What have we learnt from “KOKORA” in South Sudan?

BY: Yakani Taban, AUG/10/2017, SSN;

At least every informed South Sudanese is aware of the political waves that wracked the south in the early nineteen eighties when the former military leader, Field Marshal Jaafar Mohamed Nimeri, issued a presidential decree dividing the then Southern region into three sub-regions of Equatoria, Upper Nile and the Bahr El Gazal.

The move was received with mixed reactions by the southern Sudanese masses; simply because of its implications, which denoted that Equatoria was for the Equatorians, Upper Nile for the people of the region and Bahr El Gazal for the Bahr El Gazalians.

While most Equatorians, led by the last president of the higher executive council, Joseph James Tombura, jumped at the decree, the people from Upper Nile and Bahr El Gazal regions, ground their teeth as they swallowed the above fire into their hearts.

No one can tell exactly the reasons behind that, however some just felt deprived from the symbolic capital of southern Sudan, Juba, while others had some major items in their heads.

At that very time the Addis Ababa agreement that halted the Seventeen years old Anyanya 1 guerrilla war was also brought to an end.

Coupled up with the Turabis baked Islamic September laws, Southern Sudan and other parts of the country were turned into blood fields.

Although not all the Equatorians supported the idea of the Kokora, they were all seen as the master minds behind the issuance of the decree. It was a concept that they did not like other people in their territory just because those people are different.

Indeed some differences existed between the Equatorians and people from the other regions of the South, but those ethnic difference per se did not pose any tension. On the contrary all the row that erupted were judgmental based on practical malpractices between the predominant pastoralists of the other regions on one hand and the mainly agriculturist Equatorians on the other.

Furthermore nobody could under estimate the level of political, social, security and economic crises southern Sudan was facing by then. Yet there were differences of opinions on the issue of Kokora which came at a time when people were still ignorant about the so-called federalism or decentralisation of power.

BUT the very big question that demands a critical answer is, why did some people opt for that Kokora? One may look into it as synonymous with asking the question, why did southern Sudanese demand a self determination from the Arab Islamic northerners?

Well, Sir Isaac Newton said, “to every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction”. Although Newton’s law is now fully engulfed in the text books of Physics, the day to day practices have proved that not all actions receive equal and opposite reactions.

Nevertheless every body reacts to a specific action in order to acquire a condition that will suit its status at that given time. So perhaps the demand that resulted to the attainment of the Kokora was simply a reaction to other events in the then integrated southern region for which Kokora was seen as a solution.

The single semi-autonomous Southern region under the Addis Ababa agreement might have fallen into hands that irrigated the germination of Kokora.

The idea of a “Kokora” [be divided], which emerged spontaneously among the people when other conditions could no more be tolerated by some in the then Southern region; did not just erupt because people wanted to live alone.

The sons and daughters of the greater Equatoria that embraced the kokora {the jungle federalism}, might have had their voices higher for some of the faults generated in the region; but the referees turned deaf ears to them. Whether it was because of ignorance that people did not know what was happening on the ground, no one could tell.

But the broad daylights revealed clearly the destruction of all those elements that are needed for human cohesion.

Men from different socio-cultural backgrounds can only be bound together by universal norms that are governed by basic principles of “Respect for one another” and abidance by the rule of law. Once the universal norms are undermined due to ignorance, tribal or selfish desires, then there is no any excuse for the fragments that follows.

So it should be made clearly that the new South Sudan that has emerged after the signing of the CPA should have been the direct beneficiary from the 1983 incident and embarked itself to provide the best for her people through proper governance.

It is not an easy task to accomplish as people are still recovering from poverty and post-war situation where the AK-47 rifles are still the best friends for some individuals. However more and more effort has to be exerted to allow a reasonable atmosphere for our minds to operate in so as to change the South for the better.

Good governance among others just entails avoidance of some elements, and adhesion to the universal norms which include the following:-

1-The rule of law:
Every body is equal before the law and no one is above it. As such the duty of every citizen is to respect and abide by what is rated as a law. In this respect a man who understands and respects the law will not be happy seeing some body stepping his feet on it while forcing others to be the prey.

