Federal system of government appropriate for South Sudan

BY: Jacob K. Lupai, SOUTH SUDAN, FEB/13/2013, SSN;

A federal system of government appropriate for South Sudan is a view that is hoped to increase understanding. There is already an expressed fear of a federal system of government for South Sudan as too fragmenting. The fear is that South Sudanese will be compartmentalized into tribal homelands with the resultant increase in insecurity. Another fear is that the economic cost of maintaining a federal system will be very high. However, a close observation of a federal system may show that the fear is paranoia or likely as a mask of a hidden agenda.

The fear of a federal system of government for South Sudan may be an anxiety of how people with vested interest will fare. It has hardly anything to do with the benefits of a federal system. People may be paranoid of a federal system probably because of perceived deprivation of power and privileges, and perceived insecurity. The fear is also that of being uprooted from where one calls home. What this fear does is to make people very rigid in their stand against any mention of a federal system. Flexibility is seen as subscribing to the fragmentation of South Sudan. This was precisely what the Sudanese Arabs did when the South demanded a federal system of government for sustainable national unity of the Sudan they rigidly refused.

The consequence of the rigidity of the Arabs was the unfortunate breakup of Sudan. Eritrea had also demanded a federal system for Ethiopia but the brutal imposition of a unitary system ultimately caused the breakup of Ethiopia with Eritrea becoming independent. Hopefully, South Sudanese will be much wiser. People do not need to invent the wheel and they do not need to copy and paste either. They only need to be creative and pragmatic in developing an original approach in addressing challenges.

Systems of government
There are various systems of government in the world. However, for simplicity concentration will be on two systems, unitary and federal. In a unitary system powers are vested in the central government which may operate unhindered by local governments. In theory, distribution of resources from rich to poor areas and from the haves and have-nots needs a powerful central government that a unitary system is seen to offer. However, in practice a unitary system is not that effective in addressing regional imbalances. There are also ethnic issues that a unitary system may fall short of addressing.

According to one author of a book, American Politics & Society, central governments have been criticized as insensitive and federalism cited as a compromise solution to the claims by increasing number of regions and ethnic minorities in a variety of countries for more autonomy. After all it was the centralized power of England that had prompted the revolt of its American colonies.

Regions of South Sudan
Until the introduction of Turkiya in Northern Sudan little was known about Southern Sudan in the way of documentation for its history. The southern provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile were organized, garrisoned and administered separately equivalent to colonies under the Turco-Egyptian Sudan (1821-85). In the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1955) the three southern provinces were also administered separately by governors answerable to the central government in the North. From 1956 to 1972 the North treated the southern provinces as colonies and administered them separately. However, the southern provinces shared one destiny as they had been sources of slaves to the North with the subsequent gross marginalisation.

Irrespective of provincial and ethnic lines the people of the three southern provinces pulled their human resources together to confront the evil of gross marginalization by the North. In recognition of their similar aspirations, in 1972 the North granted local autonomy to the three southern provinces which became known as the southern region. However, in 1983 the southern region was turned back to its original status of three provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile but instead of being called provinces was then called regions. So the regions of South Sudan should be Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile but not in any other way.

Unitary system
Views for a unitary system for South Sudan have been expressed strongly. In the enthusiasm for a unitary system bizarre proposals could be made. For example, one bizarre proposal was to reorganise regions in South Sudan as eastern, central and western. The proposal was made as an individual expressed opinion in an SPLM training workshop in Home and Away Business Centre in Juba.

The eastern region was proposed to comprise Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Upper Nile while the central region to consist of Central Equatoria, Lakes, Warrap, Unity and possibly Abyei. The western region was proposed to comprise Western Equatoria, Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. It was not clear how the reorganisation of the regions in South Sudan could promote unity if not to create the greatest confusion in the history of South Sudan.

Another proposal by an enthusiast of a unitary system was the centralization of employment from grade 9 to 1. This means the employment of graduates should only be the prerogative of the central government. This should be one of the serious disadvantages of an imposed unitary system. It could be problematic as tribalism and nepotism might encourage semi-literate, inexperienced and ignorant people employed and deployed to the frustration of effective service delivery in the regions. The outcome could be disunity instead. Further proposal was the centralization of education where boarding schools would be established and mixed intake received from all over South Sudan. In theory this sounds reasonable in promoting unity. In practice, however, it would be a mammoth task as corruption seems to be rampant.

