Power sharing agreement not a solution to South Sudan conflict

By Jacob K. Lupai, JUBA, JUN/23/2015, SSN;

South Sudan is engulfed in a conflict that seems to have defied all attempts to resolve it peacefully. The conflict is now about 18 months old and despite every effort made to try to end it, South Sudanese are still to enjoy peace and stability after having shed millions of liters of their own precious blood to achieve independence from vicious colonizers.

The conflict has now become the concern of Africa in particular and the international community at large to chart a better way forward for South Sudan to realize peace and stability through whatever means possible.

It is evident that South Sudanese on their own have no power to end the conflict because they find it easier to disagree than agree. For example, an agreement on cessation of hostilities is easily dishonored with either side to the conflict vehemently blaming each other. The blame game continues monotonously while the country bleeds senselessly.

South Sudan conflict

The conflict in South Sudan began on 15 December 2013. However, according to South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) Interim Report on South Sudan Internal Conflict December 15, 2013 – March 15, 2014, the genesis of the conflict can be traced back to July 2013 when President Salva Kiir Mayardit made a major reshuffle, dropping his Vice President, Dr Riek Machar from the Cabinet.

The reshuffle in July 2013 heightened political rivalries and tensions within the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Prior to the reshuffle Dr Riek Machar as the Vice President and also deputy to President Salva Kiir Mayardit in the SPLM, openly expressed his desire to challenge the President for the leadership of the SPLM and therefore the President’s leadership as the Head of State.

The political rivalry between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his former Vice President Dr Riek Machar for power and the leadership of the SPLM, and therefore the Head of State, is the cause of the conflict. A paper presented by SSHRC (July 2014) confirms that the cause of the current conflict is the struggle for the leadership and direction of the affairs of the SPLM and therefore the leadership of the country.

The start of the conflict was blamed on the alleged attempted coup to overthrow the government. However, others also claimed that there was no coup attempt but a fabricated one to silence critics. Nevertheless, whether there was a coup attempt or not what the people of South Sudan need right now is peace, stability and development to improve the quality of their lives. In addition, insecurity is so rampant that the very existence of South Sudan as a sovereign country may be under threat of disintegration.

Institutional reforms

In the absence of meaningful institutional reforms it is highly doubtful that a mere power sharing agreement is a lasting solution to the current conflict in South Sudan. Some may agree that power sharing is the solution to the conflict. Others may disagree while still there may be those who are not so sure. This may all suggest that the conflict is complicated. The complication is that the conflict has taken ethnic and regional dimensions where insecurity is the order of the day. A conception of power sharing agreement as a solution to the conflict is therefore too simplistic.

For any meaningful resolution of the conflict in South Sudan the primary priority is a holistic institutional reform. Reforms in governance, in the economy and in the security sector are a key to sustainable peace and stability. In governance the reform is the adoption of a federal system of government in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country such as South Sudan where there are also regional diversities.

In a federal system powers are devolved to a lower level where there is autonomy with less interference from the national government. Through autonomy people have some freedom to run their affairs in their own way. This will likely promote unity in diversity. In South Sudan there could be three federal regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile headed by prime ministers while the federal government is headed by a president. Within a federal region there could also be autonomous states with the three arms (executive, judiciary and legislature) of government headed by governors. Alternatively, the existing ten states in South Sudan could form the federation.

Reforms in governance

I am aware that a proposal for a federal system will be construed as “Kokora” by people less informed and lacking in confidence. There is no better system than a federal one in addressing the plethora of problems South Sudan faces on daily basis. The naïve ones and the less informed will erroneously perceive that a federal system divides people. This is false. On the contrary, a federal system promotes unity in countries, for example, with diversities of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural backgrounds. Federal states are found in Africa, in the Americas, in Asia and in Europe. However, only the fearful with a hidden agenda are the opponents.