It is also of much significance that the barrel of the gun remains as far away as possible to matters relating to laws to ensure that law and order are strictly observed. Equally important is the avoidance of judiciary biasness which is usually influenced by tribalism in areas where judges happen to be from one particular zone.

2- Avoidance of Nepotism.
A state grows rapidly when the right man automatically fits in to the right position regardless of where he comes from. And if the right man operates because of his capabilities, let him work in peace. However widespread practices of nepotism in both government and non-governmental organisations is a very serious disease that cripples every giant society.

No any sound society would tolerate selfish and greedy men rounding all their state properties for their relatives and friends and letting the vast majority go hungry; especially if the very relatives constantly prove to be incompetent.

3- No to Civil unrest.
Any normal person would not tolerate any sort of disturbance to his tranquility. It is crystal clear that the ultimate goal of every man on the earth is to have happiness or comfortable life. You can have all the resources but still will not be happy if you are constantly afraid of the uncertainty; not about the natural ones but those created by men’s barbaric behaviors.

Best examples include the use of force in what does not belong to you to the point of even killing the owner {i.e. banditry]. Let the fisherman, tailor, farmer, driver, butcher man etc, alone and they will be your friends. But you will be a worse enemy to a farmer if you happened to be his LOCUST, worst enemy to the trader if you are his bandit etc.

A lot of malpractices might have happened in the post-Addis Ababa agreement era that ultimately nursed the emergence of a group of people who felt that they would be better off alone than being constantly subjected to ways of life that do not please them.

“Kokora,” which is still a fresh history in people’s minds, was just the beginning of what is now being adopted as federalism in the whole country with the South having ten states instead of the three of 1983 being governed by people from the respective states.

There are those who saw that the division of the south in 1983 was the application of divide-and-rule principle intended to weaken the southerners; while others saw it as a decentralisation of power. Moreover, few enjoyed that status of keeping the fisherman near the sea, the teacher in a classroom and the pilot at the airport.

All the same, whatever it was, let its negative legacy be a lesion to every Southern Sudanese citizen. It has created a history that only the open-minded will benefit from. Wise man learns from his past mistakes.

As such it is my personal hope that our wise southerners will not let us down again by creating a vicious cycle. No man would wish to stumble twice on the same stone without thinking of either to remove or dodge it.

If Kokora was bad, and also other negative behaviours happened which resulted to the creation of Kokora; then it is time that people move with torches to avoid stumbling on the same stone again.

Southern Sudan is now in the era of the CPA where old wounds have healed and people are strongly working together to build a giant region.

No one should think it is now time to punish those who called for the kokora, or feel reserved because of the legacy created by kokora. As such negative thoughts will take the South to nowhere other than the journey to Rwanda 94, or to the former Yugoslavia.

So, unless people remove themselves from the African hang-over where one refuses to learn positively from his past mistakes, then the desire to create a solid southern region will just remain an illusion on the minds of the policy makers and our beautiful South will constantly be a region that will not hold her children.

Two to three generations will pass and the region will still continue supplying the rest of the world with malnourished deprived children.

No one is condoning the circumstances that produced Kokora or the existence of that perceived Kokora, as everybody is hoping for a stable South Sudan. And this stable South demands a stronger unity of minds that is free of all sorts of tribal, regional or selfish influences. END


  1. Dear: The Author Yakani Taban

    I read your story in your article you have written on Sudan political affairs before CPA 2005. I have understood well. But,sorry.No FEDERALISM IN THE SOUTH GOVERNMENT RIGHT NOW!

    The so calle 10 States,in the South Sudan,they were belonged to Sudan government in central in north in Khartoum under the presidency of National Congress party(NCP) H.E. President Omer El Beshir .SPLM/SPLA inherited on the on peace talk agreement CPA 2005.. SPLM/SPLA,had no government of their own that it had fought in the bush in the movement!

