OPINION: CAN UNITY GOVERNMENT UNDER  32 STATES BENEFIT US ALL? 

By Makneth Aciek, Kampala, Uganda,

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, showing his skeptical face during peace talks in Addis Ababa. That agreement has now collapsed and the leaders continue to impose themselves amid an intense conflict that is now in its 4 years(Photo: file)

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, showing his skeptical face during peace talks in Addis Ababa. That agreement has now collapsed and the leaders continue to impose themselves amid an intense conflict that is now in its 4 years(Photo: file)

January 25, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Over the decades prior to South Sudan independent, the question of diversity was a critical themes in the then Sudan as ruling elites in Khartoum ignored diversity and adopted Arabism as the only way to create a homogeneous society.   Our fathers took up arms and declared the whole condition of Islamization as psychologically abnormal and against the natural ordering of an African person.

From 1947 to late 1950s, diversity was the major feature of discussion. Southerners called for federalism as a method of managing diverse cultures within the Sudan; to northerners ruling elites, at most, federalism was a politically illegitimate basis of public expression, and at some point equated it to an act of treason. From Anyanga to SPLA/SPLM, the question of diversity continued to shape the narrative of struggle. 

One of the core features of late Dr. John Garang’s vision of New Sudan was the management of diversity in the Sudan. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) satisfactorily addressed the question of diversity. The CPA provided decentralized federal system of government at both National and State level with clearly defined powers. These were enshrined in the national constitution and Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan (ICSS 2005). 

Through hardship and marginalization under whole Sudan, South Sudanese  embraced “the Southerner” nomenclature as national identity. It was a community created out of signs- tribes glued together by history of colonialism and oppression. 

When Southerners exercised their right of self-determination in 2011 and voted for independent state, the ruling class did not have an idea about what is sardined together as one South Sudan! The president and his patronage kingpins discarded the important provisions for diversity management as enshrined in Interim constitution of southern Sudan (ICSS 2005). The decentralized federal system of government was replaced with  centralized unitary and autocratic system. This system have failed overtime to allow the blending of the many ethnic nationalities within South Sudan to have a sense of belonging or ownership of the state.

Today, the question of diversity still remains an intractable unfinished business that seriously threatens the corporate existence of South Sudan. To borrow words from Capt.Mabior Garang, the vision of New Sudan should have been used in the context of South Sudan current reality. As South Sudan is faced with uncertainty, to agree with many scholars, management of ethnic diversity shaped and continues to shape the dynamics of peace and conflict in the young nation. 

 As conflict-weary population is generally happy to accept that the long conflict is over, the recent behavior of J-1 occupants and South African Vice President left south Sudanese at a loss to explain how a mediator, with so

much promise, could have descended into such an incoherent decision. Such behaviors are manifestation of the evident that excessive dealing and mediating have overlaid truth with an obscurantist veil. 

It is confessing that the question of diversity management is too much for regime or that they do not understand it. The horde of irrationals have been blindly advocating for maintenance of 32 states as the basis for unity government, but does the politic of 32 states benefit all communities in South Sudan? 

The regime have maintained the creation of 32 states as way of taking town to the people. But everything about 32 states contributes to spreading confusion! It strikes many of us as curious why the regime chose to express the ideology of “taking town to people” through creation of more controversial sates. This is not about taking services to the people; it is a ploy to weaken south Sudanese popular demand for federalism. In fact the construction of 32 states was done primarily to protect the powers of the president and those in charge of central government.

The realities of 32 States have created a bunch of ethnicities, all scowling at each other in suspicion and hatred. This can never bring peace or unity. The politic of these controversial states gives certain community(ies) some increasing dominance over others. These new states became the source of political rivalry and conflicts over resources, lands and boundaries.

President Kiir, in June 2014 parliamentary address demonized SPLM-IO for creating 21 states and criticized Equatorians for demanding federalism openly. The president stated that the demand for federalism was only relevant in a united Sudan, but not in the independent South Sudan. Later on through the influence JCE, he created more states. This was the manipulative ploy of the dictatorial regime. The enemies of the idea became the idea itself!

Those who cannot think their way into the politic of 32 state with an open, investigative attitude are missing a momentous insight into the regime scorched-earth policy. Their immediate enemy being people of South Sudan, the regime adopted policies that keep local masses at the state of mental bondage and deny them the mental constructions necessary to imagine nationhood. The behavioral manipulation, psychological programming, and mind control seen from few south Sudanese who protested in favor of 32 state is quite heart breaking. 

The concept of state is literally a new idea in our general instinctual program. It is a borrowed institution and is not in the psychic makeup of our native people. To local people in the villages and cattle camps, the word state is just a term. What matters is the reality of experience that can inform this term. Our local people have convention that help them share pastures and maintain peace among their ancestral borders. It is this convention that is being attacked, mutilated and adulterated by regime policies of 32 states.

Forming unity government without attending to the plight of communities whose ancestral lands are usurped, places the country at the death’s door. Our people through their cultural understating insist that they belong to the land, the land does not belong to them, and taking away the only thing which give them the traditional sense of belonging is a lost they can’t bear.

The ancestors of the various south Sudanese communities have deeds that define communal lands and their boundaries. These deeds are recorded in elaborate songs and lore, and continued to manage the behavior of successive generations and keep them within their proper boundaries. Everybody knew the dos and the donts, boundaries were drawn in the minds and souls of native people and everybody knew where to cross those lines.

It is still to be asked how the system that gives certain communities dominance over others became a demand of the people! How can system that is sustained by hatred, anger and deceit be associated with with masses? Who are the people? When we talk about people, we are talking about land, culture and history (Dr. Henrik Clarke). The moment you uproot people from their ancestral land, you are decimating their historical reference, thus leaving them without a guiding vision.

Some communities, particularly the Dinka may be tempted to think that these infamous 32 states endorse their aspirations. This thinking is schizophrenic and extremely disorienting! The available evidence suggests that 32 states do not benefit any single community; the reality of these states impoverishes all south Sudanese. The only people that benefit out of it are JCE and regime traditional elites. 

The regime contrive a noble lie that the creation of 32 states carries the conviction of all south Sudanese, but those that work for humanitarian organizations in many parts of the country will attest to it that people have left their homes for POCs and refugees camps. What remained are burned towns and villages in which the roving bands of mangy dogs outnumbered the ragged human. Referring to creation of 32 states as will of the people is erroneous, delusional, and loaded with false expectations.

Those who pretend to care about the future of peace in South Sudan should be mindful of the effort exerted by regime  to abrogate the R- ARCISS. The regime and traditional elites have no incentives to implement R-ARCISS as the agreement disrupts the status-quo. So they are sticking to 32 states as a strategy to rid themselves of the agreement.

 It is natural for regime and traditional elites to break their word and betray trust, to say one thing and do another, promise peace and deliver war, preach reconciliation and practice cruelty.

 Our people need to be vigilant as regime intends to pull the country apart in the grip of 32 states. The regime and its traditional elites will continue to pretend  that they have a greater purpose with 32 states than just consolidating power and maintaining the status-quo, but we must use our reasoning to liberate ourselves from deception. Reasoning power is what will allow us to hold the place of truth and stand against the regime and its traditional elites.

Makneth Aciek is a south Sudanese and can be reached via wenmakneth@yahoo.com


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