Where do the governors of Equatoria stand on federalism?

By: Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin,

Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin Chairman of SPLM-DC

Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin Chairman of SPLM-DC

Feb, 8/2015 [Nyamilepedia]–Last Friday the 30th of January 2015, the three Governors of Equatoria travelled to Addis Ababa to present their protest on what was reported in the media as relegating the current Vice president, who is from Equatoria, to the third position in the Executive in the IGAD proposed power sharing arrangement within the peace agreement that will end the war and bring peace to the country. They took with them a document titled “Equatoria Community Second Extra-Ordinary Conference and the Fifth Conference Resolutions” purported to have been the resolutions of an extra-ordinary conference held in Juba the same day by “Equatoria Community”. The document did not receive as much publicity as the reported anger of the Equatorians on denying their number the proposed position of the First Vice President of the Republic. Thanks to “Juba Monitor” newspaper which published the full text of the resolutions on a full page of the paper with true signatures of the three Governors. This was in its issue No. 304 dated Monday the 2nd of February 2015. Since then the veracity of document has not been challenged, therefore, one may safely assume that it is authentic.

There is a lot that can be said on whether the issue of hierarchy within a political party is a regional matter or is purely party business, or whether state appointments are the prerogative of state organs and institutions or matters to be determined by communities. Even whether state officials hold government positions in a personal capacity or in the name of the communities/States they hail from. These matters are not of interest to this author and will not be discussed here. The purpose of this piece is to deal with one extremely important aspect of the published resolutions of Equatoria Community; that is federalism. The reason for doing so is because if there was one issue that Equatorians showed proven unity on is their near unanimous demand for a federal state in South Sudan. In all their conferences which to date number five (according to this latest document), the demand for federalism in the four previous conferences has been a constant and prominent item in the resolutions. Last year, the three Governors themselves came under tremendous pressure from some influential quarters in the national government for adopting such a stand but they stood their ground, to the admiration of many South Sudanese who believe in free speech, not to mention those who support such a system of governance to be fully implemented in our country. Indeed, the three Governors sent in June last year a joint delegation, including ministers from the three States of Equatoria, to the Addis Ababa peace talks in an attempt to persuade the negotiating parties and influence the mediation to include in their agenda the adoption of federalism as part of resolving the current crisis.

FEDERALISM IN THE DOCUMENT
It is this author’s considered opinion that as far as federalism is concerned the resolutions of Equatoria Community dated 30th January 2015 which the Governors took to Addis Ababa are a turning point indeed. These resolutions are different from if not in contradiction to the resolutions of the previous four conferences. The following paragraphs shall attempt to explain why.

The Communique is a carefully drafted document. It is noteworthy that in a long preamble, which constitutes almost half the document, there is no reference to federalism which had featured prominently in the resolutions of the previous four conferences of Equatoria Community. The sole paragraph that deals with federalism came under “Other Issues” [(B)(20] which we quote here in full. Quote:

“Federal option for the republic of South Sudan shall be democratically negotiated in the constitution making process but not through party interest agreement. Neither the SPLM nor the other political parties and organisations have the mandate to determine and impose federalism on South Sudanese people. Equatoria’s constant call for federal system is a peaceful, open and civic demand driven by our socio economic and political situation in our country. It is therefore a constitutional right in a democratic society to propose the best governance system to serve the people”. End of Quote.

ANALYSIS
For the ease of analysis, we shall break the above statement into its essential elements. These elements are:

  1. Federalism “shall be democratically negotiated in the constitution making process”.
    This statement can only mean that the issue of federalism should not be raised in the current peace talks and should await the permanent ‘constitution making process’. This sounds familiar a language and we all know where it comes from. But, is this the view of Equatoria Community? If so, why did they send a delegation to Addis Ababa in June to promote federalism and sell it to the negotiators?
    2. Federalism is to be negotiated “not through party interest agreement”
    If we take the previous sentence that federalism shall be democratically negotiated in the constitution making process, one assumes that the parties that will take part in those negotiations are the political parties, each of which has a stand (interest) on federalism and other issues related to the constitution of the country. So, if all issues are to be negotiated ‘through party interest agreement’, why not federalism? The current system of governance in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011, call it what you like, came as a result of agreement of political parties (some say, imposition of the SPLM) in 2011. This is a system the drafters of the Communique seem to particularly like and would like to maintain as we shall point out later. Why was ‘party interest agreement’ acceptable for the current system and objectionable for federalism?