    The South Sudan government government under SPLM/SPLA leadership,should have the government of the war of 1983 it had fought on it!

    Now,you have talked about Redivision in the South Sudan of 1983. That redivision,was benefitted the opportunitst alone in all three regions. Equatoria Region,was remain UNDER DEVELOPMENT after redivision. Let us keep on unity in the South Sudan more politically! If redivide,it will create very many redivisions on tribal affiliations in the country more politically at this point!

    Sincere killing A liar!



  2. Lokosang says:

    Dear Mr Yakani, This is a great piece of article.
    The question is have the ruling elite learned from the lesion of Kokora? Have they learned from the lesions of marginalization, Islamisasion and Arabization, of others by Jalaba? The answer is no. They haven’t learned any thing.
    In regard to Kokora, yes it was a policy of divide and rule designed by the jalaba but without the support of some South Sudanese who was discontent with bad behaviours of some of their brothers, that policy wouldn’t have succeeded.
    No body need to be treated as second class citizen in his/her own country. Nobody needs to be marginalised because of his/her ethnicity. As you mentioned above in a peaceful and democratic society, nobody is above the law. All are treated equal whether being services or opportunities which is not the case in our country currently and then during the autonomous Southern Sudan. Until we all realised that South Sudan will never enjoy peaceful coexistence.
    Any change must start at the leadership level. Whether at the personal or government level.
    A leader must practice co-values of respect, integrity, accountability, at personal level, community level and at the national level.
    A leader must have vision and direction where he/her wants to direct a nation to the direction that it will prosper economically and socially.
    As I said before in other commentary, the so call National Dialogue has no any meaning and would not yield to any thing tangible because the initiators are not genuine. If they are genuine, they should negotiate a peaceful settlement with all opposition groups first then followed by the real National Dialogue in which all the stakeholders are included in the discussion.
    History repeats itself. What were happening during the Autonomous government of Southern Sudan are the same behaviours that are happening now in our country. What ever has been discussed by the council of ministers and agreed upon will be rediscussed again in secrecy by specific group who think they have legitimate right to influence and alter the already agreed decision. This itself need to be addressed and the leader should allowed it to happen.

    • Bentiu Ramaran says:


      I wholelly agree with your points, which are franks and realistic. The purpose of the National Dialogue is not to bring peace and stability in South Sudan but for kiir to hold on to power. The Dinka’s tribal gangs leader Kiir’s ” National Dialogue” was passed to consolidate power that he is about to loss. The JCE national dialogue is a tool they want to use to lure in South Sudanese so Kiir can acquire more power.

  3. Alfred Jacob says:


    Thank you very much for trying to explain the root cause of Kokora. I want to applaud your attempt. As an Equatorian, i understand why Kokora was implemented, for someone who is non Equatorian thou, your article was not very clear. My advise to you on your next article and specially if you are going to tackle heavy topic such as Kokora, you need to use simple language and drive to the point. Dont beat around the bush! Avoidance gets no where!


    • info@southsudannation says:

      Alfred Jacob et al,
      In actual fact and reality, Kokora, as clearly elucidated by the originators, was supposed to ultimately end up in the permanent division of the Southern Sudan into three separate nations, that’s…Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazel and Upper Nile. There was no notion or intention by the champion Equatorian leaders that the failed Southern Sudan Regional government was ever going to be re-instituted and come back to Juba.
      As you might have been made aware that time, despite the war being executed by the Dinka-dominated SPLM/A, those Equatorian leaders along with partners from Upper Nile were adamantly fixated on a future political arrangement where the jieng would never predominated politically on their respective regions.
      In retrospect, many of these political leaders and the citizens of these areas must be woefully regretting as to why they had so easily forgotten their hard-won and bitterly fought-for Kokora victory of 1983.
      Unfortunately, the future doesn’t bode well for the South Sudan nation once again, after what is unfolding as the worst imperialistic jieng mentality to oppress others. South Sudan will remain for a long time unstable and undeveloped unless a better political dispensation is worked out for the satisfaction of ALL CITIZENS.