A centralized system is likely to create rebellions and a possible breakup of a country. The old Sudan is a good case study. The then Southern Sudan demanded a federal system of government to preserve the unity of the old Sudan but the demand was utterly rejected. The rest is for students of history. Hopefully South Sudan will not breakup the way the old Sudan did under naïve Arab Islamic leadership. Learning from the insensitivity in old Sudan, it is hoped that the leadership of South Sudan will be wiser.

Reforms in security sector

Institutional reforms in the security sector is of paramount importance in promoting a strong united South Sudan. South Sudan is a country of 72 ethnic groups. In the national peace conference of South Sudan tribes convened under the theme “Peace Now! South Sudan Tribes United Against War” at Nyokuron Culture Centre on 17 – 18 February 2015, 72 ethnic groups were identified and listed. This is an update of the previous number of 65 ethnic groups considered to be in South Sudan.

The existence of 72 ethnic groups in South Sudan clearly suggests reforms in the security sector must reflect the ethnic diversity of the country. Not having representatives of the 72 ethnic groups in the security sector is a clear disaster in the waiting. As power corrupts it is very unwise to have any ethnic group to dominate in the security sector because it will be extremely arrogant and this does not bode well in promoting national unity. It has been seen that people in uniform grab land using arms but are not accountable for their criminal behavior. The implication is clear.

In reforms in the security sector, a state in the federation should have its own home guards/militia to handle hardcore criminals. The state should also establish its own organized forces such as the police, criminal investigation department, the prisons wildlife and the fire brigade.

For economic reforms the states should have the power to tax in order to raise revenue for investment in development projects. They should have the power, without interference from the centre, to develop natural resources such as agriculture, forestry, animal resources and fisheries. They also should have the power to prospect for oil and minerals such as gold, uranium, zinc and so forth. For self-reliance, paramount in reforms is economic development, judiciary, public services and structures at all levels.

In all, the reform agenda is about the rule of law, the promotion of good governance and the protection of human rights. However, this cannot happen without strong and implementable guarantees. For example, in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005 Abyei was to have a referendum either to join Sudan or South Sudan. This did not happen. Also in the CPA the resolution of the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States did not happen. Right now wars of liberation are raging in those two States. This is an indication that without strong guarantees and committed guarantors an agreement will likely be dishonored with impunity.

As a resolution of the conflict in South Sudan there must be committed guarantors and they should be the mediators, and those who have actively participated in bringing about any agreement on reforms. This is the only way to have a vibrant united South Sudan where every citizen identifies with and ultimately calls it a motherland. This is also how to save the country from collapsing.


It will be a waste of time and valuable resources for any agreement which is supposed to address the current conflict in South Sudan is only restricted to power sharing. Without guaranteed institutional reforms it is most likely that the conflict will recur with far reaching consequences.

In conclusion, the only salvation of South Sudan from disunity and possible breakup is institutional reform where a strongly guaranteed federation of either three regions or ten states is adopted, reflecting the diversities of the country. There should also be a reform in the SPLM, where among other things, a time-frame should be indicated as to when any member can start to campaign for the leadership. This is to avoid the way Salva Kiir Mayardit was being openly challenged at any time by members without respect.

Jacob K. Lupai is the author of the book: South Sudan, Issues in Perspective published in 2014. The book is available in St Joseph Bookshop and in JIT Supermarket in Juba, and at Juba International Airport. For students who would like to borrow the book, copies owned by Juba University are available in the library.


  1. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Dear South Sudanese,

    The peace is coming enjoy, the peace is coming a message from God. Thank you and God bless you all.

  2. oyhath says:

    Yes I agree. We can’t put the cart before the horse, for this would mean no progress whether in terms of achieving peace or realizing stability in the future. If the mediators are serious about bringing real peace to South Sudan, the first step should start with defining the system of governance in any peace agreement and, subsequent to transitional period, permanent constitution. If the majority of the 72 ethnic groups making up the population of South Sudan are demanding federalism, then that is the way forward because that is simply how democracy works. If one or a few of these ethnic groups is opposed to the popular demand and wants to keep the status quo, then this is clearly minority dictatorship. Peace will not be realized in South Sudan under minority dictatorship.


