The Foundation of National Dialogue and Social Harmony in South Sudan

Posted: August 14, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Shared Mutual Recognition and Respect for Social Harmony: The Foundation of National Dialogue in South Sudan

By Acuil Malith Banggol, Juba, South Sudan

Achuil Malith Banggol, SPLM Secretary for Syndicate and Popular Organization

Achuil Malith Banggol, SPLM Secretary for Syndicate and Popular Organization

Introductory Remarks and Recommendations

August 13, 2017 (SSB) — This is a brief appraisal of two draft documents namely: (1) SPLM Internal Guidelines on Supporting National Dialogue drafted by able colleagues, the SPLM Technical Advisors and (2) The Road Map to National Dialogue knowledgeably designed through consultative methods within the South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee.

Logically as a healthy party political work, SPLM General Secretariat is mandated to provide guidance and coordination to SPLM Caucus members in Public Administration and/or any other organs with SPLM members. As an SPLM Advisor on Popular and Syndicated Organizations, mandated to provide technical support to the various committees and working groups of the Party where and when necessary.

Both documents are interchangeably reviewed, critic and counsel are given. Rationalization and comparative analysis follow these recommendations:

  • Term Constituency is correct but baffles. Let us maintained Constituent UnitsLocal Dialogue Forum (LDF) and CDF send dissimilar alters. The trend is Greater Counties so is Greater County Dialogue Forum (GCDF) plants no doubts with intent. It evolved as a collaborative identity following the 2008 administrative establishment order of 79 Counties plus Abyei Administrative Area. This writer has the affinity to Greater Gogrial County and yonder to Greater Twic taken within Twic East and Twic West institutions and socio-polity practices in Twic Community. Usage of Region in draft documents is applicable but members of SSND Steering Committees interchangeably use the word the Former Ten States. It is not apt. The logic of Greater Three Regions is not only a naming. It has evolved to become a consensus on Trio-Leadership practiced across constitutional institutions along with all levels of Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). It is imitated in Constitutional Positions and Communities in the Federal States, Counties and Payams throughout the federated South Sudan.
  • Inclusivity, mutual recognition, respect to identity and level of involvement translated to the level of efforts and rewardsare capture words and warrant. Earlier on some entities expressed caution until satisfied that the process is credible. This should explicitly be safeguarded in the envisioned SSND Declaration of Intent. Faith Based Organizations could rightfully claim that they are the Peoples and live with the Peoples. Hence FBOs should not be subordinated. Political Community would claim members by oath and masses that would only follow them. Same with civic movements, the media that need independence aid to pursue balanced media and/or propaganda. Much more, with sports, arts, music, and drama, which are pivotal in mobilization and packaging of SSND messages and theme. SSND Steering Committee should not jolt into belief. All shall join SSND when their institutional framework, organizational culture, and operations are fused in SSND less is a fatal knock-back effect.
  • Trustworthily, the leadership of SSND Steering Committee enjoys a high level of proficiency in resources mobilization. But there is a need to help potential implementing national, regional and states agents and CBOs to understand the basic principles and nature of funding. Special attention to partners to SSND mentioned under (b) above. Bilateral donors have their norms and practices in choosing their agents. UNDP has established a credible culture. With donors, there is a bottleneck of procedures to approve and release funds. It is not as easy as pledges could be. Time is needed to develop, communicate, comprehend and adapt pragmatic mechanism of funding and implementation designed in an immediate, mid and long term not only to March 2018. This is not vivid in SSND Steering Committee Road Map. Some donors need considerable time to approved and release tax payers’ money. Mentioning of dates could create frustration due to unmet timeliness. Should such issues be underestimated now it could fuel a sense of exclusion and miscarriage. It could arm adversaries of National Dialogue to de-campaign. SSND has attractive noble goals. It shall be difficult for doubting Thomas to derail only when permitted. Local Capacities for Peace have an interest in meeting SSND Goals. These are the communities and lower echelons of government and civic movements who need a special guide and enabling. SSND should avoid elitism that terminally bends to demonize and exclude communities.
  • There is a danger, understandably, shown in desire and urgency to start. October and November 2017 are ideals to start not September 2017. Some individuals and committees have expressed that there is no need for the pilot phase. This is unsafe. Give chance for pilot or name it any name but with the intended process to learn strength, limitations, opportunities, and threats to SSND.
  • SSND documents should be made public to allow critic and dialogue on dialogue. There is a famous saying that: THE LARGER ROOM IN EVERY HOUSE IS THE ROOM FROM IMPROVEMENT! Give your stakeholders a chance to satisfy their need to have contributed and widely own the documents and the process. It shall give SSND and South Sudan an ample time to allow all the stakeholders to buy into the process. January and February 2017 are ideals and sufficient to conduct Greater County Dialogue Forum (GCDF), Regional Dialogue Forum (RDF) leading to National Dialogue Forum (NDF). Start thinking of post all level forums.
  • Principles of cultural inclusivity, mandated in Human and Peoples Rights Charters and SPLM principles and values to be strictly observed. Some nationalities with distinct language may be left out through the system of GCDL, Constituent Units, and representation through TALs. SSND should adopt a culture inclusive tinge: Culture Affirmative Action. Assurance is needed that nationalities with distinct culture unable to come through Dialogue Forums are enabled to send TALs, women and male/female youth delegate GCDF, RDF and NDF amongst others.

