Not Yet Federalism for South Sudan

BY: Deng Lueth Yuang, B.A. (Econs), M.A. (Bnkg/Fin), CALGARY, CANADA, JUN/13/2013, SSN;

The Fallacy of South Sudan’s Quest for ‘good’ Governance Structure:
1. Encouragement and promotion of tribal hatred
2. Rise in intertribal and interregional conflicts
3. Secessionist tendencies
4. Entrenchment of big government and bureaucracy, Decentralization: States – counties- payams – bomas
5. Rise of high level poverty; further marginalization of the minorities
6. Sugar-coating and applying ‘cosmetic surgery’ to internal real causes of Sudan problems
7. ‘Ulterior motives’ to fight alleged Dinka domination and obsession with leadership ‘Born-to-rule’ mentality
8. South Sudan still facing so many problems that need collective leadership
9. South Sudan is already a federal state though the name ‘Federal Republic’ is not initialized – need to clip presidential powers and define the way state and other local governments should deliver to the common people
10. Confederation-like federation is a disaster for ALL South Sudanese interests

Yes, we are all South Sudanese. But we have different mothers and fathers, and above all we come from different tribes. 64 to be exact for now. We have lived in the southern region of the Sudan under the regime of Anglo-Egyptian and Khartoum Arab’s elites for centuries as one people with one origin – our Africanness.

We have seen it all during the day, during the night and time of happiness and time of sadness. But today we are separate human beings, just because we have realized we are different people with different tribes, aspirations, loyalties, understanding of power and sharing of resources.

Let me come to this beast – Federalism. If it is the ONLY solution we are striving to, then we are not seriously addressing the issues affecting us. We are just treating the symptoms of the ‘disease’ ailing South Sudan. We are sugar-coating the real menace devouring our people in our country.

The real enemy is not the governance structure to correct our deep seated problems.

Federalism is a short cut way for a don’t-care-tired of perennial situation to solve our many problems.

Before South Sudan waged the war for secession and independence, we lived under the northern regime, and we were governed by people who were not related to us. We also lived in our villages under our traditional rulers be they chiefs, kings or elders.

Did any one of us complain of misrule or domination by other tribes? Absolutely, no. We accepted to serve the master.

Let’s not imagine ‘the federalism we want’ is a good thing from the meaning of the word “go” just by looking at the countries which have adopted it. Federalism is different like the way different countries interpret ‘democracy’ in their respective countries.

It is based on the immediate and long term needs and circumstances of the given population. However, my observation tells me that the proponents of federalism are looking for ‘federalism in its pure form – strong constitutional mandates to the states, and other lower levels of government.’

I do concur it is a good form of government better than none as many south Sudanese opinators have alluded to. They have indicated the benefits outweigh the costs. Yes, it is true every form of governance structure has pros and cons.

Let’s not be deluded that “federalism is democracy per se” while decentralization is a mockery to the will of the people. The fact still remains that decentralization constitutes federalism while federalism is not ONLY decentralization. That is why many other South Sudanese argue that we already practise federalism.

Again, let’s not imagine that once we get federal governance, we are more likely to be peaceful, prosperous, development conscious, and tribally insensitive to make South Sudan a successful state.

Please, let’s think over these questions below and have logical answers before I dissect the fallacy of South Sudan quest for federalism:

1. Which form of federalism does South Sudan need – centralized vs decentralized; pure vs mixed/hybrid; Western or African?
2. If federalism is causing jitters among certain people and communities, why don’t we improve the existing decentralised unitary structure?
3. Why not, one state with more resources and powers devolved to the lower level units?
4. The most important: Why are we not introducing proportional representation democracy within federalism at all levels of government?
5. Why not, we amend the constitution to claw back the powers of the imperial president, if he is the problem?
6. Why are we not getting rid of these old recycled leaders who every time put us at loggerhead with one another?
7. Why are we rushing for something untested on our land, South Sudan?
8. Is it justifiable, because of power and resources control?
9. Why are we so obsessed with short term solutions to our chronic problems?
10. Can it be a vicious cycle that the states demanded federalism; counties, payams, bomas and individuals will, in the future, also demand federalism?

Let me relive you through present day role models of federal governance. I will pick two at least from each continent to show how federalism in its pure form we S. Sudanese crave is a fallacy.

In North America, Canada and US are the two biggest federal democracies. If you look at the history of their coming into being, you will understand that ‘pure’ federalism comes with costs.

In Canada, Quebec province has been an agitating kid looking for secession. There has also been numerous regionalism issues especially the Prairie Provinces or the western region where I currently live.

