Federal system of government in South Sudan not “kokora”

By: Jacob K. Lupai, JUBA, JUN/02/2014, SSN;

English speakers will find it difficult to know what the word kokora is because it is not an English word and hardly found in any English dictionary. It may therefore be convenient from the outset to define the word kokora for the benefit of readers.

The word kokora is a Bari word of the Karo ethnic group (Bari, Pojulu, Mundari, Nyangwara, Kakwa and Kuku) and Bari is one of the languages spoken in Equatoria, precisely in Central Equatoria State. In English kokora may simply be defined as division or to divide equitably.

From the definition of the word kokora the greedy will have a problem because they are people always inclined to have the lion’s share at the expense of equitable or fair sharing of resources and positions in government.

Federal system of government

After having given the English definition of the word kokora, it is important to highlight a federal system of government. For people who may be deliberately mixing up a federal system with kokora, they are informed that unlike kokora, a federal system is constitutionally seen to allocate power between the national (federal) government and the component units; for example, states or regions, determining which powers are the exclusive prerogative of each level of government and which powers are shared.

For those who equate a federal system with kokora as a violent eviction of others from one state or region is nothing but a ploy to promote and consolidate ethnic hegemony.

By all accounts South Sudan is diverse in ethnic groups. It is therefore improper for one single ethnic group to monopolise all powers in a neocolonial mentality of oppression as though other ethnic groups do not exist. People must remember that South Sudan is home to 64 ethnic groups.

The genesis of kokora

Collectively South Sudanese have similar aspirations. They will not accept to be treated as second class citizens, will not accept to be oppressed and will not accept to be marginalized.

This may explain why the people of South Sudan collectively struggled in some of the long and protracted liberation wars in Africa that at last brought them independence so that they could enjoy freedom, justice and equality.

However, the problem arises when the leadership turns ethnic or tribal, promoting the hegemony of their ethnic group.

The genesis of kokora can be traced back to the first 17-year (1955 – 1972) war of liberation. After the 17-year armed struggle for freedom, South Sudan found itself an autonomous region with limited self-rule.

The leader of the armed struggle was an Equatorian, who under nationalistic sentiments surrendered his leadership to a Dinka to head the government of autonomous South Sudan for southern national unity.

The leader of the armed struggle instead opted to continue safeguarding the southern self-rule through his presence in the national army.

However, as time went on and when people were trying to settle down, the spirit of national struggle turned tribal.

Dinka hegemony was promoted, prompting the semi-literate and unfortunately some literate Dinka to coin a mythology that the Dinka were born to rule.

This is not difficult to understand how this mythology came about. The High Executive Council of the autonomous South in 1981 consisted of 50 per cent Dinka. The heads of units in the various ministries were about 53 per cent Dinka.

This is all in contrast to the fact that South Sudan is home to 64 ethnic groups. Without any shred of doubt the Dinka had the monopoly of positions in the government of autonomous South.

This, nevertheless, does not suggest that there were no Dinka nationalists although they hardly came out openly against such outrageous overrepresentation of the Dinka.

When the people of Equatoria saw the excessive insensitivity to tribal hegemony, they called for the decentralization of the administration of the autonomous South into three regional administrations of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile for a fair sharing of power.

Equatorians in their enthusiasm innocently called this kokora. This did not go well especially with the Dinka who felt they were the target because they knew very well what they were doing.

The word kokora generated bitterness, ill-feelings and occasional insults and physical aggression. Nevertheless, kokora went ahead sadly with no due process of reconciliation and forgiveness for what had happened.

The Dinka left Equatoria with bitterness as though they were unceremoniously evicted although most left on their own accord. This sums up the genesis of kokora which was grossly misinterpreted that caused unnecessary hangover and animosities.

The second liberation struggle

Immediately after the kokora the second liberation struggle took off. It was considered the continuation of the first liberation struggle. It was not strange that when those who were very angry and utterly bitter with kokora, flocked in droves to join the second liberation struggle.

Those who joined the second liberation struggle did not forget their imaginary cruel eviction from Equatoria, one of the most peaceful and progressive regions of South Sudan.

It was obvious that when the liberation struggle progressed into Equatoria people suffered tremendously as they were mistreated. In Equatoria the people were perceived as elements who had advocated kokora.

After the end of the second liberation struggle through a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), there is little evidence that Equatoria has fared any better in sharing the cake of the liberation struggle.

