation. i don’t know what sort of human beings are you? you should now learn by the previous experience of kokora.

  8. Roto Nice says:

    Mr. Lupai,
    you seem to be suspecting yourself for being disliking non-equatorians as you kept mentioning. regional grouping in not bad but just look critically on how the current government is formed, before you talk of marginalization of equatoria, who marginalized them?
    seats of national government in Juba are distributed according to states not regions as you missed it. you are a type of people who creates disunity in the country. I think you did not even contribute to the liberation of this country the way you speak, you seem to be a person of a very high profile but without nationalism in heart.

  9. Dan says:

    here is the perfect root cause of the failed state that’s south Sudan, like it or not it’s a FAILED STATE!
    The constitution needs to be rewritten and regional governments, states or whatever they call need to be under one Banner…….SOUTH SUDAN. I understand that might be difficult to achieve given the difficult issues of tribalism… etc but is nation building easy under any circumstances???

  10. Dandit says:

    Jacob Lupai,
    You are very articulate political commentator and a learned fellow as per construction of your articles but I hate the way you portray the non-Equatorians as people with medieval behaviors. Why do you quickly take sides in your expression by acknowledging your Equatorians and condemning non-equatorians?
    For the sake of nation building, this country needs a contribution of every mindful single South Sudanese regardless of thier individual or tribal contribution during the war. In many African histories for independence, history has shown that largest tribes are the one who lead the struggle because of their numerical aspect but not any other reason. History has already documented itself and it will never be rewritten or reversed in anyway. This country will remain for every South Sudanese without any distinction between who contributed what during the war.
    For our case in South Sudan, every tribe is working hard day and night to smear filthy utterance against each other in a bid for polilitcal recognition and supremacy. I am very much surprised if the likes of Jacob Lupai can always be siding with thier tribes. Let’s break this yoke of regional aligment rather than focusing our minds on national development. This nation needs guys from Dinka, Nuer, Equatorians and so on. Let us embrace peace, unity, equity in absolute terms, good governance, rule of law and everything pertained in democracy. Let us abstain from uttering statements that pose threat to our national unity rather than healing our wounds of the last 21 years of war. let’s initiate process of reconciliation and forgiveness so we all enjoy the fruits of our liberty
    Shalom

  11. Dan says:

    Dear Editor of SSN,
    What is the difference between me who posted a commence regarding this article on 26 and the other one who posted a commence on 27 using exactly my user name? Or is this is an identiy theft?

    • info@southsudannation says:

      Hi, Dan, I tried to publish nearly all comments; if yours was missed it could just be inadvertently.
      Good day!
      Editor

  12. Ajo Dadora says:

    could you please include me in this forum.
    thanks.
    Ajo Dadora RSS/JUBA

  13. Dandit says:

    Nothing wrong with constitutionality of equatorians gathering but the intentions of individuals like Western Eqautoria Gov. are always malicious to the current regime. Bakosoro have a deep hatred toward Dinkas and our cousins Nuer due to some reasons he knows better. The administration of current regime has a lot of flaws but should not be viewed as a Dinka or nuer regime. let us differentiate individuals performance or behaviors from their tribes.
    Stop talking sh… about other tribes otherwise your comments reflect your inferiority complex.

  14. Manyok Chuol says:

    Dear Brother Jacob K. Lupai,
    There is no question you are a great South Sudanese. I have always liked the maturity of your writings, most importantly. However, I’m concerned that your recent posts appear to be shifting from the usually polite, balanced, and mature Dr. Lupai we’ve come to know. Not to be alarmed, however, it’s not a terrible deterioration. In fact, Dr. Lupai makes important points but in making them, I feel it’s not important to attribute a failing governance in our country a result of “medieval behaviors of non-Equatorians”.

    That accusation, in my opinion, did not need to be made to strength the author’s argument. Indeed, it can be argued that the medieval conditions responsible for our people’s behaviors were, in part, reasons our people took up arms to liberate themselves from and when some of us were busy pursuing studies, some of those we accuse as having medieval behaviors were fighting the enemy and thereby helping bring about our independence and these people deserve some respect, their terrible behaviors notwithstanding.

    Let’s us exercise some patience and Dr. Lupai had shown us to do so in the past even as I know it’s difficult thing to do, especially in the face of provocations.

    Finally, those rooting for federal state in South Sudan should do so without belittling those who hold contrary views; it’s incumbent upon them to educate South Sudanese of the importance and benefits of a federal state, notwithstanding the reality of ‘political Kokora’ hindering those likely noble efforts.

  15. Deng Dut says:

    There’s nothing wrong with Equatorial Conference or any thing they said whether we like it or not. This is warning for us, my Dear brother, I am Dink too. We should have to worry about tomorrow not now, yes, we do have our country recently, but we still have challenges of border with Sudan even our brother Ngok Dinka from Abyei did not achieve their goal yet.
    Please we should not be like ostriches by burying our heads in sand without realizing the danger around us. You have to realize that Equatorians are people who are associated and have common languages with other foreign tribes including Congolese, Ugandans and Kenyans.
    Imagine if you want to fight with Equatorians, how are we going to survive? I said this because, one of these tribes may be or could be successfully in power in those foreigners country as it may happen. In this way, how are we going to fight them remember that, since Sudan has already put us in the list as their enemies, even other African countries were against us to break away from Sudan. We really need to be careful when we are doing things.
    Remember all things are coming from Uganda, Kenya, Congo, what do you think if they are going to rebel against us, there will be no food. brother Ngok Dinka from Abyei did not achieve their goal.
    During the Civil war we used Equatorian lands as our army base. Those who’re against Equatorians should just fill our stomachs and be quite.
    Thanks.

  16. Saine says:

    Thank you Mr Deng Dut, I wish all the Dinka should be like you in reasoning; there would have been no grinding of teeth now. You can be corrupted in the government but if you live among other ethnic groups peacefully no one will care about you. since we are agriculturist we can survive through our harvest. your people need to be advised, they need serious education on how to live a simple peaceful life than having big hearts for every thing. That is the way God created us that “don’t ever take something which does not belong to you.” Keep that spirit, God will give you some thing big in your life!

  17. Issack Deng says:

    I say yes to federalism. Dr. John was a great advocate of federal system in New Sudan and we should not run away from it because we’ve a country of our own now. I vividly recalled him saying one time in those days lectures that the center is the problem. Today, Juba is everything and is a problem like Khartoum used to be.

  18. jalpaj says:

    Why are you guys crying as a baby, just wait; time is coming soon, don’t rush.

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