  3. Kong Puok Tongluot SS says:

    Dear, Mr. Jacob
    your article analysis has met my chronicle options. SPLM ruling Party is the trouble maker of contentious insider core alone, and had taken into tribal trends. Without question, Mr. Salva Kiir would had to quelled this deadly war if he was in an attention. There were a lot of rumors that some elements who were Mr. Kiir Mayardit’s Advisors had been wrongly advising in past matters during liberation era, that ignited Mr. Salva Kiir to worked out violating the constitution, and resorted reshuffle entire included Vice chair of party SPLM on july 2013.We hope only peace and security to be prevailed, not brokering or campaigning for remaining in power. What so called power sharing deal is a waste of time for our people peace aspirations instead to talk about political transformations and Security matters in our nations. Thanks ! !.

  4. mindra says:

    Dear SS,

    Reinstatement,fighting,positions, decree,revocation and denouncement,my constitutional rights and unconstitutional.now who is who and which is which,oh God help southsudanese.
    Pagan Amum has nothing to offer new and now that he was exiled a year and some months,he will do the worse with his team mate.do not be overjoyed,the worse is coming too soon with failed economy.
    Mindra from loa local pageri payam Madi corridor,EE SS

    • Focus says:

      Ya, You guys will write and call for change and even pray for God to change the situation but I personally think You are wasting Energy and time. These guys are Power hungry leaders and lack conscious to Help them See the right from the wrong. We need New party to Take over not The former Tribal Rebel commanders who were rank on the bases of Tribe. Until we get off with those tribal legacy we shall have no stability in the whole of south Sudan. FOCUS !!

    • alex says:

      when we are going to start pumping the oil in Bentue and people are busy digging

  5. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Dear Jacob K Lupai,

    I have been preaching for peace since the beginning of the conflict because I am against any war of dictatorship, any war of tribalism. Brothers and sisters God called me to love my fellow citizens of South Sudan. The dictatorship and tribalism that people preach have no place in South Sudan us all South Sudanese with equal right. In South Sudan we all have opportunity to rule if you are qualified whether you are from minority or majority you are welcome to lead your people as long you have strong spirit of love and prosperity toward democracy.

    As I read an articles in Sudan tribune about restated of our Secretary General Pagan Amum, I am very glad and thankful to SPLM Party for restated him back to his post. Let us welcome him back with open arm and bless to begin his post as secretary of SPLM. We learned a lot and we heard a lot, but God always gives the chance to those who learned from mistake. The future of South Sudan has been destroyed, but God is willing to reconstruct the damage. This is a time for General Secretary Pagan Amum to think what to do for his country, but not what his country do for him. Mr. Amum is a very strong leader, but in my previous writing I mentions two things that would destroy the leadership of African leaders corruption and having many wives. It says in the Bible that you cannot serve two Masters God and demons. Leadership is an observable to other that occurs in group, organization or institution involving a leader and followers who willing subscribe to common purposes and working together to achieve the goal.

    I am very pleased the coming back of detainees and rebels will be the beginning of the development of South Sudan. South Sudan will be stronger country in Africa through democracy and equality of citizens. There is no country can be rule by one tribe and I do not care how you are going to take my word because I love to see South Sudan’s rising. How South Sudan will be rising? It will be rising through love, unity, forgiveness, democracy, equality opportunity to every
    citizens in the country whether you are from minority and majority you have right to lead your people.

    In addition and finally to all above mentions, please South Sudanese leaders do not reward yourself, let God and your fellow citizens reward you. Those who done well should receive their reward according to their hard work to keep the SPLM Party survive. Those who returned should be considered as brothers, and sisters and welcome them with love because love display the characteristics of compassion, kindness, bearing with one another, forgiveness one another. You are blessed to have the country like South Sudan that flown with honey and milk. Thank you and God bless you all.