Contractors would be needed to transport and feed students. Given poor investment in infrastructures a unitary system which is likely to be distant from the people would hardly be efficient. Already the centralization of organized forces such as the police, prisons, wildlife and the fire brigade does not make a unitary system attractive. Over-representation of some ethnic groups in key positions and in deployment can be perceived as the promotion of marginalization of others hence disunity is instead promoted. This does not bode well for a unitary system. An imposed unitary system in a country as diverse as South Sudan is unlikely to cope well.

Federal system
It has been seen that South Sudan was administered as three separate provinces since the Turkiya and the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium rule. In modern times it was administered as one and then as three regions. The propagated concept that when there is a federal system in South Sudan then the people will be divided is too simplistic. First of all the people of South Sudan had fought against gross marginalization as people of one destiny although they were from different regions and tribes. Arguably a federal system unites people but an imposed unitary system disunites.

In a federal system the government is closer to people and understands local issues better in putting mechanisms in place for efficient and effective provision of services to the people. In contrast in a unitary system the preoccupation is how to dominate and marginalize those who are not of the same feather. It is to protect narrow interest precisely as did the Arabs before the breakup of the Sudan. A federal system is South Sudan will more likely reduce rampant tribalism, nepotism, corruption, insecurity and discrimination or marginalization for sustainable national unity. In addition it will accelerate development for the benefit of the vast majority of people who are mostly in the rural areas.

A federal system unites people in that diversities are recognized and respected. The executive, judiciary and the legislature will effectively address issues at the grassroots with no one is seen above the law. The notorious criminal land grabbers and their sympathizers will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Cattle rustling in the way it is experienced today will most likely be a thing of the past because of the local concentration to address the problem. Inter-regional trade is likely to flourish, promoting interaction among people thereby bringing them closer for sustainable unity. The fear that in a federal system people will be discouraged to interact because they are already divided is false. It should be understood clearly that a federal system is not compartmentalization of people into tribal homelands. It is rather the administrative division of power and wealth for the benefit of the people where no power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few.

To win over the best brains and skilled manpower to one’s region, the region must provide an attractive package. This means any South Sudanese can be employed and work in any region attracted by all the necessary benefits and incentives that go with the job. What should not happen is for the central government to impose the deployment of personnel on the regions. Only central government specialised personnel may be deployed in consultation with the regions. Ordinary people can choose where to live and work in the regions. After all any South Sudanese has the right to live and work anywhere in the country as a law abiding citizen.

Cost of maintaining federal system
The fear expressed of the high cost of maintaining a federal system is debatable. First of all the federal government has the ability to levy taxes. Also the regions will make contributions to the federal government. For example, a region that produces oil must provide, say, 20 per cent of the oil revenue to the federal government. This means the region keeps the remaining 80 per cent for its development and security. Any region that has no oil must find alternative sources of revenue and must provide the federal government with a percentage of the revenue. This arrangement is likely to make the regions in the federation self-reliant.

The federal government will only be a skeleton but not a duplication of the governments in the regions. This is because it is the regions that will carry the massive burden of development of South Sudan. The federal government is expected to act like a referee. In this case the federal system will not be more of a burden than a unitary system. After all the regions must have the power to levy taxes to generate their own revenues for development and security, and to deliver services to the people. In a federal system people are likely to be more united than in an oppressive unitary system.

The lukewarm reception of the concept of a federal system of government for South Sudan or outright rejection is not based on sound objective analysis but is subjective and tribally motivated. It is evidently the protection of narrow interest.

South Sudanese will never be divided by a federal system of government because in the first place they had liberated themselves from Arab colonialism as people of one destiny although they were from different regions and tribes. How on earth will a federal system managed by South Sudanese divide them? What is being propagated against a federal system is sadly a combination of insensitivity and a mask of ulterior motives.

In conclusion, South Sudanese will always remain as people of one destiny. This is because they are acutely aware of Arab’s designs to make South Sudan a failed state by all means. However, South Sudanese will ultimately be responsible for a designated failed status when they miserably fail to listen to the inner voice of reason for a better choice to be made between an oppressive unitary system and a federal system of equitable sharing of power and wealth for the common good of the country.

It can be observed that the decentralized system in South Sudan is in theory when in practice many aspects of governance are centralized with all the accompanying challenges.