The US also have had the same problems in the past where the southern states had tendencies to secede from the United States and form their own country. There have also been jurisdictional issues.

In Africa, we have seen Nigeria and South Africa exhibiting some of the symptoms of hurried federations. Nigeria is facing an internal strife between the two regions – the north and the south. Call it ‘clash of the civilizations’ between the forces of Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalists and the pro-western southern government.

South Africa is a hell for its own people. A wide gap has been created by them ‘somehow federation’ they instituted. The country is nursing social stratification between the rich who are mainly the elite blacks, Asians and whites, and the poor majority who are black Africans.

Our neighbour hosting our peace, Ethiopia claims to be a federation but it is undemocratic and the regions have no powers or privileges whatsoever to challenge the national government.

In Europe, federalism has given some regions more powers than the others. UK, for example, favours England and Wales as the most powerful entities in the UK federation. Secessional tendencies are seen in Scotland which will vote for self-independence this September.

Northern Ireland is another dangling kid kicking for survival in the English Union. Spain Basque, Catalan and are few examples.

In the Middle East or Arab world, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is autocratic, militaristic, undemocratic and monarchic. If you go to UAE, they are undemocratic, monarchic and autocratic.

In the South America, Argentina and Venezuela are two countries facing political and economic upheavals because of federalism. Argentina has become too big to manage. A lot of bureaucracy going on and hence very costly to manage. Venezuela is a federal state with no freedom for her own people.

In Asia, India is a big democracy on paper but the fruits of its federal structure has not helped more than 1.6 billion people where more than four-fifth live on less than dollar a day. It has not removed the caste system, bourgeoisie or few capital owners, and the kleptocratic leadership from running the affairs of the nation.

Pakistan, another federacy, is in a state of quagmire. Al-Qaida, Taliban and Islamism are actively engaging the Pakistan government and recruiting home ground jihadists.

Those are a few highlights to shed light into the issues awaiting us ahead if we rush to force federalism as a better alternative to our current issues.

Our current issues:
—are not tribes but individuals;
—are not regions but leaders;
—are not power and resources but services and accountability;
—is not Dinkocracy but tribal mindsets or myths about tribe called Dinka;
—are not the presidential decrees but the noxious constitution;
—is not the SPLA we know, but the bunches and scraps of warlords and militias;
—is not the rebellious murderer but presidential amnesty;
—are not the youths but the senile;
—are not the innocent citizens but the money/power hungry men rebelling day in, day out, and the list goes on.

The real long-lasting solution is finding solutions to all of these problems.

In Conclusion, we all need federalism but the timing is not right. It starts within our own families that we have rights, powers and privileges to ‘have and own things, do those things your own way and do them by your own.’

That is the essence of federacy. But if we rush it, it will be an exercise in futility, a ticking time bomb and a harsh lesson to learn, that America or Europe is not Africa. We have to be ‘federal’ in our own locality.

The contributor is Deng Lueth Yuang, B.A. (Econs), M.A. (Bnkg/Fin).
Founder & CEO, CEFA, a public think tank on economics and financial issues. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


  1. Ohi'de says:

    Dear Deng Lueth Yuang, you wrote:
    “Before South Sudan waged the war for secession and independence, we lived under the northern regime, and we were governed by people who were not related to us. We also lived in our villages under our traditional rulers be they chiefs, kings or elders.Did any one of us complain of misrule or domination by other tribes? Absolutely, no. We accepted to serve the master.”
    You are absolutely wrong here. You must know that:(1) Not all South Sudanese lived in villages before the war for secession and independence.(2) Arabs(Jaliyin) were the tribes dominating and no Southerners submitted to their rules; there was the Torit uprising(1955) right before the independence of Sudan, Masacre of southerners in Juba and in Khartoum.
    The Anyanya 2 rebellion in the early 70s and lastly the SPLA/SPLM rebellion in 1983.
    You might not know all these but make research before writing.
    South Sudanese currently are not at peace with the present government because it is a copy cut of the Jalaba.

  2. Majongdit says:

    Great article!