  6. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Mr. Jacob,

    What you do think about reinstated of Mr. SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum? In Juba, Mr. SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum made a great speech and I truly appreciated his decision. Mr. Secretary General is a truly capable leader without doubt, but sometime it is very easy for many other leaders to be manipulated and used as tool for personal achievement.

    In my previous writing on Southsudannation.com I truly mentioned that Mr. Amum is a qualified leader, but through this conflict he has to think smart to save his leadership and today he did it. I am so proud and I definitely support his decision because forgiveness is very important.

    This is a message to Mr. Secretary General “you say what you do and you do what you say.” Thank him for his return and hopefully God will bless him in his leadership. God is so great the SPLM is still alive, the vision is not dying yet, but to make the SPLM vision successful corruption and tribalism have to be demolished and true democracy has to be implemented otherwise no vision.

    According to his speech Mr. Jacob I would like SPLM Secretary General Mr. Pagan Amum to understand that the SPLM/A disabilities, orphans, widows, children and women are suffering under SPLM leadership. Please, this is a time to rescue these suffering citizens of South Sudan otherwise there is no need for the vision. I thank him for his wonderful speech and I hope Mr. SPLM Secretary General has learned from mistake, blessing.

  7. Maduok Wakdit says:

    death of millions for un necessary cause is deplorable, if reinstatement was an issue then why disowned at the first place? The SPLM in general kept this country and its innocent citizens hostage to their egoistic interests, the thing is not about power-sharing either, it is about lack of love for the nation and its citizens. we want peace, but the question is: who is committed to sincere peace above self-interests in favor of common interests.


  8. Deng Deng says:

    Bravo brother Jacob. The current SPLM leadership (all of them) have lost credibility and face in front of all South Sudanese. They look like bucket dungs (“Urara jerdel”). we can not sympathize their shame and blunder. They must go!

  9. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Dear Maduok,

    You have to understand politic is a dirty game and that is why many people do not want to involve into politic because innocents people always died supporting the politicians. Our South Sudanese do not understand this and I hope in the coming years they will learn the significant and important of being politicians supporter. I truly understand your pain, but our innocents citizen have been hostage because they are blind and innocent. Politicians always fight for their interested and achievement first before citizens. Brothers and sisters we need to learn in South Sudan otherwise many people will still dying supporting the politicians interested.

    Let us pray for peace and begins to forgive one another; we want to save those innocents who are still alive and living under trees without clean water and foods to eat because of this senseless war thank you.

  10. Hoiloom says:

    Well said Maduok, can’t agree more with you. Our leaders need serious mental check up. You can’t kill innocent civilians and turn around to make u turn. The mistake Kiir did was to target civilians. He should have gone after his SPLM collaborators in corruption and we the poor wouldn’t have reacted.

    • Mr. Lupai,

      Any conflict resolution that does not address the root cause of conflict is misleading. Federalism by Greater Equatoria, Greater Upper Nile, and Greater Bar El Gazal is another misleading federalism conflict resolution.

      “There should also be a reform in the SPLM, where among other things, a time-frame should be indicated as to when any member can start to campaign for the leadership. This is to avoid the way Salva Kiir Mayardit was being openly challenged at any time by members without respect”. What a joke!? Campaigning for leadership means challenging other leaders. If Kiir does not want to be challenged, then he must step aside. If Salva Kiir does not respect others, then why you the beneficiaries of corrupted government want Kiir to be respected?

      Mr. Lupai, your article is a written series of nonesense.

  11. False Millionaire says:

    There is a need to show justice and acknowledge the true fact that Dr Lupai’s article is an excellant one.Such universal issues as federalism,centerlized method of governance,establishment of functionning institutions and the urgent need for development are centeral matters that must not disappear from RSS forums of debates.

