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ANALYSIS:- The New “States Deadlock” and Future of The SPLM/A-IO

By Deng Elijah,

Dr. Riek Machar Teny, First Vice President and the Chairman of the SPLM/A-IO during an IGAD submit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Photo Credit: Nyamilepedia.)
Dr. Riek Machar Teny, First Vice President and the Chairman of the SPLM/A-IO during an IGAD summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Photo Credit: Nyamilepedia.)

May 30, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Looking at the overall political landscape and how the main armed opposition, the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition(SPLM-IO), has handled negotiations and foreign relations from the onset in December 2013 or from the days of establishment of the SPLM/A-IO in April 2014, it won’t be surprising if the SPLM-IO compromises one or two states in what is now brewing to be another deadlock. The SPLM-IO has consciously or accidentally compromised on many lucrative ideals before; however, for the sake of clarity I will not descend into the literature in this article but I will dwell on the case at the bar – the new “deadlock” on the responsibility sharing formula and establishment of the local governments.

The Arithmetic:

First thing first, who would have thought that the South Sudanese elite politicians could not solve a simple arithmetic call “division”  to an extent that they would refer themselves to R-JMEC for further arbitration for a formula that was already determined during the previous negotiations. Thanks Dr. Lam Akol, who exhaustively explained the logic behind the concept of “Round-Off” and the order that should be followed when a conflict of interests arise but did that change anything?  We will revisit this logic in a moment!

As many people would argue, the ongoing re-negotiation of the responsibility sharing formula is ill-founded and completely baseless given that there is a peace agreement that clearly spells how the states and local governments should be divided among the parties. The simplest arithmetic the parties should adhere to are the responsibility sharing ratios described below:

As described in Chapter 1, article 1.16. 1 through to article 1.16.4, of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, each of the parties should know what to expect but as they say “the evil is in the details”, let’s try this once again. Let’s walk through two options that the parties should have pursued before we arrive at the conclusion:

1. Option One:

Based on the peace document(above) and as explained by Dr. Lam Akol and others, whom we had benefit to read their analyses, 55% of 10 states, 27% of 10 states, 10% of 10 states and 8% of 10 states are 5.5, 2.7, 1.0 and 0.8 respectively, and given that the parties are only interested in natural numbers, it is therefore necessary to round these numbers off to the nearest natural number. Without diving into full arithmetic on rounding off numbers, 2.7 and 0.8 qualify for Case B and 1.0 and 5.5 qualify for Case C rules which state:

  • CASE B: In rounding off numbers, the last figure kept should be increased by 1 if the first figure dropped is greater than 5.
  • CASE C: In rounding off numbers, if the first figure dropped is 5, and all the figures following the five are zero or if there are no figures after the 5, then the last figure kept should be unchanged 

Therefore, according to Case B rule, the last digit kept from 2.7 and 0.8 should be increased by 1 and become 3 and 1, respectively. This means, whereas the SPLM-IO should be entitled to 3 states, OPPs would be entitled to 1 state. Similarly, and based on Case C, the last digit kept from 5.5 and 1.0 should remain unchanged as 5 and 1, and therefore the SPLM-IG should be entitled to 5 states and SSOA would be entitled to 1 state. This should be non-negotiable except in our South Sudan where we are defying established world orders!

To reiterate, based on the revitalized peace agreement and operational rules of arithmetic, the SPLM-IG is entitled to 5 states and the oppositions are entitled to the other 5 states in the ratios of 3:1:1 for SPLM/A-IO, SSOA and OPP, respectively. All those mumbo-jumbo arguments from Hon. Michael Makuei and Hon. Martin Elia are the very reasons they were sanctioned for by the international community and they should be trashed. Besides, the same formula was used recently to create the cabinet and it worked perfectly fine, why now?

2. Option Two:

This option is a bit more complicated: one, because it constitutes a violation to the peace agreement and two, because of the conflict of interests and fragile circumstances that drive these unilateral decisions. In other words, because of its fluidity, this option is what should have delayed the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity and as such it is what may require more negotiations.  So what exactly are we insinuating in this option?


