Jieng community elders’ giant leap for federalism in South Sudan

By: Jacob K. Lupai, JUBA, JUL/31/2014, SSN;

When the demand for federalism first surfaced it was met with outright hostility and rejection. That was because federalism was apparently associated closely with the experience of kokora in the 80s. Federalism was also being associated with the recent rebellion that sparked off on 15 December 2013. This might explain why the demand for federalism was about to become a criminal offence. People who were genuinely calling for a federal system were alleged to be supporters of the rebellion. However, there was no grain of truth in such allegation. Instead there was a support to the government.

Outright hostility and rejection of the demand for federalism reached unexpected level when newspapers were being confiscated and journalists taken for questioning. However, opinions in favour of federalism persisted and were expressed openly in newspapers and in the Internet. Intimidation did not work as the call for respect for freedom of expression was very loud. As expected the hostile stand against federalism fizzled out as the expressed opinion for federalism was coming from many angles.

Notable and of importance was the opinion expressed by concerned Jieng community elders in favour of federalism for South Sudan. It was a giant step forward that couldn’t have been ignored. Things were moving faster against the minority opponents of federalism. The National Community Leaders’ Forum comprising representatives of Equatoria and Jieng from Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile States met and passed resolutions, adding their voices positively on federalism.

In one of their resolutions the National Community Leaders’ Forum calls upon the President to form a High Level National Technical Committee to study Federalism and Governance to inform and enhance the Constitutional making process without prejudice to individual or group discussions. Clearly federalism has become no longer a taboo but an accepted fact to be discussed openly for a consensus.

Jieng giant leap for federalism

In seeking a solution for acceptable administration to the people of South Sudan, the concerned Jieng community elders have proposed that South Sudan should be administered as a federation of 23 states. This is yet a clear endorsement of federalism as a solution to problems of governance and development in South Sudan. The proposed states are the equivalent of the 23 districts in South Sudan in the colonial era. This is nothing but a giant leap for federalism by the concerned and visionary Jieng community elders.

The proponents of federalism must be delighted. This is because some of the fierce critics and opponents of federalism were the Jieng. This must have been an objective change of direction because the Jieng must have come to the conclusion that federalism is the only solution to the mess in which South Sudan finds itself. The implication is that no single ethnic group or region should dream of an empire in this modern world of science. Imposing a system that only favours an ethnic group or region disguised as the preservation of national unity is an old game of politics that has long been thrown into the dustbin of history when federalism has been gaining currency.

It is through a consensus that people may agree to be united. The concerned Jieng community elders have timely recognized this when they are saying, “Many people of South Sudan are demanding for application of federal system as one of the solutions to govern the country peacefully”. This obviously seems to be the beginning of better times ahead for the people of South Sudan. At least there will be no war over federalism. The demand for federalism is gaining adherents among the Jieng and this can only be a positive thing. This is encouraging because equating federalism with kokora may soon be a thing of the past.

When federalism is not equated with kokora the fear of eviction from Equatoria will also disappear. Jieng support for federalism has far reaching implication. One major implication is that when the Jieng support federalism hostility towards the people of Equatoria may reduce drastically. This is in contrast to when the Jieng were opposed to federalism. Clearly the concerned Jieng community elders proposed federalism suggests that the Jieng have moved on and therefore share the same national aspirations for peace, freedom and development as their other fellow citizens in the country instead of dreaming of their hegemony in South Sudan.

Application of federalism in South Sudan

The concerned Jieng community elders are of the opinion that ethnic administration in line with the 23 former colonial districts as states is the solution to tribal rivalry over resources. However, tribal rivalry is not only over resources, but it is also over power as well. The concerned Jieng elders have acknowledged that the demand for federalism is the wish of the majority and that the federal system should be introduced now.

As mentioned above and according to the Jieng elders, South Sudan should be a federation of 23 states based on the 23 former colonial districts. This is instead of adopting the existing 10 states. One would disagree with the proposal for 23 states in South Sudan but the Jieng elders should be highly commended for their collective efforts in trying to work out a solution to the problem of governance and theirs is a national aspiration for the stability of South Sudan.

Looking at the highlighted 23 former colonial districts in the proposal, there seems to be a little bit of confusion. Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile each had 7, 7 and 9 districts respectively. This of course makes a total of 23 districts which are the 23 proposed future states of South Sudan. However, unlike its 7 districts, Equatoria has only 6 proposed states and unlike its 7 districts, Bahr el Ghazal has 9 states. For Upper Nile, unlike its 9 districts it has 8 proposed states. There is something strange here.

It is not clear why the 7 districts of Bahr el Ghazal have been blown up into 9 states while the 6 states for Equatoria do not correspond to its former 7 districts proposed to be the states. Something somewhere is not right. Confusion continues as Upper Nile which had 9 districts is only allotted 8 states. This clearly does not show that the 23 states are the duplicate of the 23 former colonial districts in South Sudan. Some explanation may be needed.