Rationalization and Comparative Analysis

Cde President Kiir’s visionary statement is paraphrased that: evidently, the (P) people(s) of South Sudan have impressive records when it comes to dialogue. In the modern history of South Sudan, the dialogue is dating to 1940s, 1980s, and 1990s throughout the liberation struggle. Worth mentioning is the historic watershed, SPLM Chukudum National Convention 1994. Similar notion guided the then Civil Authority and Civil Society Conference. Dependably there was the famous South-South Dialogue that followed the CPA 2005, then the Juba Declaration followed by the illustrious Wunlit Peace Conference.

Guided by its principles of unity in diversity of all the Peoples of South Sudan based on historical experiences, mutuality, interdependent, inclusivity and respect for diversity for freedom, peace and prosperity, SPLM Leadership organized two major cultural dialogues with Traditional Commune Federal Systems (TCFS) of governance that demonstrated resilience and maintained respect and legitimacy by the Peoples. These are the Chiefs, Kings, and Queens popularly known as Traditional Authority Leaders (TALs).

There were two conferences in New Kush- Heimann and Bentiu on CPA and Referendum. United in their diversity, all inclusive, socio-political and cultural South-South dialogue took a different nuance. It led to a consensus of 98.83% for Independent South Sudan. During the process of liberation, SPLM recognized the Church, the Mosque and all none Abrahamic faith-based organizations leading to successful dialogue.

The Church, Mosque, and none Abrahamic faiths should be recognized as autonomous entities with clear constituent units and jurisdictions. Each or collaboratively could rightfully and logically claim to be the Peoples with special norms that should complement the socio-political, cultural and economic endeavors within their faith. At Moyo-Sukun armed soldiers and leaders dialogued. Similarly in Rumbek, following the danger of fall out within SPLM/SPLA Leadership, dialogue rescued the CPA 2005 and the liberation gains. Earlier on there was the SPLA Senior Conference.

Unwaveringly but with no choice other than to identify itself with the Peoples and need for dialogue, the Roman Catholic Church stressed the need for mutual respect in its statement on the occasion of the Referendum 2011 stated that: “…If secession is chosen, what are the challenges that will face the people [Peoples] of both north and south Sudan? How will the precious values of honesty and integrity, tolerance, and respect, compassion for the weak and poor, be upheld and guaranteed? How will good governance and the rule of law be assured? How will the dignity of the human person and the common good be respected and protected?”  (Future Full of Hope by Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SSCBC), Juba, July 15th to 22nd, 2010).