  3. Freedom&Justice Lover says:

    I think you wrote a great article Mr Deng Lueth Yuang, you have made a good research for yourself about federalism in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, USA and the country you chose to reside in, Canada as opposed to Saudi Arabia or UAE for obvious reasons which can be found in your article. As I read your article I was wondering what magic bullet solution your going to come up with and I really liked your conclusion, “in conclusion, we all need federalism but the timing is not right”. I think the timing is right, we cannot implement your suggestions for change at this hour because we’ve tried that for half a century with our Arab masters, we do not need another Dinka masters, we are not cows, we are humans. I advise you to do research on how federalism work without creating those issues your worried about otherwise as you realised, we need federalism

  4. Defender says:

    Deng Lueth,

    You are articulate but suffer understanding the intricacies of politics, as they say. The premise of your argument that because federalism is not tested that means it would not work, is a simple justification that does not hold any factual reality to it. Let us look at the current system that was instituted since July 9th 2011. The system was not an indigenous one, as such we cannot cling to it and call it the best we can accept. Second, you cannot discount the fact that Dinkocracy has been the main issue that has affected tribal, governance, economic, social, cultural, political harmony in South Sudan. This reality as you seem to deny is the main factor that is leading many to seek greater level of autonomy from the centre, which is controlled by Dinka to the exclusion of others. Or, if there are those who are in the system, they are given token positions that are redundant. So, you cannot discount that the issue is not just that of the constitution. It is an issue of the tendency of one of the major tribe in South Sudan trying to crowed out power, representation and contribution from the rest, without due justification.

    Third, you are arguing that this time is not right for discussing federalism. When will that time be? States are not created with fear of disintegration but the hope of building harmony, unity and togetherness. If, from your argument, that creating that sense of togetherness is important before creating a federated state in South Sudan, then, why don’t we work together now, to educate the rest of the need to build that harmony by according people their needed space to envision the type of system they wish to live in? Why discourage federalism? Isn’t it counter productive to argue against something and for it in the long run? South Sudanese are not in the process of creating quick fixes. This was the intent of the current constitution. It was intended to create a sense that we knew to be untenable but through sheer force of the SPLM, they instituted in and created in King.

    Decentralized, centralized or mix federalism are semantics and those who want to cloud the issues bring examples from far and wide but at the same time claim that we are different. Isn’t it the same different that we are using to create our own path to building a viable state in South Sudan. If you are using examples like Canada, Nigeria or India for that matter, you cannot just discount the progress that they achieved with the mode of governance. India that you so despise, have, over the last two decades, elevated more people from poverty then the whole continent of Africa. Isn’t this incredible progress, using home made governance the is working for them? And if you are claiming that the current system or some modification of it will create miracles, don’t you think some will still languish in poverty in South Sudan?

    Picking examples out of a hat for the sake of making an argument shouldn’t be that fast. It requires contemplative consideration to the different tools these examples have used to be where they are today. So, using the threat of disintegration is not really a critical articulation for why federalism is a threat to our unity as a country. The threat to our national unity is the curse of leadership that is failing to recognize its place in relation to the aspiration of the people of South Sudan. The system that the people of South Sudan are looking for is not up for intellectual debate but acceptance and implementation. If there are true leaders in South Sudan, they will not work against the aspiration of the people of South Sudan, but work to fulfill the demand, whatever way possible. This is what leadership is all about. As such, those who have taken to mantle to advocate for it are not just interested in making it a tool for what the proponents of the current system are scaring the uneducated about.

    Finally, as a parting note: the foundation for future state in South Sudan cannot be built on the shallow grounds of fear, but of boldness and acceptance that our reality is different and require different solutions that shakes the roots of the accepted reality.

  5. TITIKECI says:

    We need federalism not comparison of other countries no domination with only one tribe.
    Bravo Equatorian go ahead populace is behind.

  6. Eli says:

    Deng Lueth
    You are enjoying the fruits of federalism in Canada, instead you should be the first to adopt the Canadian federal system, support it and work hard to implement it in South Sudan so that you can come home.

  7. Thomas Loku JP says:

    Thank Eli, no much to say. Let him adopt then come home with it, he has already tested in Canada at the same time deying the fruits he is enjoying. Your words remind me another story of a certain man who went to his neibour and found them eating food then he ask them ( Fatdal fi) they said ( Fatdal mafi, Fatdal Tala min ini haside). Poster i condenm your suggestion, instead you r to said yes for Federal system your poster noncences while satisfying in federal states of Canada. Am Si ya Fatdal mafi.

  8. Ngundeng says:

    Monkey and grasshopper eaters must shut the hell up. When did these so-called Equatorians realized the importance of being South Sudanese?

    • Nuer-Another Israel in East Africa says:

      Snakes and lizards eater must quit using Nuer names. Call yourself STUPID as in STUPID KIIR. If not, use Ugandan names such as Museveni, the Dinka husband. You will go to ICC for using NGUNDENG name in vain or report yourself to court of Law in Bentiu city high court to receive your death sentence charges.

  9. simba says:

    The article reveals a split personality of one who opposes federalism in his home country, yet praises it elsewhere.

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