  1. Lumali Peter says:

    Mr Lupai
    Yes Human nature and its implications for Democracy system. Southern Sudan need only to have two Party System.
    That system will be the Federalism, is that each level of Government has some degree of autonomy from the other levels; that is, each level can carry out some polices that may not be preferred by the other. this means that the national and States government have distinct powers and responsibilities. The national government, for example, is responsible for national defense and foreign policy. State and local governments have primary responsibilities for conducting elections and promoting public safety. In other areas, such as transpiration and so on.

  2. John Justine says:

    Federalism is the engine for the rapid development in the nations. However, many people in South Sudan misinterpreted federalism with the so-called Kokora. Federalism will be accepted in South Sudan if Southerners overcome their suspicious to each other.

  3. Brother Jacob,
    indeed you have fashioned out a very educative and challenging topic which i belief if taken into consideration will yield promising fruits. but our problems always regarding such topics, we do read them on either tribal or regional context which always failed us to recognize and perceive the good notions in such debates. nowadays if one speaks or writes opinions pertaining federal system of government, automatically you are labeled as a kokorist.

    i think there is a need for us as southern Sudanese and especially the leaders to refrain from under-estimating such calls and entertain the concept of tribal political base on tribal mechanical majority. The leadership should concentrate most of their time to find certain mechanism of how to make southern Sudanese to be more united like during the war era, because nowadays people badly divided on either tribal or regional lines.
    please keep on writing, we are in need of opinions from intellectuals and thinkers to push us out of this stagnant situation.

    • Martin. L says:

      @ Pitya, you said ” there is a need for us as southern Sudanese.” we are no longer part of Sudan! Therefore we are South Sudanese not Southern Sudanese! I thought that sentence needs a correction.

  4. gaithan gabriel says:

    Hi, if people can support federal government I hope the better for the South Sudanese, but do they dare to do it anyway?

    • gaithan gabriel says:

      Dear Lupai,
      We support your brilliant ideas of federation in this way, keep it up for the people of South Sudan. Who knows a change is good at least.

  5. Aj says:

    Dinka and nuer will not like the idea since they mix altogether and label it kokora.

  6. Federalism is not about Dinka and Nuer, but good governance. Federal system is proven and working well in democracies such as USA, Bundesrepublik Deutchland (Germany)…etc. It is the only system that will push RSS to achieve rapid development in all areas as each state will try hard to work their way in bringing about development in their state. This does not mean that only those from that state will work in that state.
    As south Sudanese you will work and live anywhere in South Sudan just like those countries using the federal system. In Canada, USA, you can live and work anywhere anytime.
    Do not be afraid, Federal system is proven and is the only system that will save South Sudan now and in a foreseeable future.

  7. Lumali Peter says:

    Mr AJ, you should have to come openly and tell your real name to the Southerners as humans who have sense.
    We are not here for culture wars, I can read your mine, I think you are somebody who favors dual federalism in which the national government and States government viewers as distinct states sovereignty immunity or exclusionary rule, individualism. Mr Aj, first we are not here to parish a negative hater, we here to share an idea.
    Dinka and Nuer, Equatorians, Murle… are humans, have sense like you. Imagine the almighty God do not describe us as tribes, if you walk by and see one of these tribes you will not recognizer them as tribes, because they look alike just like you. Do not think like early state of human civilization, please come out with a good sense.

    • Aj says:

      Lumali peter,
      I welcome your argument but we should not hide the truth that some of our own born to rule do not reason particularly when we discuss issues that affect not only our present but the coming generation in the future.

      I am not hiding, Peter, am pure southerner who fought for this nation but the way i hear other tribes talking about their tribes are big or call themselves majority is trouble. I remembered one of those born to rule said they are the ones liberated entire south. Think about that, Peter, knowing that we all fought in one way or the other.

      Again, I welcome a healthy and rational debate but not childish reasoning such as of the dinka land. Calling others Congolese, Ugandan and Kenyan is not good and could only lead toward hatred. Mark my words, Peter. Let us hope government will do their job and not to listen to those who call others non-southerners. I personally had been called wewe in juba many times only that i reminded the fellow who call me wewe not ever say that against anyone you have no knowledge of.

