Opinion: SPLM-IO position on 32 states and why it is the best

By Daniel Deng Mario

Meeting of the SPLM-IO National Liberation Council in Khartoum on 21st September 2018 (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

January 17th 2020(Nyamilepedia) — I appreciate all the commenters who really took their and participated in the issue of 32 States and how they benefit South Sudanese either. I also appreciate commenters whose answers were ambiguous to the point of discussion. 

This message comes to all citizens of South Sudan as a way of clarifying our position in regard to 32 States. I would like to tell all the citizens that what we are struggling is for their welfare and it is in fact, in their best interests. It is in the citizens’ best interest to have economic viable states in which the resources are utilized for the benefits of the ordinary citizens and development of the states not maintaining the government employees. 

Our position is that ten states are economic viable and should be maintained until when the country has made a decision on what number and size of states should South Sudan have. The SPLM-IO is not against the interest of the citizens but it is looking at what is in their best interest. This brings me to the questions as to what is the best interest of South Sudanese in regard to creation of States and why is it important for the creation of the new States to be detached from politics and instead determined by all South Sudanese irrespective of their political affiliation? 

The best interest means that something should be for goodness of the citizens whether they like it or not as long as it will have long term benefits for them and their children. Of course, those who believe that the president has done well for them for creating 32 States will not even like me or take time to read this article as they will hate me and the SPLM-IO for maintaining the above position. But being a leader we have to lead so that in long run people have to appreciate us and know that we were not against them to achieve their benefits but we were doing it in their own interest. It is always common for human beings as they will only become wise when something happened not before it happens but since this is the matter of national interest we should not allow things To Whom It May Concern. 

We are not however opposing that in South Sudan there is a need to have more States and it is in the best interest for all South Sudanese to have federal system but the question that comes in is what do we want from federalism? This question was asked by the late Martin Diamond in a his famous essay written thirty years ago, which he answers that federalism is a political system permitting a large measure of regional self-rule—presumably gives the rulers and the ruled a “school of their citizenship,” it is “a preserver of their liberties,” and “a vehicle for flexible response to their problems.” These features, broadly construed, are said to reduce conflict between diverse communities, even as a federated polity affords inter-jurisdictional competition that encourages innovations and constrains the overall growth of government.

In relation to the above description of federalism, it is important to note that in establishing federalism, there is a need to first conduct feasibility studies in respect to the economic sustainability and how it can enhance the unity of the country. This will help avoid political decision that will carelessly throw the country into sectarianism caused by division of the country based on the tribes which aggravates the tribalism caused by tribalistic feelings.  

It should be noted that more than 25 countries around the world that are operating on a federal system were not created overnight but a lot of studies were carried out before they were created. It implies that when creating federal system, different options for structuring a transition to federalism must be assessed before the system is established fully. The options are that—

First, engage in subnational capacity-building before the national constitution creating the states comes into effect, as far as possible, so that power can be transferred quickly once the final constitution comes into effect. This means that the terms of establishing federalism must be provided within the Constitution and when it comes into force the constitution must be permanent so that it safeguards the rights of the citizens and the structure upon which federalism is based.

 Second, the agreement that leads to the making of the Constitution and the creation of the states must provide the shortest transition period, subject to interim arrangements, during which subnational institutions are put in place and other necessary steps taken so that power can be transferred on a fixed date. In that way, the nature, number and the boundaries of the states are established through well negotiated procedures so that by the time when that fixed date is reached there will be no debate or disagreement but only implementation should be an issue. 

Therefore, establishing federalism is not for political interests but it is for the interests of the citizens which must be based on their best interest. The personal politics should be detached from the national politics and procedures that lead to the creation of the states or federalism. It goes to say that it “may be useful to create an independent procedure for monitoring the process or for resolving disputes over whether the requirements for the transfer of power have been met”.

The question that comes in is what is involved in implementing new federal constitutional arrangements? It has been pointed out somewhere that the implementation is the final phase of constitution-building in which new constitutional arrangements, including federalism, are put into effect. This points to the fact that Implementation of the Constitution is critical since without it, a constitution is only an agreement in principle, however well-designed and inclusive the process by which it was made. 

It therefore goes to say that it may be helpful to think of constitutional implementation as having three dimensions: technical implementation, interpretation and cultural change. Above all, technical implementation involves passing legislation, establishing new institutions, making appointments and taking whatever other legal steps or policy initiatives the constitution requires. Where the constitution involves a move to federalism, this phase may require states or regions to be created as well

In the creation of federalism, national consensus outside politics is important. This implies that the implementation of new federal arrangements will be easier if the process and outcomes are fully owned by political leaders and the people as a whole, as the constitution is made. The word as a whole means that all the people or citizens must agree to the terms put in the constitution. In that aspect, it is important to say that national ownership in this sense means that the requirements of the new constitution are widely understood and that there is commitment to it, by political actors and the people to whom they will be accountable, at both levels of government (Constitutional INSIGHTS No. 2).

