Posts Tagged ‘federalism in south sudan’

By Jacob K. Lupai

The 21 federal states proposed by Riek Machar

The 21 federal states proposed by Riek Machar

When the demand for federalism first surfaced it was met with outright hostility and rejection. That was because federalism was apparently associated closely with the experience of kokora in the 80s. Federalism was also being associated with the recent rebellion that sparked off on 15 December 2013. This might explain why the demand for federalism was about to become a criminal offence. People who were genuinely calling for a federal system were alleged to be supporters of the rebellion. However, there was no grain of truth in such allegation. Instead there was a support to the government.

Outright hostility and rejection of the demand for federalism reached unexpected level when newspapers were being confiscated and journalists taken for questioning. However, opinions in favour of federalism persisted and were expressed openly in newspapers and in the Internet. Intimidation did not work as the call for respect for freedom of expression was very loud. As expected the hostile stand against federalism fizzled out as the expressed opinion for federalism was coming from many angles.

Notable and of importance was the opinion expressed by concerned Jieng community elders in favour of federalism for South Sudan. It was a giant step forward that couldn’t have been ignored. Things were moving faster against the minority opponents of federalism. The National Community Leaders’ Forum comprising representatives of Equatoria and Jieng from Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile States met and passed resolutions, adding their voices positively on federalism.

In one of their resolutions the National Community Leaders’ Forum calls upon the President to form a High Level National Technical Committee to study Federalism and Governance to inform and enhance the Constitutional making process without prejudice to individual or group discussions. Clearly federalism has become no longer a taboo but an accepted fact to be discussed openly for a consensus.

Jieng giant leap for federalism

In seeking a solution for acceptable administration to the people of South Sudan, the concerned Jieng community elders have proposed that South Sudan should be administered as a federation of 23 states. This is yet a clear endorsement of federalism as a solution to problems of governance and development in South Sudan. The proposed states are the equivalent of the 23 districts in South Sudan in the colonial era. This is nothing but a giant leap for federalism by the concerned and visionary Jieng community elders.

The proponents of federalism must be delighted. This is because some of the fierce critics and opponents of federalism were the Jieng. This must have been an objective change of direction because the Jieng must have come to the conclusion that federalism is the only solution to the mess in which South Sudan finds itself. The implication is that no single ethnic group or region should dream of an empire in this modern world of science. Imposing a system that only favours an ethnic group or region disguised as the preservation of national unity is an old game of politics that has long been thrown into the dustbin of history when federalism has been gaining currency.

It is through a consensus that people may agree to be united. The concerned Jieng community elders have timely recognized this when they are saying, “Many people of South Sudan are demanding for application of federal system as one of the solutions to govern the country peacefully”. This obviously seems to be the beginning of better times ahead for the people of South Sudan. At least there will be no war over federalism. The demand for federalism is gaining adherents among the Jieng and this can only be a positive thing. This is encouraging because equating federalism with kokora may soon be a thing of the past.

When federalism is not equated with kokora the fear of eviction from Equatoria will also disappear. Jieng support for federalism has far reaching implication. One major implication is that when the Jieng support federalism hostility towards the people of Equatoria may reduce drastically. This is in contrast to when the Jieng were opposed to federalism. Clearly the concerned Jieng community elders proposed federalism suggests that the Jieng have moved on and therefore share the same national aspirations for peace, freedom and development as their other fellow citizens in the country instead of dreaming of their hegemony in South Sudan.

Application of federalism in South Sudan

The concerned Jieng community elders are of the opinion that ethnic administration in line with the 23 former colonial districts as states is the solution to tribal rivalry over resources. However, tribal rivalry is not only over resources, but it is also over power as well. The concerned Jieng elders have acknowledged that the demand for federalism is the wish of the majority and that the federal system should be introduced now.

As mentioned above and according to the Jieng elders, South Sudan should be a federation of 23 states based on the 23 former colonial districts. This is instead of adopting the existing 10 states. One would disagree with the proposal for 23 states in South Sudan but the Jieng elders should be highly commended for their collective efforts in trying to work out a solution to the problem of governance and theirs is a national aspiration for the stability of South Sudan.