The Holy Bible in Romans 13:8 teaches that: Be indebted to no one, except to one another in love, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law. In Leviticus 19:18 teaching of love continued: You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. In Sura Hujurat, verse (11) of The Holy Qur’an calls:  “O mankind! We created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is fully informed.” Consistently, in Sura Hujurat, verse (13) calls: “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind One People: but they will not cease to be diverse.”

Values of shared mutual recognition and unity in diversity dictate upon each, individually and collectively, that the 72 nationalities in South Sudan and their political and civic entities must engage in continuous dialogue. We must appreciate any quality leadership that values continuous dialogue associated with unlimited forgiveness and amnesty. The dialogue could help South Sudan to avoid reaching the cliff of becoming another Yugoslavia, The Soviet Union or reach anarchy like Libya, Iraq, and Syria.

Any leader who may claim to be envisioning a desired future for South Sudan should be made aware of this threat. There are two, and only two, choices: either the multinational or multicultural South Sudan breaks up into anarchy. Nationalistic leaders should help South Sudanese to engage in on going National Dialogue. While there could be those addicted to violent, the time has come to explore different means and methods. Let us dialogue and salvage the lives of the living and our beloved South Sudan.

South Sudan could learn from El Salvador. In that country, there was fierce civil war lead by Fernando Martinez Libracio National (FMLN), a communist, supported by Cuba and allies against a ruling political party supported by USA and allies. The solution was to give dialogue a chance. El Salvador was salvaged from the verge of collapse. Could we all put aside our guns and stop the media war to give South Sudan a chance to break the cycle of conflict? South Sudan National Dialogue is the only viable privilege that could provide equal opportunities for every South Sudanese to express and to agree on South Sudan of our dream.

We should aim to develop and realize our potentials. Let us dialogue to build on liberation gains. To build a South Sudan where there is inclusivity, justice and equal opportunity for all. To build an inclusive just, federal democratic South Sudan in which governance is based on popular will and rule of law, not power sharing not looting sharing. Dialogue should lead to agree on a system of federated South Sudan model where oppression and hegemony by any particular cultural group are eliminated. A National Dialogue guided by consensus of political views.

In that, the SPLM shall engage the like-minded political parties and the masses on dialogue about revolutionary ideals a twin Federation. This model of Federation shall be incomplete if it does not equally empower a Traditional Commune Federal System of governance (TCFS) known as chiefdom or kingdom of wut in Dinka, Amiji in Ottuhu, Kal in Chollo, Cheng in Nuer and Dhok Hotin Acholi and Pari Nationalities, just to give but few examples. Dialogue should be guided by known perceptions like Greater Counties, Greater Communities, and Greater Regions.

These terms are now key political expressions and means to share power in any of the 32 federal states. This shall allow each cultural group under a TAL to fully exercise the powers entrusted to them by the Constitution and the law without obstruction from any center of power in the states, county, and Payam. SPLM principles and values advocate for inclusive good governance, where the exercise of the political, economic and administrative authority in the management of the country’s affairs at all levels shall be Peoples-based (interest groups and civil society organizations).

The goal is to emancipate every South Sudanese individual and communities from all forms of vulnerabilities. It could allow effective say (lobby and advocate for legislation, enactment, and implementation of policies) in the allocation and management of resources and in decisions on matters freedom, peace, and prosperity.

Shared mutuality and recognition for unity in diversity by and for the Peoples of South Sudan shall be the foundation. A report by Swiss Experts on Federalism: The Principles of Federalism, Guidelines for Good Federal Practices ARNOLD KOLLER et al (2012)- A Swiss Contribution, Dike Zurich/St. Gall 2012 (2012: 17-18) forewarned that: “… Efforts to deny or suppress multiple identities within a diverse society have almost invariably led to contention, secession or civil wars.An essential element therefore in federation encompassing a diverse society has been the acceptance of the value of diversity and of the possibility of multiple loyalties expressed through the establishment of constituent units of government with genuine autonomous self-rule over those matters most important to their distinct identity. Equally important has been the recognition of the benefits within a diverse society to be derived from shared purpose and objectives providing the basis for the parallel processes of shared rules…” 

Article 33 of The South Sudan Transitional Constitution (SSTC) 2011 mandates recognition of nationalities and cultural communities to have the right to freely, enjoy and develop their particular cultures. Recognition of the legitimacy of TALs and TCFS is explicitly mandated under Article 166(6)(i) to acknowledge and incorporate the role of TALs/TCFS and customary law.