Relating the foregoing discussion to the SPLM-IO or our position in regard to 32 states is that the creation of the current 32 States does not meet the standard of creating the federal system is it is the source of the conflict itself. The creation of the states should be the source of unity in the country. We are also of the view that whereas 32 states have been created on the alleged ground that they are demanded by the people, they are not viable for the reasons that they were not agreed by all the citizens which is the reason we have also dropped our position in respect to 21 States.

The government has a duty to know that even if it is in its political best interest to maintain 32 States but it is not in the best interest of the people as there is no consensus over their creation by all the citizens of South Sudan. Even if we accept to compromise on the issue of the number of States, we will be planting future constitutional crisis as all the citizens have not endorsed the creation of the current states, which we cannot afford though we cannot use war as a means of achieving our demand for return to 32 States. 

What we need the government to do is to compromise and take time to educate those who will be affected by the reverse to ten states that it is in their best interest to suspend 32 States until the country is united. Since the current Peace Agreement came through the agreement between the Government and the oppositions to amend it can also come in the same way and we save the country from further crisis.  

In support to the above conclusion, we assert that the process that leads to the creation of federalism needs to be fully owned by political leaders and the people of South Sudan as a whole, which will be in the best interests of the citizens. This point shows that the SPLM-IO is not against 32 States as it has been portrayed by the political beneficiaries of those states but the position of the SPLM-IO is that all citizens must give their consent as the part of national consensus and constitutional building process since the creation of these states goes to the heart of fundamental aspect of our constitution: the power of the people. 

Another point worth mentioning is that the current so-called 32 States are not States as the name portrays but they are extension of decentralization that many citizens oppose simply because it is a system based on absolute power of central government under one man. The cause of the current conflict was the absolute power of the President where citizens are left powerless and at the mercy of the President who acts carelessly as he is not accountable to anybody under the current system. 

It is the fact without dispute that South Sudan deserves to be under federalism where citizens of each State will have a political system permitting a large measure of regional self-rule—presumably gives the rulers and the ruled a “school of their citizenship,” “a preserver of their liberties,” and “a vehicle for flexible response to their problems.” These features, broadly construed, are said to reduce conflict between diverse communities, even as a federated polity affords inter-jurisdictional competition that encourages innovations and constrains the overall growth of government.

The statement in the above paragraph clearly illustrates that the current States or new counties under decentralized system do not fit to be called States of South Sudan as they fall short of what constitutes the states as already defined above. They have instead surged the feeling of tribal nationalism that many of the citizens there do not see what the best interest of South Sudan is.  

As we all know, in October 2015, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit issued a decree establishing 28 states in place of the 10 previously established states. The decree established the new states largely along ethnic lines. This becomes the source of ethnic tension and hatred as it has increased the internal border crises that we left unaddressed immediately after independence on the ground that there is a need to address national issues before they are determined.

What we need to understand is that States determine the future of the country as it is based on a self-rule to a larger extent which means that we must break from the decentralized system in which we are in now. It will be the decision of all the citizens to decide the number of states they should have with clear established boundaries. The citizens will be able elect their own states leaders without the President appointing the governors and governors appointing commissioners in turn. What need is the true federal system based on independence states to a greater extent. 

There is a false allegations being made up by the government officials that if the absolute federal system is established the government will lose the control over them and it will be the easiest road to independence by some of the states. It shows that the concept of states is highly misconceived by the government and the Government is misleading the uninformed citizens on this point. What the citizens need to understand is that before the federal states are created there must be agreed principles that all the states must adhere to and if any states feel that the Central government is not following those agreed principles then it will challenge the action of the central Government in the Courts of law.

The above conclusion shows that it is the rule of law determined by Courts of law that maintains the unity of the country not the control of the President over the country. The President under the Federal system must be under the rule of law and the states will have the power to sue him or state house in the courts in case the president is not following the law.

Another point to note is that the States will not have their own army though they may have the police and other forces for the purpose of keeping the law and order which contributes to the existence of the rule of law. This implies that they may not demand for independence to the extent of resorting to the use of force since they will not have force to claim.

What keeps the people from demanding for independence is not decentralized system per se but it is the system backed by strong rule of law. It does not matter what kind of system is but provided that system is run based on law then there is unity and lawfulness in the country. However, given the nature and setting of South Sudan, it fits to be founded on federal system not decentralized system. 

In conclusion, as I have already stated at the onset of this article, the position of the SPLM-IO in regard to 32 states is that they are not viable and there is a need to maintain 10 States until when citizens are educated to know what is in their best interest and what is the different between federalism and decentralization. 

It is sad to learn that the government is paying citizens to demonstrate against their rights without them knowing it. I have received from multiple reliable sources that the current demonstration being carried out in different parts of the country are supported by the government to sell the SPLM-IO  to the people as bad organization wanting to take away their rights. 

I am therefore appealing to the citizens by making it clear that our demands has nothing to do with the denial of South Sudanese their rights but our demand is how proper the citizens should be managed which can benefit all of them irrespective of their tribes. 

The author can be reached at mariodeng88@gmail.com


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