There may not be any need to return to the former 3 regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile to form a federation. However, there is nothing wrong with adopting the 10 states as a federation for a start. The adoption of the former colonial districts as states should be at the latter date and at the discretion of each of the 10 states. Federation of 23 states should not be done in a rush in view of economic austerity measures. This means that higher economic growth should first be recorded before creating new states. For example, it should be Central Equatoria State to decide in future either to break up into Yei River State and another state the name to be decided on later or not.

Development of natural and mineral resources, prospecting for more oil production to increase revenue and development of hydro-electric power should be undertaken for higher economic growth before creating new states. The proposal for 23 states is a noble one. However, in practice it is not only a mammoth task but an economic nightmare. I hope the architects of such a noble proposal do not want people to depend on foreign aid to finance the additional 13 states. One way of creating a state is that a former colonial district in any of the 10 states must justify itself to be a viable state through its own resources. We do not want to see states that are nothing but liabilities.

Different federations

South Sudan may need to learn about the different federations. For example, some federations are called asymmetric because some states in the federation have more autonomy than others. However, the histories of countries vary. One federal system of a country can be different from that of another country. The Republic of India is federal, comprising individual states. The central (federal) government of India has authority over the states and even has the authority to change the boundaries of the states.

It can be seen that the Indian federal system has strong centralizing tendencies where the federal government remains intact but the physical existence of states can be modified. In contrast, the federal system in the United States of American (USA) is characterized as indestructible union of indestructible states. This means the states in America are intact and the federal government does not make any alteration in the states as is the case in India.

The often asked question is what type of a federal system South Sudan should adopt. Well, people may need to understand that there is no particular federal system unique to South Sudan that can be copied. People will have to agree on the type of a federal system that will address what is seen as the problem of governance in South Sudan. The main problem is equitable power and wealth sharing, and equitable development. To address the problem, a federation should first be defined for people to be clear of what a federation entails.

Many people will tend to agree that a federation is characterized by a union of partially self-governing states united by a central (federal) government as in India or in the USA. It is so simple, isn’t it? However, the devil is in the details. The federal model in India may be unattractive because South Sudan has been virtually under a centralized system that is abhorrent hence the loud demand for a federal system.

In contrast, the USA federal model may be of too much independence to the states when, for example, one state allows capital punishment while the other doesn’t. For South Sudan a balance has to be struck. People may need to look at the Switzerland or German federal model which may be of interest to study. However, cut and paste may not work but adaptation to the felt needs in South Sudan may not be a bad idea.


The concerned Jieng community elders have made a giant leap for federal system to be adopted in South Sudan. This is an encouraging move that should be appreciated by any fair-minded individual. Unlike those who only care for their stomachs, and kith and kins, the Jieng elders have shown that leading from the front is necessary at times for a better South Sudan.

One reservation, though, is about the proposal for 23 states in the federation. The proposal is an economic nightmare particularly in the short term. However, it may be appropriate in the long term when economic growth is picking up at a higher rate but it should also be the prerogative of each state in consultation with the central government either to break up into more states or not. For now let’s stick to 10 states federation as the most convenient for a start.

In conclusion, adoption of a federal system of government is the only way forward in building a strong united and prosperous South Sudan where no single ethnic group, no single region and no single individual will be supreme in grossly mismanaging the affairs of the nation. Federalism as the utilization of diversities to the maximum will likely accelerate development and this, hopefully, will turn South Sudan into a paradise on earth for all as living standards improve tremendously.


  1. MAJONGDIT says:

    Jacob K. Lupai,

    Don’t bank on that my dear friend. There is nothing known as Jieng Council of Elders.
    It is a bogus association of ghost elders.

    To be honest with you, formally no council of elders have been formed yet.

    As for your kokoro campaign, it’s going one way: failure.

