Why Pres. Kiir and Riek Machar must relinquish ethnic federalism ideology in South Sudan

BY: Chol Deng Yol, South Sudan, NOV/24/2015, SSN;

South Sudan, the world’s newest independent state, remains one of the most troubled country facing both external and internal threats from aggrieved neighboring country (Sudan) and internal power struggling among the SPLM Politicians.

The SPLM’s domineering political party, after secession from Khartoum, had dramatically robbed the people of their hard-won independence and returned the country back to civil war, pitting the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups against one another.

The South Sudanese civil war that started as a political dispute has been interpreted through the lens of ethnic bitterness, fueled by tribal animosities that remained unresolved since the inception of SPLM/A in 1983.

Just but to mention a few, the war has immensely claimed lives and destroyed peoples’ sources of livelihood.

It has led to the proliferation of small arms and ammunitions in civilian communities deepening tribal animosity, creating perceptions of insecurity besides breaking down of cultural values.

It has displaced thousands of people and destroyed schools and hospitals. The economy has indicatively shrunken.

As a redress to South Sudanese atrocities, the IGAD Plus has helped the warring parties to sign a compromised Peace Agreement which is yet to be implemented.

Apparently, the scars carried by Kiir and Machar’s survivors, inside and outside the country, are still raw and the recently signed ‘Compromised Peace Agreement’ that prompted return to status-quo of the former foes does nothing to free SPLM and SPLM-IO from the guilt of killing their own citizens.

With the loss nationhood innocence, Riek and Kiir must come to terms with their new ethnic federalism ideologies, otherwise trying to move forward will have deadly consequences.

Dr. Riek in his “SPLM-in-opposition’ Movement Manifesto was the first leader to split the country into 21 ethnic federal states only to be pebbly surprised by President Kiir in his unilateral decision that ordered the creation of 28 ethnic federal States.

The decisions taken by both Machar and President Kiir do not meet people‘s aspirations at all as they both have elements of tribal supremacy over power and resources.

Whether with 21 or 28 states, South Sudan is not ready for it at the movement, period!

South Sudanese are resilient people who need peace and prosperity, not federal states.

Regardless of the legality of creation of more states, the question that hangs in the mind of every South Sudanese is that, if we could not developed the already existing 10 states of the republic of South Sudan, how are we going to develop 21 or 28 ethic states given the rifts and tribal animosities caused by this senseless war?

In countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria, ethnic federation is applied in the context and strategy of resolving ethnic conflict on a permanent basis.

However in South Sudan, it is likely to exacerbate the already complicated unresolved political, economic and social issues.

One of the major peculiarities of the proposed federalism in South Sudan is how to designate the territorial location of an ethnic group given the history of internal seasonal migration and patterns of settlement, especially among the nomadic communities of Greater Upper Nile regions.

It will be very difficult for the federal government to demarcate ethnic territorial boundaries without experiencing multitudes of claims and counter claims from local tribes.

It will create another protracted war along ethnic lines.

In all the federal states inhabited by more than one ethnic community, there exist evidences that there will be problems of treating unequal ethnic groups equally.

In reality, tribes will be different in terms of territorial size, population and economic potentials which may complicate allocation of federal powers among various tribes.

Will federal seats be allotted on the proportion of population size or ethnic representation? It is very complicated to determine it.

Since the contested system of ethnic federalism in South Sudan is anchored on the very idea and principle of self-determination of the tribes, it will be likely that local communities at the borders, out of frustrations, may one day decide to secede which will ultimately result in disintegration of federal states.

In a nutshell, whether the decision to split the country into 21 or 28 ethnic federal states was based on former colonial districts or on popular demand model, the timing for adopting federalism in South Sudan is but just far from now.

It is high time we prioritize fixing things right by embracing peace and reconciliation.

We need to amend and restore our broken social fabrics without disintegrating into tribal webs that will further fan clannish wars.

We need to preserve our sovereignty and national pride in unity not in disunity.

As the English people put it that “a stitch in time saves nine,” in the interest of national pride and tranquility of our beloved motherland, it is imperative that our leaders in the persons of President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar listen to the voices of reason and immediately back down from their personal egos and tribal interests.

They must both relinquish their models and making of ethnic federalism ideology in South Sudan.

By Chol Deng Yol,


  1. Gatdarwich says:

    Great and commendable article bro! However, it is very vital for all of us to unmixed noble
    qwest for federalism(SPLA-IO/21 states) with the indisputably ill-intent or tribally oriented one(JCE’s 28 states proposal)! Even though, you’ve attempted very hard to patriotically approached the issue of true federalism in South Sudan, your naïve equation of JCE’s to SPLA-IO’s proposal, simply exposed your grossly tribal mindset period.

