We Need A Pro Federalism Coalition!
By Dr Lako Jada Kwajok,
Oct 14, 2015(Nyamilepedia) —- One of the provisions in the recently signed peace agreement is the introduction of amendments to the current constitution through the establishment of the national constitutional amendment committee ( NCAC ). It will be tasked with drafting a constitutional amendment bill that will incorporate the amendments into the transitional constitution of the republic of South Sudan (TCoSS ). The TCoSS originated from the work of the technical constitutional review committee chaired by John Luk Jok who was then the minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development. The review was mostly deletions to all references to united Sudan in the interim constitution of South Sudan ( ICoSS ).
The national legislative assembly ( NLA ) played little or no role at all in the drafting process. It is evident that the TCoSS was based on the ICoSS which carries considerable resemblance to the Sudan constitution that we know is far from secularism. The presidential powers were enhanced in an unprecedented manner. In general, the TCoSS was tailored to president’s wishes a thing John Luk Jok himself must have regretted when his relations with the president turned sour.
There is a misconception among a significant number of our people that the peace agreement would usher in a new dawn of equitable governance based on federalism. Unfortunately this is not the case and things will not change much during the period of the transitional government of national unity ( TGoNU ). The NCAC will be composed as follows chaired by a representative from the IGAD mediation team – government of South Sudan ( GRSS ) 2 members, SPLM/A-IO 2 members, SPLM-Leaders or former detainees ( FD’s ) 1 member, other political parties and civil societies 1 member and IGAD representative 2 members.
As stipulated in the peace agreement, the TGoNU shall initiate the establishment of a federal and democratic system of governance during the transitional period. Although it states that in the event of contradiction with the TCoSS the provisions in the peace agreement will prevail, it did not explain what happens when disagreement arises among members of the committee which is quite likely. It’s a well known fact that the government rejected federalism when tabled by SPLM/A-IO for discussion during the peace talks in Addis Ababa. In the presence of reservations about the peace agreement from the government side, the prospect of a smooth process towards realisation of the permanet constitution of South Sudan is almost non-existent.
Nonetheless, the peace agreement gives our politicians an opportunity to come up with a federal and democratic constitution for the republic of South Sudan. This can only happen if people rise above their personal, party and tribal interests. It’s too optimistic to envisage this happening any time soon given the prevailing unhealthy environment among the political parties. What would most likely happen is a division within the NCAC into two camps each presenting opposing proposals that would drag on beyond the prescribed 18 months for completing the task. The member from the FD’s would most likely side with the government. As for the political parties member, the only hope for SPLM/A-IO to pick up an ally is if the member is from SPLM-DC or UDF. It is not clear whether the amendments are passed by a consensus or by majority voting.
The process could easily reach a deadlock if amendments are put to voting. Hence it is unlikely that the amendments would amount to any appreciable degree of federalism. Also there is a confounding factor here which is the presence of the IGAD represensitives. It is quite hard to discern the position of the 2 represensitives in regard to introduction of federalism in South Sudan. However we do know that apart from Ethiopia, the rest of the IGAD member states do not follow federal system of governance. Most are authoritarian regimes like ours therefore the IGAD represensitives would be more sympathetic and supportive of the government views within the committee. With the expected fresh amendments the TCoSS would be anything but an authentic federal constitution.
It’s important though for SPLM/A-IO, being the spearhead of the federalism supporters, to make it clear to the world that should the amended constitution fall short of people’s aspirations which is a full-fledged federalism, then it will be only for running the TGoNU. It will then be the duty of the elected government backed by people’s mandate to write the permanent constitution of the republic of South Sudan. Thus all supporters of federalism should avoid being complacent about the coming elections. Good preparation and full engagement in the political process is required from all. It is not enough to voice out your support for federalism because this alone will not help you in your quest for it. You need to identify your means to achieve it and do whatever in your capacity to make it happen.
It’s now clear that the only way to establish a federal system of governance is if SPLM/A-IO wins the elections at the end of the TGoNU. Therefore all the supporters of federalism should back SPLM/A-IO now and in the coming elections. Some Equatorians have doubts about the commitment of Dr Riek Machar to implementation of federalism once in power. Those doubts are unfounded given the well known position of SPLM/A-IO in regard to federalism. It has been shown during the peace negotiations as SPLM/A-IO had wanted adoption of federalism during the transitional period that was rejected by the government. The deputy chairman, Alfred Lado Gore is a strong supporter of federalism and is not a pushover.