Article 166(6)(j) also mandates involvement of communities in decisions concerning the exploitation of natural resources in their areas and promoting a safe and healthy environment. Article 176(1) explicitly mandates that the institutions, status and roles of TALs/TCFS as specified in the customary law, be recognized under the Constitution. The statutory legislation was enacted in 2009.

Section 19(3) of Local Government Act (LGA) 2009 mandates that Boma shall be the domain of TALs were to perform their administrative and customary functions

Cde President Kiir, November 15, 2016, explicitly stated that“… The hierarchy of the institutional framework for South Sudan starts with Boma, Payam, County, the State and the National Government. I can assure you of the commitment of the government to the principles of federalism, we will ensure its implementation- where there is a will there, there is a way. Let us overcome our financial and administrative challenges… without losing sight on federalism…” 

In that the National Dialogue should lead us to a mutually ceding, devolving and collaborative Federation and federalism by the homelands of the 72 Peoples of South Sudan mandated by article 2, 5, 6, 8, 16, 24, 25, 28, 33, 36(4), 166, 167, 168, 169, 170. Read together with article 171 of SSTC 2011 and Sections 6, 18(3), 19(3), 103, 107, 108, 112, 113, 116 and 119 of LGA 2009, which valued, believed and trust in TCFS, TALs and Communities.

Cluelessness link to inadequate ideological guidance/exposure is aired by political elites. These elites with quasi-political stance are trapped in colonial mentality. They would blindly despise and demonize perception of communities instead of recognizing communities as the corner stone of nationhood building. Like their colonial masters who capitalized on divide and rules, these dangerous elitists fancy forced assimilation and not unity in diversity and mutuality.

This is clear in the emptiness of catchphrase: One Nation! One People! It is, in fact, a call by those who call for assimilation with disrespect to other cultures and norms. It is part of a long cruel slogan: One People! One Nation! One Nationality! One Colour! One Language! Umma Wahid! Shabun Wahid! Calling others as Tribes or Gaba’il. However, the truth is that most of such a forced unity through assimilation could not make some known empires to exist united. Despite forced unity through a kingdom, efforts of assimilation failed to eliminate identities.

The 2015 Scull, Switzerland Convention followed the 1991 Historic Convention for the Protection of Nationalities and Identity by the Councils of Europe reviewed and recognized over 50 million Europeans, indigenous Peoples, to be allowed equal opportunities and chances to exercise their diverse cultures and beliefs to enhance mutuality and commonality within their nation states and Europe. It is not an issue of the level of development. There is a need to reorient such archaic perceptions and elements of exclusion to give the ongoing National Dialogue a chance to achieve its noble goals.

Let us give the Peoples and their institutions they trust a chance to enjoy their liberty. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Bishop D Tutu maintained that: “…Freedom is not the end destination; it is a critical junction on the road to justice and dignity for all. With freedom comes responsibility. The struggle for equity continues, though it takes different texture and nuances…” South Sudan National Dialogue should be explored to contextualize and lobby for a South Sudanese Twin Model of Federation accepted for and by all 72 Peoples.

The author, Achuil Malith Banggol, is the former SPLM Secretary for Syndicate and Popular Organization and currently a political consultant in Juba, South Sudan. He has Masters Degree in Transformational leadership, with a focus on the roles of traditional authorities in the governance and conflict resolution. You can reach him via his email: 

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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