      • johnjerry says:

        We should have embarrassed “KOKORA” with a good heart because development was based only in Juba. I was working in Wau when Kokora took place. To be frank there were no trade or skilled people in Wau after the Equatorians left because everyone wanted to be “Beny” and to be Beny it is only in Juba as if Juba was the city of Angles. During the CPA Rumbek was declared the Capital to be of the then southern Sudan. What happened ?.
        Juba was again made the Capital City instead of Ramciel as proposed by Dr.Garang. There are those who want only to stay in big Cities and that is what has brought about all this war.

        Even development all across the country is what is needed. The principle of taking towns to the people and not people coming to the town should have been put in action and just not be a song of birds.If I have everything in wau or Torit as an example what will bring me to come to stay and play dominoes under a mango tree in Juba or Nimule.Why should Malwal Dinka move with all their Cattle to Yei or Mogali or New site in Kapoeta State if there is no any hidden agenda behind their move?. Are they afraid of the Arabs and what about close to Bor are they afraid of the Murle. Create work and development all across the country and let South Sudan be the envy of East Africa.
        We have everything we only need the brain and the men and the women to put that into action. We can do it if we have the respect for the law and for one another. We should not take from John to pay Peter. There is, of course, a lesson we should have learned from Kokora.

  4. False Millionnaire says:

    Was it the SPLM/A jieng movement that was holding the old sudan United or was it the northern elites practicing power in Khartoum?
    If there was any négative conviction against both the northern elites and the SPLM/A from the part of equarians and the Upper nileans,it’s most unfortunate for u to have wasted an opportunity to create your own movements to fight seperately to confirm your,”hard won Kokora”,instead of joining a jieng movement. The death of Garang has created à leadership vacuum .But surprisingly that vacuum isn’t for u as such and so u give the impression as if Garang fought to institute a jieng state in RSS,an assertion that could take à very fat pinch of salt to believe for those with universal mentality of love for multi-ethnic nationhoods.
    As Bob Marlley sang,”get up stand up,stand up for your right”.That assertion would never fail u if u don’t try it at the expense of others rights. U would get sympathy from the rest of RSS’s masses jieng included if u do your struggle without the recourse to the most ignoble acts named MTN hunting targeting innocent citizens.

  5. tit4tat says:

    This article is a very good reminder of what lies ahead, yes Dinkas came from the bush supported by the troika and handed them a government but Dinkas, as usual, are incapable of being productive neither progressive. They have failed and their chance is over. Time has come for those left out to forge alliances and resist Dinkas’ so-called domination to the point of fragmentation if no viable solution is found.

  6. mading says:

    tit4tat. It is the big talkers for nothing like you who are the problem in our country. You talked loud about Dinkas domination as you were not a round in our then Sudan when Arabs used to run everything so badly for us. Go a head preach your hatred of Dinkas, but it will stay on this web for you, nothing you can do big loud mouth for nothing coward.

  7. tit4tat says:

    Nobody needs to preach hatred against Dinkas, they brought it upon themselves and their failure will haunt them for a thousand plus years. Their number one mistake was committing genocide in Equatoria, the second was the massacre of Nuer in Juba, brutalizing the Fertits in Wau, stealing Chollo land in Malakal, kidnapping Murle children and rustling their cattle, stealing our national resources etc, etc… if all these and endless acts of evils don’t make Dinkas enemy #1 then better u commit suicide before the real doomsdays arising as we speak.