Looking at the highlighted 23 former colonial districts in the proposal, there seems to be a little bit of confusion. Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile each had 7, 7 and 9 districts respectively. This of course makes a total of 23 districts which are the 23 proposed future states of South Sudan. However, unlike its 7 districts, Equatoria has only 6 proposed states and unlike its 7 districts, Bahr el Ghazal has 9 states. For Upper Nile, unlike its 9 districts it has 8 proposed states. There is something strange here.

It is not clear why the 7 districts of Bahr el Ghazal have been blown up into 9 states while the 6 states for Equatoria do not correspond to its former 7 districts proposed to be the states. Something somewhere is not right. Confusion continues as Upper Nile which had 9 districts is only allotted 8 states. This clearly does not show that the 23 states are the duplicate of the 23 former colonial districts in South Sudan. Some explanation may be needed.

There may not be any need to return to the former 3 regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile to form a federation. However, there is nothing wrong with adopting the 10 states as a federation for a start. The adoption of the former colonial districts as states should be at the latter date and at the discretion of each of the 10 states. Federation of 23 states should not be done in a rush in view of economic austerity measures. This means that higher economic growth should first be recorded before creating new states. For example, it should be Central Equatoria State to decide in future either to break up into Yei River State and another state the name to be decided on later or not.

Development of natural and mineral resources, prospecting for more oil production to increase revenue and development of hydro-electric power should be undertaken for higher economic growth before creating new states. The proposal for 23 states is a noble one. However, in practice it is not only a mammoth task but an economic nightmare. I hope the architects of such a noble proposal do not want people to depend on foreign aid to finance the additional 13 states. One way of creating a state is that a former colonial district in any of the 10 states must justify itself to be a viable state through its own resources. We do not want to see states that are nothing but liabilities.

Different federations

South Sudan may need to learn about the different federations. For example, some federations are called asymmetric because some states in the federation have more autonomy than others. However, the histories of countries vary. One federal system of a country can be different from that of another country. The Republic of India is federal, comprising individual states. The central (federal) government of India has authority over the states and even has the authority to change the boundaries of the states.

It can be seen that the Indian federal system has strong centralizing tendencies where the federal government remains intact but the physical existence of states can be modified. In contrast, the federal system in the United States of American (USA) is characterized as indestructible union of indestructible states. This means the states in America are intact and the federal government does not make any alteration in the states as is the case in India.

The often asked question is what type of a federal system South Sudan should adopt. Well, people may need to understand that there is no particular federal system unique to South Sudan that can be copied. People will have to agree on the type of a federal system that will address what is seen as the problem of governance in South Sudan. The main problem is equitable power and wealth sharing, and equitable development. To address the problem, a federation should first be defined for people to be clear of what a federation entails.

Many people will tend to agree that a federation is characterized by a union of partially self-governing states united by a central (federal) government as in India or in the USA. It is so simple, isn’t it? However, the devil is in the details. The federal model in India may be unattractive because South Sudan has been virtually under a centralized system that is abhorrent hence the loud demand for a federal system.

In contrast, the USA federal model may be of too much independence to the states when, for example, one state allows capital punishment while the other doesn’t. For South Sudan a balance has to be struck. People may need to look at the Switzerland or German federal model which may be of interest to study. However, cut and paste may not work but adaptation to the felt needs in South Sudan may not be a bad idea.


The concerned Jieng community elders have made a giant leap for federal system to be adopted in South Sudan. This is an encouraging move that should be appreciated by any fair-minded individual. Unlike those who only care for their stomachs, and kith and kins, the Jieng elders have shown that leading from the front is necessary at times for a better South Sudan.

One reservation, though, is about the proposal for 23 states in the federation. The proposal is an economic nightmare particularly in the short term. However, it may be appropriate in the long term when economic growth is picking up at a higher rate but it should also be the prerogative of each state in consultation with the central government either to break up into more states or not. For now let’s stick to 10 states federation as the most convenient for a start.

In conclusion, adoption of a federal system of government is the only way forward in building a strong united and prosperous South Sudan where no single ethnic group, no single region and no single individual will be supreme in grossly mismanaging the affairs of the nation. Federalism as the utilization of diversities to the maximum will likely accelerate development and this, hopefully, will turn South Sudan into a paradise on earth for all as living standards improve tremendously.

The author can be reached at

By PaanLuel Wel, Juba.



