Poor Man’s Federalism And The Faltering National Unity

By Kuach Tutkuay,

Chollo Community in Malakal PoC protesting against Kiir's 28 states during a recent visit made by JMEC chief Festus

Chollo Community in Malakal PoC protesting against Kiir’s 28 states during a recent visit made by JMEC chief Festus

Jan 16, 2016 (Nyamilepedia) —- In the history of the hunting, only an amateur hunter will go for the cubs before killing the lioness. That is a mismatch of skills whose repercussion may jeopardize the whole hunting or even cost the hunter his life. President Kiir’s unilateral decree on the 28 states has become a street talk in Juba; nevertheless, it sounds, to me, like a hullabaloo of nursery school kid that only makes sense to them. It is quite a delusion to think of more states when every blade of grass and every grain of sand of this nascent country cries for peace. The issue to me is trivial because it is something we can postpone to a later date and life continues, but can we postpone peace?

The peace agreement signed by the two factions was never a good peace for both parties, particularly those who need positions, but it was good for the common citizens of South Sudan who need nothing but to peacefully wake up each morning in a place they can call home. The two warring factions came up with demands that are too far to be reconciled, however, thumbs up to the creativity of IGAD, they came up with a term “Compromise Peace Agreement—CPA II” under which the parties were supposed to compromise. One of the demands the SPLM-IO were forced to let go for the sake of peace was federalism. They wanted more states but they were told that it is not in the best interest of peace, that it should be done later as the IGAD wanted so direly to usher in a peaceful era for South Sudan. The constitutionally recognized 10 states were also recognized by the CPA II and became the basis for the implementation of the agreement.

As if this was a joke, the president issued a decree creating more states, a move that was illegal as per the transitional constitution of the Republic of South Sudan as well as the Compromise Peace Agreement. The question is, “if the president had this idea in mind, why didn’t he second the demand of the SPLM-IO for more states so that they could begin negotiating the number of states they want to create before the agreement is sealed?” More surprisingly, the JMEC chairman accepted that the two parties can negotiate the issue of the 28 states “outside the box” whatever that may mean. I was actually wondering if surely people would return into the same box in one piece if they failed to strike an agreement outside the box. Legally speaking, this is a breach of the agreement as well as a violation of the South Sudan constitution. Why would Kiir and Festus keep dogs and yet they bark themselves?

Terming the 28 states issue as “political” and describing it as “not legal” is unethical use of knowledge. It is true that South Sudanese people keep cattle but they are not cattle themselves to be blackmailed in a broad day light. If the decree of 28 states violates the peace agreement and it also violates the supreme law of the land, the constitution, what on earth would one call “legal malpractice” other than this? Technicality alone would not save South Sudan, you may bring all your professorial vocabularies but if it does not dovetail well with the desire of the South Sudanese citizens, even if it pleases the politicians, you are only postponing a war and it is not a feasible solution.

The well-known rampant land grabbing in Juba has taken a new dimension of a “queasy federalism”. The 28 states is a foolproof plan to grab other communities’ land. For example, the Makal, (Malakal) a historical land of the Chollo people has been given to the Dinka. Of the said 28 states, Dinka alone have 12 states plus the Abyei administrative area which may later be divided into three or four other states. The rest of the 63 tribes which make up more than 80% of the population are left to share only 16 states. Federating the country into administrative blocks is not an easy task that should be done unilaterally; it is not like cutting and slicing a wedding cake. This task should not be done solely by the SPLM, whether in government or in opposition. It needs several stakeholders and more consultation with the local levels. Anyone who continues with federalism at this critical time, whether in government or in opposition, is obstructing the peace process. All we need now is peace, more states later.

The 28 states issue, if open again for discussion, will take us back to square one. It will have no meaning to us that an agreement has been reached. It’s only a logical red herring, a plan to drag people’s attention away from the implementation of the peace agreement into trivial issues. It’s actually an “unnecessary evil” that only impede the smooth running of the current process. It would affect nothing if ignored, but will affect everything if considered. It has both the short- and long-term ramifications. The short-term being that it will obstruct the peace process and return the country back to war; and the long-term is  that it will bring about an endless internal communal fighting over land and boundaries issues. All these chatters any hope of achieving a peaceful united South Sudan. The onus is, however, on Festus. He can choose to stick to the CPA II and bring back the lost harmony to South Sudan, or to open up another roundtable in Juba and disintegrate the country. I don’t blame him, if the own sons of the land cannot see for themselves what is good for their people, how difficult will it be for a foreigner to do so. Moreover, if two dogs fight over a bone, a third dog get the bone.

The writer is currently the Chairman of the Nuer community in Kenya, he can be reached via kuachdavid4live@live.com, +254727270877 or follow him on twitter: @kuach444


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