  8. Steve John says:

    I understand why jaangs loath Kokora because it was the only political instrument that got them successfully ejected and expelled out Equatoria. Kokora is federalism and the basic objective is to empower each group through socio-economic and political devolution. In this case, Jaangs would freely choose to administer their jaang states as they wish and leave others (Equatorians) also do likewise. What is wrong with that? The problem, is that jaang states lack the skilled human resources to offset and propel their states toward the path of development and by any accounts are more or less of “junk states” that are incapable of delivering the urgently needed services to their people. In as much, jaangs are more comfortable in Equatoria given the relative development enjoyed here and therefore desperately want to settle. This has led to a more or less “jaang exodus” to Equatoria over the last years and puts into question the idea of creating several hopeless states. Today, the jaangs have a bigger share (over 14 out 28 states) and yet are not different from “upgraded luaks” without any structures and systems of governance. They could have even 25 states, but wont do anything. rather, many “elite jaangs” have perfered to dash and vagabond in Equatoria, and enjoy the social amenities and comfort (let alone the delicious dishes-ngete, kwedkwede etc.). while the destitutes and powerless are left behind in Gogrial, Aweil, Gok Machar to starve or die.

  9. Lokosang says:

    Dear brother Jerry, I agreed with you with the points you raised. If the principle of taking towns to the people and not bringing people to the towns was to be implemented, indeed we would not be in the current political situation but as a matter of fact that principle had died with Dr John. Those people who are in the government plus the so call JCE, the culture of socio-economic development is not available in their genes. They are only after positions and looting of public property for their own interest. A good leader is some one who has a vision for the country. Some one who draw a big picture what a country would look like in some years to come and what need to be done to reach there and what are the resources whether human or natural resources available to be utilise to reach the gold.
    Imagine! they created 34 states but yet the governors are staying in Juba in hotels. Majority of the civil servants in those created states stay in Juba with all their relatives and they claim this is a policy of taking towns to people, ministers have government houses but they stay in hotel busy with women while leaving their wives, children and relatives at home what a jock! !
    As I mentioned before in other articles, taking towns to the people does not mean creating more states without services to the people but it means within the context of the previous ten states you have to provides adequate services at the levels of Payams, counties and states so that the same services available in the big cities are also available in those towns cities and villages. And as you put it if those services are available then there is no reason for people to leave their areas and move to the big cities.
    People have join forces to topple this fascist regime as the only way to bring peace, stability, and socio-economic development in South Sudan.

  10. ben says:


    The conversation you posted has some short coming in regards to ” KOKORA ” that took lace in 1983.
    First and for most decentralization came into effect it was the demand of the Greater Equatoria.
    Second South Sudan was never divided into three but it has remain as: Greater Equatoria, Bhar El Ghazal and Upper Nile Respectively. So the notion that is being paddle around that it was KOKORa that divided south Sudan is misplaced.

    The political dram that ensued after that was the work of some elements who wanted to stick to their so called born to rule. Subsequently 21 years of civil war hood mask the people of south Sudan into permanent slavery going on in the country. In short it s time for the south Sudan to disappear and new sovereign entities to emerge so that the agony of our people have to end. We have had enough political surgery that don’t add up and remember you can not tame a dying cow.

  11. mading says:

    tit4tat. Big liar of old time, it is on the UN record that it is Murle people who steal Dinka Bor children, one liar. It is on the record that it is you Jur who hunt Dinkas in the name of MTN, and kill them, liar two. To make a point on your “doom days” For Dinkas, it will happen here on this web, but not out there, because you people know yourselves very well who you are . Steve John you know that your Jur are living in those Dinka states as I write this respond. Big talk for nothing is what people like you are known for.

  12. waunar says:

    Now look you and your idiot relatives have handed SS into UN’s hand without resistance. You want recocolonization here it comes you bastards:http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article63299

    • Beek says:

      Jur Chol protested when Dinka Man married a girl from them . I think Jur Chol Tribe should have adopted a one child policy many years ago.

  13. waunar says:

    If Dinkas have brains the only war we should be fighting for is Abyei and against poverty not amongst ourselves. The only reason to blames you Jenges is that you seated your stinking skinny arses on the seat and won’t share it with others. Even a newborn baby will understand more than your childish behaviors. Look: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article63303

  14. mading says:

    Waunar. Internet war is not taking us anywhere, people like you like to blamed everything on mounygaangdit. But you are the big problem in our country.