If the ‘party interest agreement’ is meant to refer to the outcome of the peace talks in Addis Ababa, mainly between the government and the SPLM/A-in opposition, why would a federalist reject federalism that comes through such an agreement and accept other agreed points? Are we interested in the application of federalism or in who brings it about?
3. “Neither the SPLM nor the other political parties and organisations have the mandate to determine and impose federalism on South Sudanese people”.
This is the key statement in the whole document. If the political parties in the country do not have a mandate to decide on federalism, who has?

As mentioned earlier, the SPLM and the other political parties (some of them, to be exact.) sat down in April 2011 and worked out a Constitution that became the constitution of all South Sudanese. This constitution ‘imposed’ a particular system of governance on the South Sudanese people. Make no mistake; the Southerners were not consulted on that Constitution. Now, why should following the same procedure be acceptable in relation to the current system and objectionable when it comes to adopting federalism? One may innocently further ask the drafters of the Communiqué: if it is not the SPLM and other political parties that ‘determine and impose federalism’, how shall federalism ‘be democratically negotiated’ in whatever forum?
Add to the above points the constant reference in the Communiqué to the “decentralized Equatorial (sic) States”. Nowhere is the three Equatoria States mentioned without that being preceded by the word ‘decentralized’. The drafters must have wanted to pass a clear message. Those familiar with the political discourse that followed the hot debate about federalism last year will not fail to understand why this stress on decentralization from the side of the drafters of the Communiqué. People have then been made to understand that the choice was distinct between federalism (as proposed) and decentralization (presumed to be the current system of governance enshrined in the Constitution). In theory and practice, decentralization is the system of governance antithetical to centralization of power. It spans a wide range of forms: local government, autonomy, federalism and confederation (as was in Switzerland). Hence, the use of decentralization without further qualification as to which type you are referring to is misleading, to say the least. As you can see, federalism itself is one type of decentralization. However, we shall here follow the popular use so that we do not confuse the readers. One can infer from all the above that the drafters of the document are for the current system of ‘decentralization’ to be maintained. But, is that the view of the Governors and the Equatorians they represent?

WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME OF THE ADDIS VISIT?

One cannot fail to admire the determination and courage of the Equatoria Governors for standing up for what they believe in and taking their case to Addis Ababa where the President was at that time. This was a commendable step. Our country will be saved only when all of us say what we believe in, and not what the powers that be would like to hear. However, let us honestly and soberly evaluate the outcome of that trip.

The publicly declared aim of the visit was to insure that the current Vice President occupied the position of the First Vice President proposed by IGAD mediators. It must be stressed that at the time the news broke out up to the moment of writing, it remained a proposal; the two sides did not agree on it yet. So, there was no position of First Vice President that was on offer. The Governors must have found out in Addis Ababa that the position of the government delegation on the matter was the rejection of the proposal and had suggested instead two Vice-Presidents of the equal status, whatever that means!! Where does this arrangement, if accepted by the other side, leave the original demand of getting the No. Two position? If the trip was to influence the position of the government in the talks to accept the proposal and then give the position to the Equatorian Vice president, then judging from the position of the government, not much has been achieved. As things stand today, the current Vice President will retain his position after all. Was the trip premature or were other issues discussed? The Communiqué helps us answer this question.

To come back to our main point, what did the Governors tell the government mediators about federalism? Did they convey to government mediators what came in the Communiqué above?