  8. David Gatkuoth says:

    Despite resources mismanagement and consequential money laundering, i support Federal system for S Sudan, at least each state would be able to view and deal with its economic problems in a closer range. Centralized governance system always overlooks part of the country and therefore, no proper development activities reach those sections – and example with Sudan (North vs South) before secession. Dividing the oil revenue into several tariffs to fund other states in Federal system would signify putting the federal government into high alert and making it more responsible and thus, accountable. LET’S GO FOR FEDERALISM GUYS!!!!!

  9. JKL says:

    Dear David Gatkuoth,
    If that is your real name then I think you are from Greater Upper Nile. If so this is a good development. I am an Equatorian and proud to be an Equatorian until my last breath on planet earth. I have been called names, insulted and called a tribalist by people who may not know who or what I am, and I suspect must be people from Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile because they are paranoid about federalism or decentralisation for obvious reasons.

    South Sudan as an independent country will not survive long with gross internal marginalization of any state or region. Power and wealth seem to have drugged people to the extent that they have blurred vision of what an independent South Sudan should be, a paradise on earth for all its citizens. I wish people who call me names, insult and call me a tribalist should have heard speeches delivered in Equatoria Conference 2013. Do we need a discriminative South Sudan or a South Sudan of equitable power and wealth sharing for sustainable national unity? A federal system has been objectively proven to be a solution to diversities such as found in South Sudan. Only the ignorant may not know.

    Hopefully somebody from Greater Bahr el Ghazal will come out in support of a federal system for sustainable national unity of South Sudan. In the end the enlightened people of Equatoria, Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile will come out openly for a federal system to save the country from disintegration. The federal system offers the best deal to any region for sustainable national unity. Short of this people will be living on an active volcano that is not in the interest of anybody at all. Only the greedy and the insensitive will not care.

    God bless South Sudan. J. Lupai

  10. Alierthiy says:

    When it was raining heavily we came together and sheltered as one people. Now that the rain had stopped our brothers and sisters in Equatoria are being vocal on federation of the South Sudan just as they did after Addis Ababa agreement. Kokoro-Federation was called for by the same people who are calling for this federation. I wondered what this present system in South Sudan is called?!
    We have ten different states that are governed by government elected by people from these states but not imposed by Juba-Kiir government.
    Our brothers and sisters in Equatoria are not being honest with their call. We have federal system in South Sudan already. What is not there, however, is allowing Equatoria three States of Western, Eastern and central Equatoria to chase away other South Sudanese from Equatoria region just as they unequivocally harbored.
    Juba government is not allowing Equatorian to chase away “others” because South Sudan is for South Sudanese just as we were South Sudanese when it was raining.
    Mr. Lupai, your call is already in place. If you are not allowed to vote in Jonglei, Western Upper Nile or Northern Bahr el Ghazel… etc, and you are allowed to vote in your state where you were born… how do you called that system, sir?
    You only want to see non-Equatorians in Equatoria and call such a system federation??? It will not happen.
    If you don’t want other South Sudanese in Equatoria, then please come straight and announce your intention to separate from the rest of the seven states of Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazel. Our bitter experience from Arabs will make it easy from others to allow you to go. Stay blessed.

    • nyaputa says:

      Dear Alierthiy,
      I think you’re one of those people who is benefiting from misused of resources in goss and that is why you’re afraid of federalism in south Sudan. also you need to read and understand before replying.

    • Aj says:

      I don’t think you really understand fully the meaning of the term “Federalism” and also don’t know how it works. I can help you understand if you want. If you have a chance, here is a basic of federalism;

      Federalism is Central to the organization of government system. Under this principle, south Sudan is divided into two constitutionally autonomous levels of government: the federal or central government, and the states governments. The nation’s basic division of government plays an important role in public finances and public policy. Example of the country that uses federal system is Canada .

      I think if south Sudan adopts this method, the benefits would be;
      1 at least two orders of government;
      2 division of powers between the orders of government defined in the constitution;
      3 division of revenue sources to ensure each order of government certain areas of autonomy, also set out in the constitution and written constitution that cannot be amended unilaterally.

    • GatCharwearbol says:

      Dear Alierthiy,
      You are mixing up the real facts. It seems you have been sleeping the whole time Kiir has been replacing governors left and right without consent from the very citizens in each affected state. Please wake up from your slumber. Most of the governors are imposed on the citizens and that is not the democratic way we have been longing for. The citizens are crying to have their voices heard. These citizens want to elect someone after their own heart, not someone being imposed on them.

  11. Majongdit says:

    KOKORO in the making!!!!!