He and his other Equatorian colleagues will not let the Equatorians down. Moreover, come elections day, what would the Equatorian sceptics do ?! Would they abstain from voting knowing that it will help Kiir;s camp ? or would they vote for SPLM/A-IO that has a clear policy in regard to implementation of federalism ? This is not the time to sit on the fence but to be proactive and fully engaged in the political process and in shaping the future of South Sudan. Equatorians should be aboard the only ” ship ” sailing towards federalism which is SPLM/A-IO. It is time for Equatorians whether from the armed forces, urban civilians, rural civilians and villagers to join SPLM/A-IO in droves and big numbers. The same applies to our citizens in western Bahr El Gazal state, the Chollo Kingdom, Greater Pibor Adminstrative area, Maban and the rest of the tribes including the Jieng who support federalism.
Being the leader of the opposition puts enormous responsibility on the shoulders of SPLM/A-IO at this juncture in the history of South Sudan. Firstly, it must endeavour to establish a broad-based coalition of all the pro federalism parties, political groups and the civil societies. It is essential to form an alliance with SPLM-DC, UDF and the other parties. A situation where ” the Ralph Nader effect ” comes into play must be avoided at all costs. Ralph Nader was the Green Party presidential candidate who divided the democratic votes causing Al Gore to lose the elections. He got as little as 97,421 votes that was enough for George W Bush to defeat Al Gore by 537 votes only in the Florida 2000 elections. It is not a long shot to imagine a similar scenario happening in our elections. I do think Kiir’s camp is banking on facing multiple presidential candidates rather than a single head to head candidate. His supporters know that his popularity is dismal among the majority of the South Sudanese people hence the only hope for him to win is if there is a division in the opposition votes. We expect our opposition leaders to rise above their personal egos and ambitions for the sake of winning the elections and making federalism a reality. A coalition does not mean we should agree on all matters but on the bottom line which is federalism.
Secondly, A lot of attention should be directed towards western Bahr El Gazal state as contrary to what is being propagated by its governor and the government propaganda machine, the majority of citizens there support federalism. The issue of land grabbing is far worse there than in Equatoria and the Chollo Kingdom. Furthermore, the shooting of the unarmed civilians during the wau demonstrations in December 2012 was the last straw that damaged the regime popularity among the people of western Bahr El Gazal state. Rather than opening an investigation to find answers for why the security forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration, the president instead stood by the decision of his general or generals to use lethal force. And to make things worse some poor citizens were made scapegoats and handed down capital punishments as instigators of the unrest. Western Bahr El Gazal state is winnable and is an important state to win as will be demonstrated below.
Thirdly, As the government is working day and night spreading the seeds of division among the opposition, the SPLM/A-IO should serve it its own poisons. The revelation by the army chief of staff, Paul Malong during the Dinka Malual community meeting in Juba early this year showed that the establishment of the greater Pibor administrative area ( GPAA ) was nothing but a tactical move by the government. He even said it openly that the GPAA was established to prevent David Yau teaming up with SPLM/A-IO and that they will revisit his case sometime in future. There was no genuine political will to solve the problems in that area.
According to the revelation they planned to kill David Yau Yau in 2011 like what they did to General Gatluak Gai in Bentiu but the guy evaded the plot. Malong went further to say this time they would keep him under scrutiny; meaning the ill intentions against David Yau Yau remain intact. Clearly the aim was to neutralise the Cobra fighting faction in order to be subdued in future. As often said in politics there are no permanent enemies but permanent interests, SPLM/A-IO should exert every effort to bring David Yau Yau group, in fact any other fighting groups including the defectors from SPLM/A-IO, into the pro federalism camp. Again SPLM/A-IO must work tirelessly to forge an alliance with REMNASA. although it is not signatory to the peace agreement, it has a constituency in Equatoria that will be voting in the elections. Governor Bakasoro was the most vocal among the governors in support of federalism. He has a universal support in greater Equatoria and his addition to the coalition would be a valuable asset.
Based on the current 10 states, the electoral field would most likely look as follows :
- Greater Equatoria states, Unity state : Solid behind pro federalism camp.
- Nortern Bahr El Gazal state, Warrap state, Lakes state : Solid behind anti federalism camp.
- Upper Nile state, Jonglei state : Leaning to pro federalism camp.
- Western Bahr El Gazal state : Swing state.
Some people may think it’s too early to talk about the coming elections at this point in time but in reality there will be little time to prepare for it due to lack of infrastructure and insecurity. Most of the challenges for running a healthy election campaign would come from the states leaning to the pro federalism camp and Western Bahr El Gazal state. I am afraid Northern Bahr El Gazal, Warrap and Lakes states would probably be a no go zone for the opposition. I cannot imagine candidates from the opposition campaigning freely there in the presence of that level of antagonism and insecurity. That being said, still the opposition should continue working patiently to recruit more supporters in those states. Nevertheless, the focus should be on what is achievable by sparing no effort to secure the states leaning to the pro federalism camp and the swing state. the message should be clear that the elections is not about personalities but about choosing the right system of governance which is federalism and the right people to deliver.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org