The reason for asking these questions is because the agreement that was signed by the two parties on the 1st of February is silent about federalism.

One hoped the Governors reminded the two negotiating parties about their commitments to federalism so far. As a matter of fact, the stakeholders in Bahir Dar did agree in October 2014 on the following in relation to federalism. Quote:

“Acknowledge that a federal system of governance is a popular demand of a large section of the population of South Sudan and therefore agree to reflect it by way of effective devolution of more powers to the states in this agreement particularly in the areas of security, judicial administration, law enforcement, fiscal reforms and public sector reforms.” End quote. (Source: Summary of Areas of Agreement and Disagreement, Reviewed and edited by the Negotiating Committee on 4th October 2014).

If there was no backtracking by either of the parties, why didn’t the same statement appear as it is in the agreement of 1st February? Or did they withdraw that commitment on reading the Communique of Equatoria Community that the issue of federalism should await the constitution making process? It is oxymoron to talk of ‘imposition’ when the stakeholders have acknowledged that federalism is a popular demand.

These are legitimate questions that await honest clarification. It is clear the drafters of the Communique were not certainly for a federal system of governance. Maybe in the rush to catch up the plane that same day, many of the participants including the Governors did not have time to have a critical look at the document. Some cynics suggest that federalism was traded off for the second position in the Executive. One is disinclined to accept this view at the moment, and would rather give the Governors the benefit of the doubt.

* The author is the leader of the opposition SPLM-DC

8 comments

  • Eli Wani

    Dr Lam Akol;
    Finally it is nice to hear your voice on the net, we thought you were in the jails of Juba, I mean the house arrests that you constantly experience harassments in your own country. I applaud you for your criticism of the three Equatorian government quest to travel to Addis just to request the negotiation teams in order to retain VP Igga’s position or upgrade to first vp. First of all this 1st vp position was first heard from old Sudan and it was last used to please Dr. John Garang during the CPA, there was no value to vice, being it 1st or 2nd.

    Coming to the position of Equatoria about federalism the majority of Equatorians still believe in the idea and it will continue to be the focus.

    The obstacle for attaining peace in South Sudan comes from the two regions of Bahr Ghazal and Upper Nile from where I believe you reign. Unlike the people of the latter, people of Equatoria don’t look to politicians for their well beings, they instead think and reason for themselves, and that is why we criticize our own leaders not because we hate them personally but because of their bad policies, but in Upper Nile and Bahr Ghazal people look to their leaders as source of bread, they worship their leaders regardless like small gods, that is why those two regions will always remain like landlord to peasants however corrupt leadership, they would rather support whoever is from their regions despite of their incredibility.
    These three governors are under SPLA/M mandate, they are military commanders before taking the governors positions, so the immediate assumptions is that they obey commands from their military leaders like President Kirr and VP Wani Igga, and the likes, this doesn’t require a PhD to figure it out.
    I wish you too will come out and make your position known to South Sudanese so we could rally on your policies rather than personalities. In the beginning you lauded and called your party SPLM-DC. Where is the democratic change that you claim? No one even think about DC ever since your party members almost disowned you because Dr. Lam is for Dr. Lam not for the people, you are one of the old politicians who were there without bearing any fruit.
    My advise to you is to join the armed resistance movement, that’s the only way we can bring real change by removing SPLA-Juba.
    I also think there is really no need for calling any South Sudanese political party SPLA/M-Juba,SPLM-DC, SPLM-G10, SPLA-IO, SPLM-Youth or SPLA/M whatever. Just move on and come up with better names to represent the people of South Sudan not the old Sudan.
    Eli Wani

    • Mr, Eli Wani,

      thanks for your comment on the analysis of Dr Lam

      I was really impressed by three points you mentioned out that have driven me to comment against your statement.