  15. Sabah Sebit says:

    This article is not that bad but the master minded the mayor of Juba city Salva got nothing to think about it because he is not politician due to his understanding he is far from politics and governing ability what he knows is to kill and steal out the resources of south Sudan and he got nothing to do with peace in south Sudan, if you could remember his comments about refugees he said they fleed South Sudan due to media propaganda, in my view there will be no solution to South Sudan problems if Juba mayor still governing.

  16. Peter Adwok Nyaba says:

    It is quite worrisome particularly that the present informs the past and objectivity becomes the victim. I want to prestige the caption that depicts Abel and Lagu as ‘traitor’ and ‘hero’ respectively. As servants of Nimeri’s regime they could all be categorized as traitors. They were heros in their respective rights. ‘Kokora’ was neither an Equatoria Central Committee’s project nor was it in the interest of South Sudan. It only showed that Southern Political elite then was a bunch of spineless rent seekers. They allowed Nimeri to use them to achieve his objective of buying time to remain in power.
    The present socio-political context is as difficult and complicated as what the Editor alluded to. However, all that has happened in Southern Sudan since 1821 are pangs of state formation and nation building. No nation has ever emerged unscathed by all kinds of ailments. We need to learn that since we did not chose each other, just like siblings don’t, we have to learn to live together peacefully. What we need in South Sudan is a political class that can deliver on social and economic development to transform the centuries old condition of socio-economic and cultural backwardness of our people characterized by poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and superstition. Kind regards
    Peter Adwok Nyaba

  17. sabah sebit says:

    Mayor of Juba city Salva doesn’t care what’s happening now in south he is just waiting for the money from petroleum companies and that is it even he do not know what’s going on due to his lack of knowledge in how to govern the country

  18. mading says:

    Sabah Sebit. You become an other Gatdarwich on this web now ? Stop copying and pasted the term mayor of Juba, that term was used long time a go to descripted former president of Somalia SIAD B. MOHAMED. Also I want to know what happen to mad man Gatdarwich, did anybody hear or see him lately? I want to hear from him how things are going in Pagak ?.

  19. Tong Kot Kuocnin says:

    Prof. Peter Adwok Nyaba,
    I respect you and i will continue to respect you because at some points, you do make sense even when hatred is being poured on the most innocent people. What we really need as you succinctly put it is a political class that can deliver on these direly needed socio-economic development programmes to transform the centuries old condition which are imminently rooted down in cultural backwardness of our people which are mainly characterized by poverty, ignorance, high illiteracy rates and above all superstition. These finger pointing at one particular community isn’t taking us anywhere. Kiir isn’t the Dinka. the Dinka community is much bigger than him and if there are people who hate him most, then it is within the Dinka community which is innocent and being victimized for his shortcomings.

  20. J Gore says:

    I enjoyed reading your well written articule for which you tried your level best to explain how and why the redivision of the Southern region happenned. However, there is a key piece of information missing on your articule that most of us are not even aware of. A veteran politician recently disclosed this information that the Jieng politicians were not happy with the Addis Ababa agreement under the stewartship of Gen Lagu an Equatorian, hence they instigated Nimeri to kill the agreement by redividing the South into three regions. Nimeri wasted no time in fulfulling the demand of the Jieng politicians although it was the Equatorians who celebrated it because they thought it was an oppotunity for each of the three Southern region to manage their affairs (mini Federalism) but the Jieng politicians had a different idea. Shortly after the redivision of the Southern Region, the SPLA/M was formed headed by a Jieng. So let us stop thinking Equatorians were behind Kokora as it was a Dinka initiative in collaboration with the north. The Equatorians only welcomed, embrassed and implemented it.

  21. mading says:

    J Gore. Don’t run a way from your making of redivision of southern regions, after your son lagau signed a bad with jalabas in Khartoum. You Equatorians feel shamed after you learned how your son was cheated by Arabs, so turned your shamed on Southerners by calling for division of the south in to three regions, and that did not stopped there, you went after Dinkas , your easy target of blame for your every deed of yours.

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