The rebels are calling for a federal system in South Sudan; Equatorian intellectuals have renewed their advocacy for federalism. Governor Wani kong’a of Central Equatoria State  is forming a delegation to represent their views in the Addis Talks.

Bahr el Ghazal Youth have released a press statement denouncing the call for federalism, but instead back decentralization.

President Kiir has concluded that the decision whether or not to adopt a federal system in South Sudan belongs to the people, not leaders alone. Apparently, he is calling for a referendum on the issue.

Given this uptick on the call for “Federalism” in South Sudan, some people might be wondering/interested to know what Dr. John Garang take would be, if any, on the current debate, long preferred by Equatorians and now being half-heartedly championed by the rebels under Dr. Riek Machar.

Fortunately, Garang had touched on it, and he appeared to have suggested decentralization as the solution to the fundamental problem of governance in South Sudan, what he called a new Sudanese political dispensation characterize by full inclusiveness of all and marginalization of none.” (Garang, 2005).

First, however, Garang, too, was very explicit, if not prophetic, about the future problem of the republic of South Sudan if it would not be governed well. By referencing the problem of the historical Sudan, Garang foretold the fundamental problem of South Sudan in the following startling words:

By now, it should be clear to all that what is important—the challenge and the solution to the Sudanese’ fundamental problem—is not this category of people such as the Arabs, the Africans, the Christians and the Muslims. No, it is not. The solution to the Sudanese’ fundamental problem is to create a stable Sudanese state with a self-sustaining economy and a stable all-inclusive governance or government, in which all different ethnic groups, different tribes, various religious groups, agree upon that form of governance and are equal stakeholders with equal opportunities in the political, economic and social fields—a state in which they are able to coexist with harmony and developmentThis challenge is equally true of the whole of the Sudan as it is of Southern Sudan, because we are going to form a government of Southern Sudan. It must be inclusive—an all-inclusive government—of all ethnic groups, of all tribes, of all religious faiths, so that they are equal stakeholders with equal opportunities in the political, economic and social fields—a state in which all Southern Sudanese are able to coexist with communal harmony, economic development and social prosperity.Otherwise, you will also have a problem of Southern Sudan: you will now really have the problem of Southern Sudan, not before. (Garang, 2004)

And here is the relevant part on what Garang had to say/contribute to the current debate on Federalism:

As a Movement that has been fighting against the marginalization of others, we shall not tolerate the exclusion of anybody from this process…surely, by democratic, we do not mean return to the sham procedural democracy of the past, which was but a camouflage for the perpetuation of vested interests. In that sham democracy, civil rights were subject to the whims of rulers; the majority of Sudanese in the regions remained peripheral to the center of power and was treated as an expendable quantum only to be manipulated through political trickery and double-dealingdemocracy, whether in the North or South, should no longer be viewed as solely a struggle for power but rather as a competition on providing good governance, development and delivery of social services for our people and restoring the dignity and worth of every man and womanthe SPLM views the agreement as a prelude to the beginning of the process of democratic transformation, a paradigm shift in socio-economic development of the country, and observance of human rights and freedoms…as regards the GOSS, it is our intention to devolve power to the maximum so that decisions shall be taken at the lowest possible level of governance. We have not wrested power from a hegemonizing national centre to allocate it to another centre that is based on the political elites of the South. Power shall be exercised by the states and indeed by local governments within the states. Armed with the necessary powers and equipped with the needed resources, this style of governance shall ensure a more efficient delivery system of development and services. The principle of decentralization of power is a time-honored principle since it responds to local social and economic situations, not least amongst which is the neutralization of the centrifugal forces to which I have just alluded and which are generally the consequence of failure by Central Authority to address local problems and concerns. Such local problems and concerns cannot be effectively addressed from the Centre since such Authorities are far away from the people; they can only be effectively addressed by empowered local authorities that have both the necessary power of decision-making and the necessary resources to implement such decisions. In the words of Alexander Hamilton: ‘There are certain social principles in human nature from which we may draw the most solid conclusions with respect to the conduct of individuals and communities. We love our families more than our neighbours; we love our neighbours more than our countrymen in general.’ ‘The human affections’, Hamilton says, ‘like the solar heat, lose their intensity as they depart from the centre and become languid in proportion to the expansion of the circle on which they act.’ This is the vision that has guided one of the foremost proponents of government decentralization. As you can see the principle of decentralization is common sense, but unfortunately common sense is not common. (Garang, 2004/2005)

So, the pertinent question is: was Garang for federalism or just decentralization? What is the difference between decentralization–taking towns to the villages–and federalism? Some people are arguing that South Sudan is already a federal state and what the advocates of federalism are calling for is nothing less than a Confederacy–a union of two or more fully independent nations.