The conditions in the pre-kokora era seem to be replicating themselves. Like hunters who have just killed an elephant, Equatoria seems not to have its fair share of the Caracas as measured by its contribution to the liberation effort.

People seem to have hardly learned anything as to why kokora had taken place. However, Equatoria should not be underrated. It can provide the leadership that can move this country from war and chaos to peace, stability and prosperity for all.

The call for federal system

It can confidently be asserted that the people of Equatoria are pioneers, forward looking and do not live in the past unlike others who are still living in the kokora era, reminding themselves of their imaginary cruel eviction and so their suspicion of and bitterness with the people Equatoria.

The call for a federal system of government is an original concept of Equatoria since 2011. On the 18th February 2013 Equatoria re-affirmed its call for a democratic Federal system of Governance for South Sudan. It is never against anybody in South Sudan.

However, the point here is to make a distinction between the Equatoria call for federation and that of the 15th December 2013 rebellion.

There is no doubt that Equatoria is the pioneer of federalism for South Sudan through peaceful means. Unlike the chaotic Upper Nile, peaceful Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria will greatly benefit from a federal system of government.

Federalism accelerates development. For nine good years after the CPA examples of underdevelopment are glaring. One example is that after the long nine years Juba city does not have running water to homes. The only alternative now is a fleet of water tankers that are operated by foreigners.

Roads are extremely poor and insecurity is worrying where people disappear without a trace. Land grabbers are above the law because they use their positions and firearms to threaten and chase away the legitimate landowners.

Nine years on people still depend on foreign food imports. With federalism these will all be things of the past. This is because in the federal system the state/region does not need to depend entirely on directives or grants from the centre to effect development.

The three arms of government will also be reflected in the state which will also have the power to tax to generate revenue for development.

To highlight once again, federalism is the constitutional sharing of power between the centre and states/regions. It is not kokora to evict people from a state/region as scaremongers would like people to believe.

Those who equate federalism with kokora may have their own ulterior motives. The hidden agenda may be the promotion of ethnic hegemony hence the fear of federalism. However, those with the open agenda of nationalism will, with open arms, welcome federalism as a guarantor of national unity in diversity and acceleration of development.


It can be asserted that a federal system of government in South Sudan is not kokora. Equatoria is calling for a federal system because it does not want to be bogged down in development. It is not to evict others to their states/regions.

A federal system will not only free Equatoria from the yolk of centralized bureaucracy where billions of dollars are squandered with states left in the cold without adequate sources of revenue for development but a federal system will also free the other regions of Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile.

The dura saga and the billions of dollars stolen by alleged 75 thieves are examples of how a centralized system of government could be a liability.

A federal system of government is therefore likely to accelerate development which in turn is likely to promote national unity as ethnic hegemony is addressed through equitable sharing of power and wealth.

In conclusion, the smallest ethnic group in South Sudan must be seen to be represented and this is likely to be achieved through the adoption of a federal system of government.


  1. Elijah Samuel says:

    Those who are opposed to federal Systems of governments are those who filled their stomach with the money of the nations! Those who steel other peoples lands and those who planned to dominate others.

  2. Leader says:

    It is mind-boggling to see a PHD holder writes article in praise of a region or tribe while demonising others in a stereotypical manner. Why don’t you just educate all of us about the benefits of federalism even if you have other hidden agenda after federalism is achieved.
    Please do away with this inferiority complex in you and about Equatoria.

    • cos says:

      Leader,I see no mind bogging region or tribe lines.
      All what has been written is just highlight that perception that we are born rulers is understood.

  3. Agook Mayek says:

    Jacob, for some reasons, i find your arguments quite misguided and unconvincing. I find vengeance rather than academic honesty in your viewpoints. For example, these statements below: ‘Roads are extremely poor and insecurity is worrying where people disappear without a trace. “Land grabbers are above the law because they use their positions and firearms to threaten and chase away the legitimate landowners,Immediately after the kokora the second liberation struggle took off”
    ” It was considered the continuation of the first liberation struggle. It was not strange that when those who were very angry and utterly bitter with kokora, flocked in droves to join the second liberation struggle.”

    “Those who joined the second liberation struggle did not forget their imaginary cruel eviction from Equatoria, one of the most peaceful and progressive regions of South Sudan’.

    One question: How is federalism going to solve the land issue????????????

  4. Makur Panyon says:

    Stop that campaign drive now than later
    Stop stabbing people from behind
    Stop propagating tribalism
    Stop reminding people about the so call kokora
    Stop telling lies that, Dinka were born to rule
    “You are a potential rebel”
    Stop! stop! stop!
    stop everything!!

