Why South Sudan must revert to pre-war 10 states
By David D. G. Pal,
Feb 19, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — I am writing, on behalf of members of South Sudanese Community Initiatives Network, a subsidiary of South Sudan Community Initiatives Centre, to express our stance on the number of states currently being one of the most contentious issues confronting implementation of R-ARCISS (Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan).
Peace is what every ordinary South Sudanese has been longing for so they can rebuild their lives. However, peace at the expense of the fundamental rights of people can only produce the antithesis. Forming R-TGONU (Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity) without having to address the most contentious issues notably the number and boundaries of Stated can only result in a possibly protected inter-ethnic and intra-communal conflicts like the existing 32 states-related deadly local conflicts in Bhar El Ghazal region. Its undesirable consequences could haunt South Sudan for an extended period, spanning a couple of generations. That precisely is what the current controversial 32 states were designed and presidentially decreed to achieve.
The motive behind the creation of 32 states was to grab fertile lands of other communities and to divide-and-rule Is this not a deliberate act of precipitating a potentially lasting inter-tribal and conflict? Why can’t you reverse gear to uncontroversial ten states and allow the people of South Sudan to negotiate the creation of more states afterwards amicably and fairly? Switching back to 10 states is the best possible and most popular option now.
The socio-political benefits associated with reverting to 10 states are enormous. Firstly, pre-civil war social status quo (before 2013), when land-related conflicts were minimal and manageable. Its positive prospects may include revived inter-community relations both at macro and micro levels as well as the restoration of South Sudan social fabric which has been shattered by the ongoing civil war. Back to 10 states, the grassroots may regain peculiar regionally-based identities and so mend their pre-war community relations.
Secondly, in comparison with the unpopular 32 states, ten states are less costly to finance given the increasingly collapsing economy of South Sudan. The government has not been able to finance the 32 states, salaries unpaid for months, let alone financing developmental activities.
Thirdly, reverting to 10 states is the most popular choice in South Sudan. Both the opposition and government, if seeking peace, should have no grievances against the ten states because the number of states and their boundaries never was a root cause that sparked the war in 2013.
Fourthly, ten states are still the binding provision in ARCISS. Reverting to ten states offer a conducive environment for 64 tribes to exercise truth and reconciliation between and amongst themselves. The ten states plant in the hearts of people a sense of unity and identity as one people of South Sudan. It is then and only then can people reach an amicable understanding when it comes to negotiating the creation of new states and their boundaries. We believe that opting to reverse gears brings the prospects of South Sudan coming back to peace and stability but sticking with tribal 32 states pains a gloomy future of South Sudan, deeply rooted in conflict, poverty and diseases. Forcefully imposing 32 states will not only impoverish the country but also faces enormous resistance from other 63 tribes which might result in a countless number of tribal cocoons much more likely to be ruled by warlords. These tribal cocoons might replicate similar internal conflicts risking a further split into smaller ones. This way, South Sudan is no more. Why would a sound-minded leader persistently pursue a debilitatingly risky path of 32 states? South Sudanese people have a spectacular preference for 10 over presidential-decree 32 states.
President Salva Kiir should, therefore, heed to the majority voices instead of listening to whispering boot-licking kleptocrats and rogue advisors in his circle? The president should understand that, if manipulating via deceit and propaganda had long-term rewards, then South Sudan would not have seceded from Sudan. Earlier successive governments of Sudan had for decades used the same ball game but eventually failed; hence independence of South Sudan. Why would you replicate an experiment, the result of which was known? We are urging our political leaders to understand that the ongoing land-related conflicts aggravated by ill-intended 32 states pose horrendous long-term consequences on the future of South Sudan. It is, therefore, high time for President Salva Kiir to be heedful of massive call for reverting to 10 states.
The 32-state project does no public good to South Sudan. It was planned, and implemented in the interest of the government, and not in the public interest. At first, in October 2015, the government started by presidential decree of 28 states. On 24th December 2015, they appointed their 28 governors contravening the ARCISS, at a time when the SPLM-IO Advance Team had just arrived in Juba on 21st December 2015. The government spearheaded the new state-creation project; no people, not even Dinka Grassroots, other than JCE members, demanded to create one. It was in the public domain media that we learnt about government plans and debates about their project. For example, the Radio Tamazuj 2nd October 2015 news entitled “Kiir and Makuei want 28 states,” reported President Kiir to have questioned the feasibility of that project. Hesitant in creating new states, he questioned the financial feasibility of new states. However, the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) and more influential cabinet ministers mounted undue pressure on him till he succumbed to their demand. Thus, it was the government (of few Nuer and Dinka) crafting manipulative means of political survival by creating more states in their desire to prolong their dictatorial rule. All this political manoeuvre was in direct abrogation of the ARCISS signed in August 2015 and yet the government got away with it without being held accountable. Instead, the government, in the aftermath of the J1 clashes, felt regionally and internationally rewarded for abrogating the agreement, encouraging their desire for further creation of states to grow.
On 27th January 2017, they added 4 more states (now 32 in aggregate) by chopping the well-loved Upper Nile State. Upper Nile State irrefutably a cosmopolitan metropolis but now split into unviable pieces of states fraught with tribal land disputes. The regime did it purposely to appease their cohorts in exchange for loyalties, risking further partitioning and ungovernability of such unviable states with an inadequate resource base. This, in our view, is why you can today see pro-32 state demonstrations mobilised by 32 governors and SPLM in Government (SPLM IG). These government-mobilised demonstrations are nothing but mere government propaganda, always taking advantage of the ignorance of the people. The participants of those pro-32 state demonstrations are the direct beneficiary of 32 states project – a tiny fraction of Dinka community plus non-Dinka political stooges or kleptocrats seeking positions in government. They are government appointees and are in no way representatives of any constituents, whatsoever.
What the regime persistently perpetuates is an abusive use of sovereignty as a political tool of repression, land grabbing and marginalisation of 63 tribes as well as of human right abuses. This unceasing abuse of South Sudan sovereignty and of power by the Juba regime is extremely heinous and unacceptable. Regional and international powers must deter it if the powerless and the voiceless are to survive. It is well known the world over that a state that has turned against its citizen and has failed to protect them loses sovereignty by default. South Sudan lost sovereignty ever since it began slaughtering innocent citizens in 2013. Sovereignty should not be used as a green card to oppress the people.
It is therefore against the backdrop of sovereignty abuse that we as peace-loving South Sudanese in the United Kingdom strongly demand reverting to less controversial and legal 10 states. Let us fully reinstate them such that the 64 tribes may again as one people co-exist peacefully and build a vibrant, prosperous and diverse nation of South Sudan. Reverting to 10 states will, not only provide 64 tribes with an opportunity to restore or amend inter-community relations (social fabric, sense of unity and identity based-on true nationhood) but also offer them a politically levelled field and a common ground upon which to discuss and manage their national affairs amicably and non-violently.
Long live the Republic of South Sudan! Long Live unity of 64 tribes!
David D. G. Pal
Founder & Executive Director, South Sudanese Community Initiatives Centre (SSCIC), UK.
Former Secretary-General of Upper Nile State
Former Assistant to General Secretary, SPLM IO
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