By Dr. Lam Akol,
Jan 7, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — On 10 October 2020, I wrote an article commenting on the resolutions taken by the Presidency in its 4th Meeting the day before. In that article I discussed at length what the objective of the Upper Nile Conference should be and how it should be organized. My main thesis was that the conference was an opportunity for the communities in the State to dialogue among themselves so as to reconcile and live in peace and harmony as they used to be for centuries. Therefore, I rejected the idea of tying the conference with the appointment of the Governor of the State which was a matter for the leadership of the SPLM/A-10 and the President to resolve. The people of Upper Nile have nothing to do with it.
As a follow-up on that position, I wrote to the Minister of Cabinet Affairs in Juba on 3 January 2021 a proposal on the holding of the Upper Nile State conference. In that proposal it was suggested that the conference be convened in two stages. First, a Preparatory Committee undertakes the ground work necessary in order to prepare for holding the conference. Second, the Preparatory Committee would then convene the Conference that will deliberate on all the matters of concern to the communities in the State and take the necessary resolutions to bring about the desired reconciliation, healing and unity of the people of Upper Nile State. The pivotal points in the proposal are that the conference is a people-to-people process and must be owned and controlled by the communities in the State; that the Government must be kept out of it because the government’s direct involvement would arouse suspicion as none of the two principals in the peace agreement, and now at the apex of the executive, enjoys the confidence of all the five communities in Upper Nile State. If the purpose for convening the conference was really to help the people of Upper Nile solve their problems such serious matters would have been given serious consideration. But alas!
Yesterday, the 5th instant, a Presidential Order was issued for the formation of a steering committee to convene the Upper Nile Conference. Not only did the order take away the conference from the Upper Nile State communities but it also turned it into a government gathering with the steering committee comprising the top government heavyweights headed by the President, First Vice President, the two Advisors to the President, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, nine Governors, etc. None of them hails from Upper Nile State! It could have easily passed as a National Dialogue! But where on earth is a steering committee headed by the President and the First Vice President? To whom will they report?
The following observations may be made about this Order:
1- The conference is not owned by the people of Upper Nile State. As has already been mentioned, it is being controlled by top executive of the government in Juba for reasons best known to them,
2- The objective of the conference is not spelt out. However, the fact that it is only nine Governors that are mentioned in the Order clearly indicates that by the time of its convening, the Governor of Upper Nile State (the 10th Governor) would not have been appointed and hence, one of the functions of the conference would possibly be to recommend a Governor as came out in the resolutions of the Presidency on 9 December 2020.
3- It is not easy to discern from the terms of reference mentioned in the Order for the steering committee which functions are for the steering committee and which are for the conference. For instance, how can the steering committee “propose a mechanism …to follow up and ensure the implementation of the conference resolutions” which resolutions can only be made by the conference, unless the resolutions are already made for the conference? Also, how did the authors of the Order arrive at three (3) weeks as the time needed to “complete the conference” when the steering committee has not yet sat to assess the volume of work required to prepare for and convene the conference?
In sum, the Presidential Order missed the mark by a wide margin. In its current form, it is unlikely to bring about the desired result of reconciliation, healing and unity of the communities in Upper Nile State.
My appeal to my brothers and sisters in Upper Nile state is that we should not allow ourselves to be used as pawns in the chess board of political gimmickry in Juba. Right now, it is our people that are suffering, it is our people that are displaced internally and externally, it is our people that have no government up to now and it is our people that are made to be at each other’s throats for reasons we are not very clear about. We need to talk to each other rather than at each other. Therefore, we should insist that the Upper Nile State Conference is for our communities and must be owned and controlled by them. We are capable of solving our own problems and face together the challenges ahead.
Dr. Lam Akol is the chairperson of the National Democratic Movement and signatory to the Revitalized Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.
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