  5. Bianca Jiribi says:

    Jacob, the PCA that saw South Sudan secede from Greater Sudan was not seen as a KOKORA, whereas the call of federal system government by Equestrians is condemned as another KOKORA. Whilst others trying to steal the KOKORA ideas from Equatos for their political gains. God help Equatos.

  6. Sankara says:

    I actually wished Federalism was more of kokora than as you have put it dear Lupai.The problem with being adamant is that, Federalism will soon be abandoned and Kokora will take place. Just asked the arabs how we ended up with separation.

  7. Bol says:

    Mr Lupai, Federalism cannot accelerates Economic and Social Development, it’s the leaders who does those things. For example, the 2005 Constitution gave States powers to borrow money even from International Market in order to deliver essential services such as tap running water, electricity and central sewage system. No State “your most progressive states included “did any tangible thing with these powers until the powers were taken away by current Constitution. Nevertheless, what worries Dinka is not Federalism per se, but the hate speech disseminated by your intellectuals and illiterate alike. Most of you are under illusion that Federalism will drive away Dinka from Equatoria states as Kokora did back then, but ethnic Federalism is in breached with citizen’s right of movement and settlement. Working together as SS people for better government is the way forward.

  8. wekty says:

    Brother, you’re one million time right, people who want to say the contrary are the one that like to dominate others, so they can enjoy, South Sudan will not be in peace at lest we establish the system, where everybody will be responsible for one own destiny. Equatorial don’t need anything from the rest, except to be left alone and do just fine, let the war criminal enjoy
    their oil money and good luck.

  9. Dear Mr.Jacob Lupai:

    I and you,we are all from Equatoria! All of us have equal right from who is who! Leave a politics of yours to a new generation.Your politics,has outmoded! Stop preaching your hate talk in Equatoria in the name of federalism system,
    The South was divided in 1983,into three place Equatoria,Upper Nile,and Bahr Elghazal.There had not been thereafter any development being seen in Equatoria at all including the two regions Upper Nile,and Bahr El Ghazal! The regions moved in Khartoum in north the so called the coordinations.They the coordinations,in Khartoum,they were a places of opportunistists alone! They ate the money for themselves in the name of South Meanwhile,they left the people in the South famish to death with the hunger problem and medical attention and education.

    The schools in the north,for the South Sudanese students,both Arabic pattern,and English pattern,they were opened by some of us individually.Meanwhile the politicians in Equatoria Region and the two regions Bahr El Ghazal,and Upper Nile.have closed the schools in the South.They have killed the future of the young generations in the motherland in the South.The present government in the country,is good! There is no need to call for federalism system! The issues in the country,they can be done in the assembly in the parliament by the legislators the lawmakers the legislatures in the country in the South a step by a step! Rome was not built in one minute! No redivision again in the South to people! The Redivision of 1983,it has harmed the people of the South within themselves alone! It has benefitted the oppressors northerners in the north! Step down from politics right now Mr.Jacob Lupai!

    If Riak Machar,needs a federal system in the bush,he has to write first his RIGHT to the public!

    • Taban Hakim says:

      Abiko, there’s nothing wrong with federal system of government- the people of South Sudan demanded it since 1947 during Juba Conference. Salvar Kirr clearly stated in his speech that federalism was demanded by the people of South Sudan in 1947, 1955, 1963, 2005 and 2011 before and after independence of South Sudan- now what makes him go against the demands of the people? Why are Dinkas paranoid about federalism? Why are they associating federalism with Kokora?


  10. Sankara says:

    Dear Chief Akuranyang,
    Even James Wani Igga is from Equatoria, so your being an equatorian adds no value from what i see. Being a chief, I have been informed can earned one a double cabin toyota and what better way to get it faster than to oppose the federalism bid. How selfish we have all become!

  11. Dear Sankara:

    I am not part of priviliges! Be informed! A double cabin toyota,it will go to people who are the enemies of South Sudanese people for DISUNITY Reason! If the Equatorians people,needs to live alone for themselves from the rest of South Sudanese in society,they will fight themselves alone sooner or later! Federal system,is politics of political system which is politically by nature! There is heavy price for it to be paid! Bear it now in your mind my dear fellow citizen the Southerner!

    So if you now supporting the federal system, I say to you good luck for you! But do not come to grumble for unity of people in the land! Thank you!

    • Nuer-Another Israel in East Africa says:


      Is it because of the heavy price to be paid that makes you stand in the way of Federalism? Nothing is free my friend.