  2. Uncle Lupai,
    First I want to thanks you for the change of heart and your previous provocative styles of writing by attacking, abusing, insulting and cursing Jieng in this website to a more objective statesman style. To begin with No any sound minded person in south Sudan can reject a system of governance that will deliver better services to people or improve people’s standard of living. Therefore nobody is rejecting federalism as an alternative to the current system of governance including the president of the Republic of south Sudan or Jieng as your wrongly assume but the timing by the proponents and the thread, intimidation and abusive language used by some proponents like yourself in the past by calling those opposing to the federalism names, turn some people who support the better alternative to the present system negative. Individuals like Elhag Paul, Joana Adam etc came out openly calling Jieng names and even went to the extent of telling Equatorians to take up arms to get rid of Jieng yet federalism is a system of governance for sharing of responsibilities between states and central government and not of eliminating Jieng as ethnic group from south Sudan or any other tribe.
    the president when he addressed the opening of SSLA this year informed the parliamentarians that federalism need to be studied and left to the citizens to decide when the current crises are resolved and the security is returned to normal but some political opportunists with hidden agenda thought that now the government is in serious crises, thus it is an opportunity for them to stab it on the back by using thread of rebellion in equatorial so that the president can give in to their ill-planned demand. They fail to understand that the present situation is not conducive for any drastic change unless people are looking for government to collapse and it will not. I am glad that now you are beginning to understand and mentioned lack of enough resources create many states.
    Moreover, the reasons often repeatedly cited by proponents of federalism like yourself are always about the unfounded assumption of Jieng domination. If domination is about the size of the population, then I can assure you that the cry for domination by minorities will not be ended by federalism. Even within states there will be both majority and minority tribes. For instance in Western Equatoria, Minorities will be complaining of political domination by the Azande tribe while in Eastern Equatoria, Minorities will complain that Toposa is dominating and the same will happen in Central Equatoria that Bari is dominating minor tribes. Therefore if your call for federalism is about to end none-existing jieng domination then mark you that it will never end majorities tribes perceived domination of minorities.
    Sometimes it is surprising to hear some educated people like you who is also a minister in the government talking of domination. How many Jieng are in the cabinets of central, or western or eastern equatorial states. How many Jieng are those three states’ parliaments. Even in the current central government in Juba the cabinet positions are distributed fairly including the three top positions i.e. of the president, vice president and speaker. Finally If I got you right, your article heading talks about Jieng community elders, when was that body of community elders established, who are those elders. This is another fabricated lies to misinform south Sudanese citizens and equatoria in particular for non-existing body. Uncle Lupai grow up, this pure fabrication.


  3. monychol says:

    We are aware that idiots who are blinded by their tribal hatred can pick on a term without defining it and giving its full characteristics.Those who are talking of creating every tribal enclaves in the country have in the back of their minds the bringing back of Kokora but donot wants to mention it for the fear of backlash from using the term so the ued different and more pleasing terms such as federalism.It is good that we are all looking for a system that can deliver the basic services efficiently to our people and creating tribal enclaves is not one of them.The types of tribal hatred fear and anxiety based tribal enclavement those idiots are talking about is never going to materialised.

  4. monychol says:

    The Nuer and Equatorian quest for tribal enclaves misnamed as federalism is inspired and driven by nothing less then tribo-anarchism a return to a tribal village kind of political ideology espoused by those who suffers from inferiority complexes that make the feels little when they come into contact with people from outside their tribal villages.
    We are already aware that there is no debate about federalism but an attempt to whip up tribal resentiment and dirrect this towards national anarchism.A terrible retreat called for by ideological pigmies and retarded.

    • john jerry says:

      Sometimes you feel ashamed how our people reason and I believe in that saying that when God created Sudan including South Sudan he laughed.We are indeed the laughing stock of the world and are only known for being angry,hot tempered ,war mongering,corrupt with no vision for the future of the Country. We always blame the problem on education,but look we have more educated people who are doing what they are doing regardless of their education back ground and the problem is clear they go into politics instead of working in their field of education.

      They are the PhD’s, Doctors,Lawyers and Engineers who are causing all these problems.Leave politics to where it belongs to the political scientist as that is their area of education.Politics is not just politics it is science.The call for Federalism should not be seen as away of coming together of a tribal government it is not.With the Federal system of governance it will be based on three things.State,provincial and municipality thus bringing the government close to home. Federalism does not mean you can not live outside your state, province ,district etc. As a citizen of South Sudan you will live and work anywhere in South Sudan and does not mean sending away of people from other parts of the greater South Sudan to their birth place within South Sudan. Be assured you are covered . Federalism is not a tribal government type of system. Accept it or we will not get out of our problems.

  5. Rather odd how Equatorians think the call for federalism is as easy as chickening out to safety to Congo forest and then swarm back to South Sudan like caterpillars when it is all rosy.

  6. False Millionaire says:

    john jerry:

    I am not interested to know what political,social,professional or education levels u hold.But I find ur comments with regards to debate on federalism to b very constructive.U r speaking on the highest line of universal federalism that will correspond so well to our need becouse if it is correctly applied in our country,we will survive only in being interdependant.There will b interstate economic,educational,professional,judicial n industrial exchanges.That is just to mention a few adding to the general federal administration that will b done by all qualified citizens coming from all our states.We r totally handicaped from progressing becouse the majority of our fellow brothers never try to debate like u.But they still force their ways begining with incitation of tribal hatred n violence.By deoing so,either conciously inoder to do harm to our country n the society or out of ignorance,they provoke the most dangerous judgement that they r campaigning for KOKORA in the name of federalism.This ofcourse even u,u will never find it acceptable.

  7. Diktor Agarab says:

    Seems like the Jenge are starting to get the message that federalism is here to stay whether they like it or not. 1 tribe out of 64 can’t stop the match to good governance especially after their dismal failure at leading. If they want to run their states like luaks of course we’re not going to oppose them. Let them practise all of their dinka-illism and cow dung mentality in their states.

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