Will Juba and Pagak Ever Compromise on the Question of 28 Governors?

Posted: December 30, 2015 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Editorials, Featured Articles, PaanLuel Wël

By PaanLuel Wël, Karatina, Kenya

28 governors swearing in ceremony in Juba

The swearing in ceremony of 28 governors in Juba, South Sudan, 29 Dec 2015

December 30, 2015 (SSB)  —  President Kiir has sworn into office 28 governors today in Juba, South Sudan. The governors were appointed on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2015, as part of the implementation of the ‘establishment order’, a decree issued in October by the president.

The rebels of Dr. Riek Machar, who have been opposing the ‘establishment order’, since October, swiftly condemned the appointment of the 28 governors, terming it a flagrant violation of the IGAD peace deal. Riek Machar called upon the president to rescind his decree and to table the issue of 28 states before the JMEC for discussion.

Interestingly, the appointment of the governors came against the backdrop of the arrival of the first batch of the rebels’ advance team in Juba. It therefore caught most people, especially Taban Deng Gai, the leader of the advance team, by surprise. The presence of the rebels’ advance team in Juba has somehow mellowed the response from the rebels in Addis Ababa for fear that their members might be targeted.

While addressing a church congregation on Sunday, Taban Deng insisted that the issue of the 28 states would not derail the peace deal and the formation of the government of national unity. Today, during the swearing in ceremony of the governors, the president told the new governors that some of them would soon be asked to step down for members of the SPLM-IO as part of the peace implementation process.

“You have to step down [for the SPLM-IO governors] if you’re asked to, because without [doing so], we cannot implement the agreement,”said the president.

It is not clear if this is something being discussed with the rebels’ leadership as the rebels are still calling for the reversal of the decree. However, Taban Deng who has the full trust of Riek Machar (Taban is Riek’s brother in law) might be working on some kind of compromise on the issue of the 28 states so as not to derail the peace deal.

After all, among the 150 rebels’ advance team to Juba are 21 governors for the 21 states decreed by Riek Machar. Technically speaking, there is only a difference of 7 governors/states between Kiir’s 28 and Riek’s 21. In fact, in Addis Ababa during the peace negotiation, it were the rebels who were pressing for federalism to be made part of the interim period while the government was demanding that the issue of federalism should be discussed later during the interim period, not before it.

This is how Riek Machar established his 21 states and appointed his 21 governors. Then after the signing of the peace deal, the government, under intense pressure from their supporters in Greater Upper Nile—Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states—that were placed under the governorship of rebels’ governors, decided to increase states from 10 to 28 and separated Dinka areas from Nuer and Shilluk areas in Greater Upper Nile region.

To the government, this action was part of their effort to “meaningfully” implement a peace agreement that they said was imposed on them by IGAD and the international community. To the rebels, IGAD and the international community, the action by the government tantamount to breaching the peace agreement itself—it is a lack of commitment on their part to implement the peace deal as they had signed it.

Curiously, there is no reaction so far from IGAD, JMEC, EU, US, and UN regarding the appointment of the governors by the president. Only the SPLM-IO and the G-10 have released statements condemning the move as obstructive in the full implementation of the IGAD peace deal.

From the way events are unfolding, it looks like the rebels might give in, especially if they are allocated a good number of governorship posts in the Greater Upper Nile region. For the government, the posts of all Nuer states would be up for the rebels; however, the rebels want more than just the states of Nuer community, arguing that they are national movement with membership across all ethnic communities. This is where the compromise might be negotiated: how many states would go to the rebels.

Unity and Upper Nile states—that were allocated to the rebels in the peace agreement—are now divided into six states: 3 for the Nuer, 2 for the Dinka and one for the Shilluk communities. Jonglei state that was allocated to the government is now divided into four states: 2 for the Nuer, one for the GPAA and one for the Dinka.

If the peace deal would act as the basis for sharing the 28 states, then the rebels are entitled to 6 states (those from Unity and Upper Nile states). For the government, this would mean giving the rebels the 5 states allocated to Nuer community (2 in unity, 2 in Jonglei and one in Upper Nile) plus the one state given to the Shilluk community, making a total of 6 states, a number that would respect the power sharing ratios in the IGAD peace agreement.

Alternatively, the rebels can take the 3 states of Unity and the 3 states in Upper Nile: 3 Nuer states, 2 Dinka and one Shilluk states. This would be unacceptable to the government chiefly because the oil comes from the 2 Dinka states. Moreover, the 2 Nuer states in Jonglei would never accept to be governed by governors appointed by the government, as they are solidly rebel territories.

Not all Nuer states though would be comfortable under rebels’ leadership. The new Northern Liech state, which include the Bul Nuer community, will definitely protest being governed by a rebel governor; the Bul Nuer community is pro-government. The recent defection of Peter Gadet from Riek Machar’s camp would further bolster Bul Nuer community’s opposition to the leadership of the rebels.

Most likely, the compromise would be rebels taking 5-6 states: that is, 4-5 Nuer states plus the one Shilluk state. This would mean that the power sharing deal would be respected. Of course, the rebels would protest that they don’t want to rule in ethnic enclave states.

But this is a hollow protest because the three states—Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile—that were first given to the rebels in the first IGAD peace proposal were given to them on the basis of being Nuer majority states. They never protest then nor did they call them ethnic enclaves. Why now?

If President Kiir has created ethnic enclaves in South Sudan, then he might have learnt it from IGAD and the rebels in the first peace proposal drafted in Addis Ababa.

 PaanLuel Wël, the managing editor of PaanLuel Wel: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB), graduated with a double major in Economics and Philosophy from The George Washington University, Washington D.C, USA. He is the author of Who Killed Dr. John Garang and also the Editor of the essential speeches and writings of the late SPLM/A leader, Dr. John Garang, published as The Genius of Dr. John Garang, vol. 1-3. You can reach him through his email: paanluel2011@gmail.com or Facebook page

  1. RIAK KEAK KONG' says:

    it’s not fair that there is names still existing ethnically, why so? since peace is for all the south Sudanese regardless of this ethnic States division. what does this division means? is it not important that south Sudan would remains a solidified 10 States rather than 28 or 21? so now ethnic violations will still increase across these ethnic States. we are south Sudanese but not to given a name to as dinka or nuer or else’s State instead of the previous States system. since the incident that erupted is a ethnic violence against one ethnic group. what do you think this separate groups do? still violence will increase I think.


    • Paul Gohk says:

      You can’t convince any Nuer guy!This peace negotiation is matter of politics,but what about massacre made?Don’t forget that and rushing for political benefits.Think again and again before you write your understandable passage!


  2. it is nice piece of article. The government had paid back rebel with their own coin. South Sudanese are very much yearning for ethnic chauvinism;therefore,we are into it.Let try and see whether it is going to work for us then. Good luck South Sudan


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