  12. JK Lupai says:


    Keep your comments coming. I am enjoying them because no one kicks a dead dog. I can see some worried faces and others already crying for the perceived loss of Equatoria. It is clear that Equatoria is like a river where the fish can swim happily in it. However, when the river (Equatoria) is not there the fish will dry out.

    I understand that without Equatoria others will wipe themselves out from the surface of planet earth. This may explain why David Yau Yau trusted Equatorians more than anybody else to be a go between him and the South Sudanese government. I hope the next to nature creatures who are pretending to be knowledgeable understand that without Equatoria there will be no South Sudan but Equatoria cannot be forced to be oppressed. Bangladesh was an integral part of Pakistan and South Sudan was also an integral part of Sudan but then what had happened. I hope common sense prevails.

    The inferior ones are those lacking in confidence to stand up on their own feet to develop their states. They would rather prefer to be idle in Equatoria, living a parasitic life than to be hardworking in their respective states.

    It is the simple minded who think non Equatorians will be chased out from Equatoria when federalism is adopted as a system of governance. How on earth could Jacob K. Lupai propogate the chasing out of non Equatorians from Equatoria when Jacob K. Lupai would one day aspire to be the president or vice president of the Republic of South Sudan. It may be the matter of communication that people have different perceptions that the message I am trying to put across is misunderstood.

    Jacob K. Lupai

    • cos says:

      Thank Lupai.
      Its unfortunate that some of us Equatorians like the lifes of Chief Abiko Akuranyang Tangwo who sees federalism as a thread to his ambition is breaking his heart like a sacked lover.
      Imagine a whole chief speaking of “Rome was not built in one minute”
      If I can asked was the management of Rome the same as South Sudan?
      From where has he ever heard that Equatorians were in recurring conflict without a quick solution?

  13. Eastern says:

    Dear Jacob,
    Thank you once again for enlightening our masses. The crooked government in Juba is thriving on deceit and arrogance as can be seen by the way their officials conduct government business.

    As you have correctly observed, South Sudan was forced to break away from the Sudan because of the underhand methods of running government by the mundukurus or jallabas. Southern Sudanese then were oppressed and their calls to be heard went unanswered save for a few opportunists Southerners who were bedfellows with the mundukurus and some are now in Kiir’s government.

    As a result Southern Sudan had to secede from the Sudan through a referendum (which SPLM now proudly boasts of).
    Now Equatorians are calling for Federalism as the only viable system of governance in the country where each state has to be accountable to its citizens not the current dominance of everything by one ethnic group: from Nimule to Renk; Nadapal to Kafia Kingi, you will find it is the Dinka manning the entry points into South Sudan. Are there no other people in these locations to do the required work? What is so special for Dinka to be all over South Sudan when the facts are clear that there other ethnic groups in the country.

    The call for federal system of governance in South Sudan should not be stifled or ignored. Khartoum government ignored Southern Sudanese at their own detriment. The attitude of the mundukurus led to a protracted war; ultimately a referendum gave the Southerners seceded and gained independence (bitter breakage). Sources point to the call by Southern Sudanese dating back to the 1950s.

    Now there is call for federal system of governance because what Kiir and cohort lead is a shamble. This call must not be ignored if South Sudan has to remain as one single country (sweet union).

    To those who want to dominate others in South Sudan (eating their cake and wanting to have it), while keeping their backyards (states) exclusively for themselves, stand warned. Dissenting voices must not be ignored; they cannot be silenced by the loudest bombs. They have to be listened to!

    Jacob, Clement Wani, Riek Machar and all proponents of federalism, I salute you! Future generations will blame those who led South Sudan into war because of denying the people their rights. Federalism is a popular demand by the three Equatoria states. States from northern parts of South Sudan should not be afraid that they will be mistreated. If one behaves well even in foreign land, one will not be mistreated.

    My brother Kuir Garang needs not be afraid of federalism! I am actually requesting him to use his poetry skills to deliver message about the advantages of federalism (he is a beneficiary of a federal system in Canada).

  14. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear Eastern:

    Federal government system,is part of a blood! Do not be getting excited for what Mr.Jacop Lupai and others,have said on the matter! Go ahead! Good luck with you all!

