Opinion: A renewed call on states of South Sudan

By James Gatdet Dak

Ex-Machar spokesman James Gatdet Dak speaking to SSBC following a meeting with FVP Taban Deng Gai in Juba last year (File/Supplied/Nyamilepdia)

January 21st 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – First of all, I hope that our able leaders (peace partners) shall politically resolve the number and boundaries of states in the Republic of South Sudan. Or whoever is to arbitrate should do a successful and decisive arbitration within one to two weeks so that a transitional unity government is formed by February 22, 2020.

Having stated that; here are some background facts about the states in South Sudan:

1) They were 10 in number when inherited at independence on July 9, 2011.

2) In 2015, during peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, after the 2013 crisis, the main opposition, SPLM/SPLA (IO) introduced 21 federal states in their controlled territories. They were based on former 21 colonial districts, established by the British, which already had known boundaries. The government rejected the 21 states proposal, supported by IGAD, and wanted the 10 states to remain. SPLM/SPLA (IO), compromised for the sake of peace, by dropping its demand for 21 federated states, although the Movement/Party keeps the 21 states in its internal administrative system.

3) After rejecting proposed 21 states at peace talks in Addis Ababa and signing Agreement on the basis of 10 states, President Salva Kiir then surprised everyone by unilaterally decreeing into existence 28, then 32 states, in a clear violation of the 2015 peace deal. He did not consult the people of South Sudan, the Parties to the Agreement, or IGAD, etc. His action was condemned by the international community.

The question is, why didn’t he or his Government simply table the 32 states proposal at peace talks to counter the 21 states proposal by SPLM/SPLA(IO)? Only God knows! And I mean, wouldn’t that have been a clean way to do it, so that their pros and cons were examined, and in comparison with 21 states?

4) Resolving on number and boundaries of states is very important because, without them, the Parties to the revitalized September 12, 2018, Agreement cannot form a new or revitalized transitional government of national unity with all its branches or administrative structures.

States are needed for establishing states governments. States are also needed for reconstituting the national legislature. The number of representatives to the Council of States in Juba, for instance, will be based on the number of states, etc.

5) Report by the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) indicated a return to 10 states as the most popular option. Actually, the majority of the citizens consulted wanted to return to 10 states, followed by 21 states, while 32 states are the most unpopular, as published by a Kenyan independent news outlet, The Citizens.

6) The unpopular call by the Government for a referendum on states is misplaced. First, the same Government never consulted the same citizens or asked them for a referendum when it unilaterally decreed the 32 states in an evening. So why now?

Second, you cannot conduct a referendum when you know you have chased away from the country a two-third of the population, and are refugees, and another one-fourth of the population, or so, is displaced internally, and does not trust you or are afraid of you.

Third, conducting a referendum is an expensive and time-consuming exercise. It may take another year to organize it, in case there is peace and people return home. Is it worth it?

Fourth, a referendum may vote on the number of states, but how about their problematic boundaries hidden from the people? And this takes me to the next point 7.

7) The unilaterally decreed 32 states are problematic and a ticking time-bomb ready to explode unless our leaders deactivate them. Why? First, they are meant to grab rich resources-endowed ancestral lands from ’other’ communities and annexed to the ’favoured’ community(ies).

Second, they don’t have revealed boundaries simply because the group that devised this secret grand land grabbing policy fears to reveal them now!!! They want to politically take advantage of the momentary euphoria coming from some sections of populations that are happy to grab lands from other communities, or from some innocent uninformed populations who are not aware of the negative implications of the 32 states. This is at the expense of peace and harmony between and among our communities.

The deceived populations may be simply loving the name of a state given to them, or its beautiful map on paper, but do not know where its secret boundaries lie.

The 32 states are problematic and also meaningless, for God’s sake! They don’t provide services to the people! They are jungles, not even villages. The SPLM program under the leadership of our able late leader, Dr John Garang de Mabior, was to take towns (services and development) to the people, but not to take dry villages (poverty and conflicts) to the people!

Those 32 village states only serve the so-called politicians who seek do-nothing employments as state governors, state ministers, and countless numbers of members of the inflated 32 states legislative assemblies! And many of these governors, let alone their officials, operate under the trees—no office buildings—not mentioning schools, hospitals, roads, food, etc.

A case of Gok state governor who posed a picture of himself publicly under his tree office was a sad example. I commend him for his courage in doing that! And overall populations of some of these 32 states cannot even reach 100,000 in number. And some look like dots on the map, but beautifully coloured to attract the eyes of the innocent.

Please, drop these good-for-nothing poverty-stricken 32 states. They serve no good purpose, rather than a source of draining our country’s scarce resources just for the pockets of some (lucky?) states so-called politicians.

And worse, as I stated above, they are a ticking time-bomb which we don’t and would never wish to explode! Compromise on a reasonable number of states with known or easy to demarcate boundaries, and then form a revitalized unity government of national unity in February.

Let peace prevail in our beloved country!

The author is a concerned citizen who loves his country. He is former Press Secretary in the Office of the President (Vice President’s office). Also former Official Spokesman of the leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (IO). Author of a testimonial book, ’My Painful Story: Abducted from Kenya, Imprisoned in South Sudan.’ His email address is: jamesdak2018@gmail.com.


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