    • Aj says:

      why not give your version why you think it’s what you it is? If it’s sound “KOKORA,” then tell us why you don’t like it.
      As for me, I like it for giving accountability to states in terms of wasted money we had spent without trace.

  12. kamba says:

    Be reasonable, this is not kokora as u put it but about quality services to the people of south Sudan. Seems u don’t live in SS. If u were here u would see the sorry situation ur aunties, sisters, uncles, brothers etc.. are living in. The government of RSS is specializing in buying V8 vehicles and yet its citizens are starving, no roads, the ones available are in a pathetic state.

    Why are you people preoccupied about kokora? Please try to love ur ancestral land instead of always wanting to live or stay in Equatoria. God has given u a beautiful land that needs ur effort to make it more attractive to others to come and join u to develop and nurture it.

    The call for federalism is not Jacob’s making but from all corners of SS. Yesterday I read an article written by somebody from greater Upper Nile expressing the same views.


  13. South Mole says:

    Federation will allow others to go back to their regions and develop it instead of concentrating on Juba and crying that their oil money is being wasted in Juba. Equatorians don’t even want either the oil money or capital. At least, federation will allow the taking of “towns to villages”.

  14. Lumali Peter says:

    Mr Alierthiy,
    I think you do not understand how the federalism system works. Federalism can work this way, that each level of government has some degree of autonomy from the other levels; that is, each level can carry out some policies that may not be preferred by the other. This means that the national and state government have distinct powers and responsibilities.

    The national government, for example, is responsible for national defense and foreign policy. States and local governments have primary responsibility for conducting elections and promoting public safety. In the other areas, such as transportation, the difference levels of government share responsibilities in what are typically called the concurrent powers such system like Local governments -cities, towns, school districts, and counties,those are not autonomous units of government and therefore have a difference place within the federal system than the national and state government.

    Local governments are creatures of the state government.That is, state governments create local governments and control the types of activities they can engage in, by specifying in the state charter either what they can do or not only what they cannot do – that is, they are allowed to do anything not specifically prohibited in the charter. This lack of autonomy does not imply that local governments are unimportant. Indeed they play the central role in providing public education, polices and fire departments,
    and land used polices, They raise money through property taxes, user fees, and in some case local sales taxes. But overall, local governments do not directly share power within our federal system with the state and national governments because of their lack of autonomy.

    You know Mr Alierthiy, since we have a bad disease, so called tribalism, not only tribalism even families member’s. Federalism in this way your smalls tribes will survive it.

  15. Bura Bismark says:

    It is an utter shock and bewilderment to see that most people of South Sudan are confused and ignorant of federalism from reading of the article Mr. Lupai has intelligently presented to the population of South Sudan to analyse, support or criticize, if possible, based on sound reasons.

    To me, to call Kokora federalism is not a problem although it is being used to scare and implant fear into South Sudanese about its false security and political consequences. That is a creation to fabricate fear that confuses people that federalism is a vehicle for dividing and dislodging people from states to those of their origins.
    It is a scare campaign scheme of those looting billions of pounds from government coffers from government who do not want to see and allow patriotic citizens to take the resources of the nation to the people who are in great need.
    Our roads should not be chains of potholes, our cattle should not die because there are no veterinary medicines neither should our poor die just because the money for their medicines are siphoned to treat our politicians abroad.
    Our kids should have the right to learn in a better, healthy schools in South Sudan and not elsewhere. This is what Lupai is calling for!!

    Federalism is about entrusting power to the people in their states so that resources with which to fight ignorance, disease and poverty is within reach. It prevents concentrating power to the center whereby resources are siphoned without questions put to them for misuse of resources.

    Other people are saying right now South Sudan government is a federal government of which I doubt. If it is then I urge them to do better.

    States must have developmental implements to fast track economic development to ensure economic freedom. The political freedom we have acquired after five decade war with Jallaba is totally meaningless without economic freedom. Our economy should be in our own hands and not foreigners who seem to want to see the political direction our country is taking. This alone endangers our sovereignty.

    So Federalism is not about killing ourselves or sending people to states of their origins but is about empowering the citizens of their states to fast develop them with ample resources.

  16. GatNor says:

    Ten Federated States will bring South Sudan a structured system of transparent national accountability, throughout local governments.

  17. It is so appropriate for the south Sudan to be governed by the federal system of government.

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