So, what is the what, to quote Valentino Achaak Deng’s book? Is it all about neo-Kokora-ism as Dinkas tend to perceive it or are they simply overreacting to a genuine call for good governance and democracy in South Sudan?

Is Riek Machar, by advocating for a federal system, just being opportunistic? Is he trying to claim the title of the father of federalism in South Sudan just as he had done with the call for self-determination?

Is this all about politicians at their best or a real debate on a substantive topic as a way forward to the current turmoil in our country?

I will try to provide a deeper analysis of this subject at a later date if federalism would indeed be picked up by the IGAD mediators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Otherwise, my preferred system of governance is Tribocracy, not just for South Sudan but the Sub-Saharan Africa.

By John Adoor Deng, Australia

Equatorian intellectuals debating federal system

Equatorian intellectuals debating federal system

The recent unexpected conflict in South Sudan has surprised many foreign nations and organizations especially those that have played crucial roles in both, nursing and creating the world newest country. The expectations of these nations were that South Sudanese given their experience in protracted wars were to be the last group on earth to take part in any conflict at a distance let alone the war within itself. They thought that South Sudanese people were only yelling for developments, education and the civilization of the entire nation. However, we proved them wrong that we were not a very people they had expected. Internally, South Sudanese were not at all surprised by this outrageous conflict. The signs and symptoms of such explosion were indeed a visible fact at the very eye of South Sudanese in the country and in the diaspora. Figuratively, Dr Majak Agoot (2014) referred to this as boiling container of milk (known in Dinka as Ajop cui) when it has pressure inside it, and if such container’s top is not taken off, there is likelihood of bursting and explosion. This was what had occurred!! Not body was able to open the container’s top unfortunately.

These signs and symptoms of than emerging conflicts were daily felt; from speeches among parliamentarians, incited cattle raiding such as in Warrap and Jonglei states, political incited ethnic and clans conflicts such as in Lakes State, Twic East County, land grabbing such as in Juba and in other major cities, disappearance or murder of journalists and outspoken civil society activists such as late Isaiah Abraham and Deng Athuai who narrowly scape death, employment of civil servants based on their tribal alignment such as in many ministries in central government and states, and of course, the obnoxious uninterrupted corruption, etc. Interestingly, these unexpected levels of hatred that grew thick just within two years after independent precipitated what many analysts referred to as an ethnic war waged and spearhead by politicians and army generals. South Sudanese from all political spectrum and communities appeared to have not fully understood the facts behind having an independent state and what it entails. Many people (outsiders) are asking whether South Sudanese were emotionally, tribally and politically ready for an independence country or they each thought that South Sudan was to be their tribe owned state. Of course, each South Sudanese has the answers to these perhaps.

Optimistically, although we have lost thousands of our own brothers and sisters, uncles, mothers, grandfathers, etc, in this baseless and needless conflict, we can still in effect forgive each other’s prodigality and embrace oneness in the spirit of heavenly reconciliation. However, the process of reconciliation cannot be reach without a well calculated framework; otherwise we can end having what could be referred to as Archbishop Deng-MaJak Agoot and George Athor, Peace Initiative. For those who have might not have come across this phrase. Dr Majak and Archbishop Deng once offered in good faith with the blessing of President Kiir to reconcile Athor with the government, they reached out to late General Athor to convince him to rejoin the government. Surprisingly, while they were at the edge of finishing negotiation, these peacemakers plus late George were targeted for an Assassination by men of evil, and Athor has to rush them (Archbishop Deng and Dr Majak’s delegation) to their plane before bullets were to be rains on them. And indeed attack was launch in General Athor’ hide out while the plane was taking of air.