      1- the obstacle for attaining peace in South Sudan comes from Greater Bhar Algazal and Upper Nile.
      2- we the Equatorians don’t look to the politicians for their well being that’s why we criticize our leaders not because we hate them but because of their bad policies
      3- my advise to you Dr. Lam is to joint the armed resistance movement, that’s the only way to we can bring real change by removing SPLM-Juba.

      well, I don’t know whether you’re a pro-juba govt, opposition or neutral. if you are any of these, I think you are contradicting yourself in your whole comment by citing the two regions as an obstacles to peace and not the politicians who have led our country into these mess and if its from bad people that bad leaders are produced as you meant, why do good equatorians produce leaders with bad policies as you mentioned? Ok, by calling on Dr. Lam to take arms against Juba regime you meant taking arms is the best and quick solution for change and here you sound like you are currently taking arms too, by calling Nilotics obstacles to peace is it not because they took arms against Khartoum which took us 21 yrs civil war and resulted into Republic of South Sudan and again by Dr. Machar against Juba failed regime in which you are seemed to be a part of it if I am not mistaken. And why would you call it an obstruction to peace? Dr. Lam didn’t talk negatively about the people of Equatoria in the whole text but only about the three governors how they contradicted and misrepresented the wish of the people of greater equatorial, why are you reacting to this and you said they are bad politician?

      • Eli

        Marko,
        I am supporter of peace, freedom and justice. But sometimes we need to be honest and admit to our failures, the most failed regions are from Bahr Ghazal and Upper Nile, you like it or not this is the the truth. Even before this current war started there was already rebellions in both those areas. A feel ashame for leaders like Lam Akol who feed on the vunerable people. Everyone wants support of the Equatorians but yet they turn around and call them every dirty names you can think of. Even Lam’s SPLMDC is surviving on the back of Equatorians, why didn’t he go and galvanized his terrorized people in Malakal? Is Juba the only place to run political party?
        Marko, my position is very clear, federalism in my understanding will give our people the chance to develop and work effectively. We don’t share to much in common when it comes to ethics, people in Bahr Ghazal and Upper Nile believe in violence as opposed to Equatorians who don’t see reasons for us Southerners to kill ourselves. You also claim that Nilotics are the ones who fought the war for independence? What a load of garbage? Who are the Nilotics in the first place? Don’t you learn from history? This is exactly why it’s waste of time reasoning with you.
        Lam Akol is supposed to be a national opposition figure not a state opposition, nobody knows Lam’s position, he went to Addis and flip flop and he got kicked out from Addis and ran to Juba (Equatoria) to recruit the Equatorians because every politician wants a piece of our intelligence. Lam needs to focus his opposition on SPLA-Juba, not the three states governors. Why doesn’t he criticize other governors like Matur, former gov. Malong, Kuol Manyang or Kirr? These are the real troubled people if he wants to challenge the system.

  • Dr. Lam Akol,

    You are a real Doctor, by analyzing this make no sense claims made by stooge governors of Equatoria. Equatorians Governors are naturally foolish. They bark like dogs every single. None of these Equatorians governor never participated in the movement that lead to independent of South Sudan. These governors are food lovers who emergence from hiding after CPA was sign knowingly that money are flowing into South Sudan. They are here in Equatoria only to each but not to make any change at all. Foolish visionless governors.

    • John Fraser

      You are a one stupid ignorant who needs some help and psychological evaluation. Talking of food, don’t you and your hungry people came to Equatoria looking for food? Big mouthing about the people of Equatoria that they are not part of the fight, they love food, they are cowards bla bla bla looks stupid and shows all your immaturity plus your luck of class, uneducated barbaric uncivilized creature not human, but animal.

  • Peace lover

    Dr lam shouldn’t confuse people. DC is born dead and will not come to power because it is a tribal party

  • A regional war will be in south Sudan as a battlefield. So that we all become stateless. How about that?

  • A nation born yesterday,is burning to ashes and the ashes will be blown to the atmosphere and disappear for good. All their children shall perish.