    For you,attention.Southerners have not been oppressed in the South by the government of Sudan! It is a big lie altogether! Never talk about oppression without ever knowing the roots of it! The South Sudan politicians,in the South,they fought the Sudan government based in central in north in Khartoum for a leadership in power which came from the POLITICAL CONSTITUTION SYSTEM!There is mothing else sir you fought in the South against northerners people the Arabs! Thank you! I do mot want-to POLITICKING YOU! You still a chap!

    • Eastern says:

      Old man keep off this! I have not even understood you here. I don’t always understand your comments. I am wondering if you are current with events unfolding in the country. How do you come to conclude that I am a chap. Watch your words.

      The old ‘chief’ aside, trying to cup the dessenting voices calling for federalism will lead to more problem than South Sudan is experiencing now. Kiir and cohorts do not have the mantle to ruling South Sudan they way they choose.

      ‘Chief’ Abiko and like minded must know that if they were beneficiaries of the mundukurus in Khartoum before they went to their new-found homes, they should not water down what we in the country fought for.

      I am not a chap. I was manning a ZU-23-2 at Mobil just north of Juba at time Abiko was in Khartoum. Chieftainship is outdated.

  15. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear Taban Hakim:

    President Kirr is mistaken.He missed the good point! In 1947,in Juba conference,the country was still under the administration of British and Egyptians.In 1955,in Torit, there were no good casuse for the trouble! The British were the one who have caused the matter for the Southerners and northerners! They kill the soldiers of Equatorian in Otuho.They the northerners! Thank you

  16. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear Mr.Eastern:

    Yes,yes, and yes! I have no regret! You a chap! Better to practice politics wisely well as much as possible!Happy about on federal system in the South Sudan in Republic,in the government,without any prethinking,across it will harm you back! Again,it will SPLIT the people in pieces in the South Sudan in the country in the government way further!!!!!!

    I knew,you dislike the President Salva Kirr Administration,in the country,in the government,But he once he is out from the office,in the power,yet still,his successor,will be under attack! I do not want disclose the roots of DISINTEGRATION of federalism system you are now smile leaving your teeth outside from the mouth.Thank you very much! Go ahead with a federal system in the South Sudan. I am a layman! I am distant far from government affairs in both Sudan and South!!!!

  17. To all my dear people of South Sudan, Please Equatorians will never keep quiet about federalism. Please why cann’t we give them their rights so that we all of us see its out come?. We should give federalism a chance and not to reverse it later when its out come became worse, and we should put it into a permanent law in South Sudan.

  18. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear Lokorioka Muzee:

    Talk yourself alone individually in Equatoria on federal system you have talked about! Say I Lokorioka Muzee,the Equatorian from Equatoria,I will never keep quiet about federalism.Do not speak on behalf of Equatorians people.Do not smear a sugar on people mouths on this matter for Equatorians in the land.Let Equatorians speak alone by themselves if they are talking good or bad!

    I Chief Abiko Akuranyang Tangwo,as an individual from the Equatorian from Otuho tribe,in my state of Torit Eastern Bank Province,I have my own stance on federal system.I anti-federalism in the government in the South forever!! There is no remorse for me! There is nothing I can change my mind!

    If there are people the Equatorians,from Equatoria in three states central in Juba,western in Yambio,and East in Torit,let them come openly forward with their written federal system in Equatoria so people should know in the South. They should not beating the drums all day long in the name of federalism system! Thank you.Back to you in the forum to the audience! Missour,USA

  19. survivor says:

    while the intend is noble; our esteemed writers seems to always miss the point.instead of going after the true culprits.”their excellence and his honorable.” although majority of them are Dinka a large number are of other ethnic.soto equate the current failures, corruption and all the vices that are going as being committed by one ethnic group. we ultimately miss out on the solution.
    while the system of governance is the Issue; the BIGGER issue are the PEOPLE implementing it.are the BIGGER ISSUE. whether we switch to federalism or stay with the current system.as long we have these people running the show, notably Kiir, RIek, and all of the current high minister leading the way. nothing is going to change.
    while the change of system is a must, what is really needed at this juncture; is a revolution, a house cleaning revolution where all the old gourds are sidelined, this mean anyone who has ever held a high position within the last 8 years need to be swept out, even if we get a change in the SYSTEM, the old gourds will probably come back from their regions and it would be business as usual.
    once again, what we truly need is a revolution and a revolutionary leader; non of the fools clambering for the top quality.
    casting this issue a tribal misses the point. whether you choose to accept it or not, there really is no such a conspiracy of tribal hegemony. the truth is,Kiir and his handlers are too dumb to have a plan, let alone carry out a master plan of ethnic hegemony.

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