    • Chol Deng Yol says:

      Nuer ethnicity is a great identity and so do the Dinka (Jieeng) in their formulation however it has to be recalled that this country belongs to all of us including other minority tribes. In this sense, we the Nuer and Dinka can not continue to impose our personal egos, Dinka-Nuer ba-nyop-ba-bul war, on them. Ethnic federalism will not favour you and me but it will work best among the Equatorian for obvious reasons. Mind you brother, Riek and Kiir will one day finish all us in their attempts to gain relevance in the SPLM unless we separate ourselves from their own messes and recompose. Nuer and Dinka will never part ways, we will continue to live side by side intermarrying one another.

      • Gatdarwich says:

        Chol, I still believe in the vitality of not equating the indisputable nationalist, Dr. Riek with the undeniably-historical proven tribalist-Kiir, because if Jiengs intellectuals naïvely continues to maintain the mentality of branding national figures from non-Dinka tribe as worthless of deserved credits, then the nation, we called South Sudan is deemed to irreversible total disintegrations. Yes, Nuer and Dinka intermarried and are neighbors, but there comes a time when a man adamantly refuses to be used as a douche-bags by the in-laws and neighbors. Chol, that time is now, cousin !

  2. GatNor says:

    I don’t know when the Jaang declared war on other tribes but certainly we will know when their declaration will be challanged by either a coalition of tribes or by a single tribe. The 28 states are not such a big deal. specially since Kiir created them illegally and the war over those new states will make this war tribal which is good. What I hate is a tribal war fought under the fought under the pretends of south Sudan gov vs some faction. Its very dangerous. tribes can go to war with each other and later make peace. but the national gov waring with tribe. that is stupid. I am happy this will turn into tribal war period. one tribe lose and the other win. No national government involve.

  3. Peacemaker says:

    Wow! It makes sense, but leave it to the process of constitution drafting committee of TGNU and the subsequent referendum.

  4. alex says:

    Dear chol you are the most nationalistic, patriotic S.Sudanse
    I have ever found in this net. You are an independent thinker but for the most of the contributors,
    They follow their tribal politics, people who hate their fellow country men for reasons best known to them. Some are people working for their stomach, and some lack intellectual politics including dome betrayers still working for the Arabs because of money. Southners must come out of these cheap thinking and put our nation’s interest first. The Equtorians must come up and avoid supporting federalism because of a simple believe that they have been neglected or brutalised by other people is the way of escaping the problems. Equtorians must stand up for federalism that gives equality to the rest of the 64 tribes because you are the middle force that can neutralise the greed and competitions between the two largest tribes. We must put our nation first and work for welfare of every citizen of our country. You must leave that cheap idea of working only for the good of Equtorians. You must give the two largest tribes the best way of dividing the states and to do that you must not go with the proposal of the two tribes. The Shilliuk should work together with you. Then give your proposal on table for the two largest tribes to take. The two largest tribes needs you the Equtorians and Shilliuk if they want to rule this nation.
    So this is the time to end the suffering of out people. Tribalism should be thrown out of politics. We will be able to make the best democracy .

  5. Beek says:

    South Sudan will not re-united with North Sudan. North Sudan is getting poorer and poorer even people who are living in the West are impoverished,they wanted to go back,but there is no way because they never worked and have no retirement Guaranteed or National Insurance because most of them are in Social Welfare. They were getting more money through cheating or the so-called black work in order to received double which is not because Economy in Europe by than was doing well,but all countries of the EU are now in recessions. Those have never worked are now in limbo because Social Security or benefits is not pay in the third country unless retirement benefits. Most those who refused to work have to live in Europe for life,cheat,but think of tomorrow. North Sudanese are people and neighbours, they can’t rule us again. Europeans are not pool because they know what they were doing.

  6. Log says:

    Mr Chol.
    The tribal animosity between the Dinkas and Nuers nurtured by the president in the last four years of his rule, has made it very uncomfortable for the president to make a deal that can smoothly keep these two tribes together, and this was the strongest bases of reservations before signing the IGAD peace deal. The 28 states which was hurriedly created after the agreement was done as a consolation or reward to the betrayed Dinkas that were mobilized against the Nuers. Ie all Dinkas in areas of nuer dominance are removed and given a separate state. And to make the whole thing appears national, the other states were also split and a screen of federalism plus taking power to people was thrown to deceive the simple minds. Tribalism and GREED are still very very BIG in the minds of the Dinkas that is going to cost years of misery in the entire south.

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