In order not fall into the above scenario, the recent conflict must be solved amicably and truthfully within its right context. This brings me to my subject title which states that Rush to Federation Can Not Help South Sudan Grown Chronic Situation. In the media circles, especially from individuals and think tanks, suggestions are made on possible ways that the conflict in South Sudan could be best solved. For example, Equatorians are calling for Federalism (Clement Wani, 2014), also in recent media release of the SPLM-O led by Dr Machar, Presidential Federal system is echoed (March 14,204). Thus, in this paper and in the following paragraphs I will briefly unpack how this notion of the so-called Federalism cannot help, molds this conflict. Hence, in this context, it is important to understand what a federal system is and how it is in most cases install and applied.

Federalism is defined as a political concept in which a group of members is bound together by covenant (known in Latin as foedus, covenant) with a governing representative head. The term “federalism” is also used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (such as states or provinces). Federalism is a system based upon democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and provincial/state governments, creating what is often called a federation. Generally speaking, Federalism may encompass as few as two or three internal divisions, as is the case in Belgium or Bosnia and Herzegovina. In general, two extremes of federalism can be distinguished: at one extreme, a strong federal state is almost completely unitary, with few powers reserved for local governments; while, at the other extreme, the national government may be a federal state in the name only, being a confederation in actuality.

From this definition, one is convinced that South Sudan is not yet ready for federation and I have the following reasons to speculate. Firstly, South Sudanese does not have a collective bound of their own. They instead adhere to their tribal bounding. So there is the covenant within the tribal grouping then it would have on national identity. Thus if federation is enforced, there is likely going to be a country with people that have no commonality at the national level.

Secondly, South Sudan at present is not democratically instituted; all we have are a bunch of cut and paste rhetoric statements of democracy. For example, in the last elections, there were rumors of rigging and subsequent rebellions as a result. The formulation of the transitional constitution was basically exclusive of the civil population; it thus became the document of the few elites, serving their entire political interests. In this situation, you cannot install federalism on thorny ground.

Thirdly, South Sudan has grown in recent few years, knowing that excessive use of power by the executive (especially President, governors, commissioners), experimented on daily cruel decrees of un- evaluative changes, dismissal of civil servants and subordinate executives with no publicly specified reasons. If this culture of baseless misuse of power is not first abolished nationally, then the federation will spread such obnoxious culture to all units of governments respectively. In Canada, Australia, USA and European, it is to be argued that as the years went on and these countries became bigger nations with absolute democratic rules, the citizens of these countries through their representative requested a better way to govern them that was when federalism was chosen and install after thorough public consultations.

South Sudan in my view is not yet ready for Federalism and so frankly imported system of federation cannot help South Sudan from its grown chronic situation. Alternatively, I believe that the recent conflict that have engulfed our entire can and is solvable if the following are observed and implemented.

1-    Immediate unreserved adherence to recently agreed Cessation of Hostilities (COH). This could be well achieved through the installation of aggressive monitoring Mechanism

2-    Full acknowledgement of responsibilities attached to the massacres on both sides of the conflicts. This includes surrendering evils perpetrators to relevant authorities for persecution. Although, the dead will not be resurrected, this gesture shall demonstrate a degree of honesty and accountability.

3-    Formation of a Technocrats Interim Government (TIG) charged to expedite: reconciliation and national healing, permanent people’s constitution, institutes good governance by restructuring institutions especially the national security and the entire organized forces. I agreed with Biar Ajak Deng Biar, that both Kiir and Machar plus their fanatics’ stooges must not take part in the interim government. However, they shall still be regarded as heroes who brought us freedom but failed their tasks on finishing- line.

4-    Cooperate fully with world bodies requesting war crimes candidates and de-hostile neighboring countries who have for some reasons meddled themselves in the conflict of the South Sudanese people.

5-    Reduce the current extravagant and huge level governments in the Country, some departments in central government as well as counties and state programs must be amalgamated to give rise to development and effective provision of Social services.

6-    Establishment of multicultural Ministry or department to cater for various cultures activities as a way to foster unity in diversity and parade yearly cultural days in the nation.

7-    Install anti-corruption commission as directorate within the ministry of Justice so that it has the tools and mandate to persecute vices in the country. 

Finally, I believe that we are more than capable to resuscitate from the recent death and take our gloried place as a nation within the world of nations. We cannot afford to be a laughing stock in Africa and around the world. By all indicators, rush to Federation cannot help South Sudan from it grown chronic situation.

The Author is John Adoor Deng, Director of South Sudan Support Foundation (SSSF). He is reachable at