    Bantiu Ramaran is wrong in calling Dr Lupai’s article as,”a written series of nonesense”.Why is this exaggerated lack of appreciation for the good work for?
    Pagan has returned to Juba and taken his former place as SPLM secretary general.Dr Riaka and the rest SPLM/A members in rebellion can go back to get reinstated in their former posts in Juba.If the protagonists agree to such arangements,Ramaran’s problem which,”root cause”,was power struggle among SPLM/A elites will have been resolved.
    But who is a fool to believe in such arrangements when they would only constitue a brieve cease fire that would be broken by one among the protagonists who would take advantage of possible opportunity to assassinate his rivals?
    It’s from this context that Dr Lupai is right in heading his article,”power sharing agreement not a solution to south sudan conflict”.

    In fact since the tragic death of Dr Garang,south sudan has been in the cross roads under the remaining SPLM/A leadership.RSS will still suffer leadership vacuum even under a reunited SPLM/A leadership.That’s a very bad news becouse as in the laws of physics,a plastic container taking in dirty mud without exit to discharge it will finish up exploding.That’s the most unfortunate scenario of disintegration Dr Lupai had the courage to predict.

    It may be in the record of history that it would be remembered that the 2005 CPA contains a protocol of arrangements for the status of,”Abeyi and Blue Nile”.Certainly members of the would be reunited SPLM/A leadership would be busy in looting the country’s maigre economic fortunes and conspiring(each one)to undo another.So the most sacred questions relating to the stautus of Abeyi and Blue Nile will likely die at bay.

  12. Easy Money says:

    For South Sudan to realize a lasting peace, the country should start from a clean slate.
    Form an interim -government, to be lead by technocrats who have never served in Kiir’s administration.

  13. Charles Placido Wani says:

    Dear Lupai, thanks for this informative article. What i saw in the IGAD Peace proposal is in the governance structure where there is a mention of Ministry of Federal Affairs. I do not understand the meaning of government of national unity for specified interim period. What am asking is “this period is to make what or to prepare for what?” a) Only reforms in Sectors, b) Make unity attractive under Current CENTRALIZED SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE, c) Promote or introduced FEDERAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE at the start of the interim period, d) Write a Federal Constitution before elections, e) Conduct national elections after interim period to operate what system of governance? If Riek achieved a Federal government in greater Upper Nile states, that was just by circumstantial co-incident, this is clear from the genesis of his being in the bush. The danger is will Equatoria attain a federal system of governance, under the leadership of Dr Riek or somebody else after this peace proposal? The perception is that IF SPLM and SPLM-IO united later in the bush or in during the interim period, then those claiming for FEDERALISM should forget about it being given in a golden plate. SPLM in and out does not admire the idea of federalism. However, if Riek managed to do so, then that will be the only GOOD THING in history to remember Dr Riek Marcher. Positions or power sharing in this case will not help much other than devising a fair system of governance in South Sudan, as you said Jacob Lupai. The Equatorians in general should watch out carefully this scenario and see if they have a stake in the IGAD PEACE Proposal. The former detainees and the leaders of SPLM-IO all had agreed in principle that the governance of my president Kiir was not going in the right direction, but when circumstances turned out differently on 15th Dec., the former detainees tactically refused to join Riek for his character problem and leadership, and mindful that the civil war will later take another dimension especial the presence of Equatorians in support of Riek, might later demand or advise for implementation of Federal system of governance in the country a request that is a BIG BLOW to SPLM ORIGINAL and in particular the major dominating ethnic groups of DINKA and NUER. Mr. Jacob Lupai, we need to study the foreign relations, policy and attitude of our neighboring countries, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and the west Plus China, as to what their interest lie in, eg. in oil, gold, agriculture, trade, humanity, weapons business, stability, etc, because this will shape the kind of peace south Sudan will attain and will be long lasting, otherwise our history book is an unopened ended exercise to write in. I will make efforts to purchase one of the book you wrote.

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