As many South Sudanese are aware of, the country will not be governed precisely based on ten states but on ten states plus three administrative areas. The three administrative areas, which were unilaterally created by president Salva Kiir and conditionally accepted by the oppositions, are literally states in their own capacity and as such they should be added to the equation and put on the table for grab. We shall revisit this again shortly but assuming that the administrative areas were up for grab, this is how the responsibility sharing ratio would look like:

The Propositions:

  • The SPLM-IG should get 55% of 13  or 7.15 states and administrative areas;
  • The SPLM/A-IO should get 27% of 13 or 3.51 states and administrative areas,
  • The SSOA should get 10% of 13 or 1.3 states and/or  administration areas
  • The OPP should get 8% of 13 or 1.04 states and/or administrative areas;

Based on the standard rules of round-off explained in Option One earlier, and given that the parties are only interested in natural numbers, the propositions above would be rounded off to 7:4:1:1 ratios for SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO, SSOA and OPP, respectively. In other words, if the administrative areas and the states were reshuffled altogether and served as states, the SPLM in Government would end up with a total of 7 states, SPLM in Opposition with 4 states, South Sudan Opposition Alliance with 1 state and Opposition Political Parties with 1 state.  Therefore, the SPLM-IG would lose one or two states and the SPLM-IO would gain one or two states if the parties adopt this option, surprisingly they are all acting as if this option should never exist. Let’s find out why: 

The Administrative Areas:

To break a deadlock on the number and boundaries of states, president Salva Kiir reverted his unilaterally created 32 states to 10 states plus three administrative areas on February 15, 2020. Little did the opposition see the hidden agenda and complications that came with this decision but for the sake of peace, they conditionally accepted whatever it was not minding that the government was just shifting its goal post from one deadlock to another. Below are more problems with this decision:

  • They are Not Governed by the Peace Agreement and the Transitional Constitution

The peace talks, and therefore the peace agreement, never tackled the administration of administrative areas, presumably because they should be regarded as states, and therefore no article in the ARCISS and R-ARCISS provides a formula on how to govern administrative areas. Taking advantage of this grey area, the SPLM-IG was quick to instruct president Kiir to create and claim the administration of the administrative areas. Where on earth would you cut off a quarter of a country and claim to govern it outside the constitution of that country?

This was not only a violation to the peace agreement but an unequivocal dealbreaker. In retrospect, history has it that Salva Kiir created 32 states package outside the peace agreement in October 2015 intentionally to paralyze the August 2015 Peace Agreement(ARCISS), and yet again, 4 1/2 years later, on February 15 2020, he tweaked his old monkey business using exactly the same concept in the same way he did in 2015 to inherently violate R-ARCISS with intent to paralyze the new peace agreement. If you were in this position, playing your cards aggressively well, the world would expect dissidence from the other opposition and general public; however, in Salva Kiir’s world it is his own delegation that continues to create more chaos. In other parts of the world, there is a saying in Swahili that “mtaka yote hukosa yote” which literally means “he/she who wants all, loses all”. We will revisit this again in a minute!  

  • The Main Issue With Administration of Administrative Areas

First of all, the South Sudanese need to understand that the three administrative areas are actually the richest parts of South Sudan given the natural resources, oil and wildlife reserves, that are endowed in these three administrative areas. In fact, the wealth of these three administrative areas combined may come very close to the wealth of the ten states combined and therefore they should not be governed in the shadows of J1. For these reasons, the administrative areas should be equated to states and put on the table for grab to be administered through the R-ARCISS and Transitional Constitution of the country otherwise if the SPLM-IG chooses to pick the three administrative areas as their first choices, then they should be left to pick only four out of the remaining ten states.  

In the very worst case scenario, should it be the case that the administrative areas have to be governed in the presidency, then they should be governed by the presidency as a whole but not by one individual in the pretext of “the office of the president”. This was never discussed by the parties either in Addis Ababa or in Juba, and therefore it needs to be addressed now; otherwise, if it takes a new round of negotiations, then be it. Should these negotiations lead to a new deadlock, then that deadlock would be legitimate, and the parties may decide to freeze the administrative areas and form a committee to resolve this issue – just like the security arrangement and other contentious issues.

The Dinosaur in the Room

Now, considering the fact that the opposition parties, and especially the SPLM/A-IO, haved compromised on many critical issues that include but not limited to the following:

  1. Creation and governing of three administrative areas in an opened violation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement;
  2. Security Arrangement – amalgamation, training and redeployment of the unified forces as well as collection of long-ranged missiles;
  3. Demilitarization of the major cities and civilian centers;
  4. The two armies – First Vice President protection unit or bodyguards;
  5. The 4 Rs – Reforms, repairation, rehabilitation and repatriation;
  6. Justice and Accountability;
  7.  Among others;

It suffice to deduce that the dinosaur in the room is not just a matter of what the SPLM/A-IO could compromise but how president Salva Kiir and his inner circle ( the Jieng Council of Elders and advisers) are fighting for a winner-take-all quid pro quo. In other word, even if the SPLM/A-IO compromise one or two more states, or even all the states – just like they have compromised on security arrangement and other critical fundamentals – the SPLM-IG will continue to advance its grisps on power to make sure that the entire SPLM/A-IO is completely dismantled and its leadership is erased from the equation. Given how things stand at the moment, this could just be a matter of time but it is a work in progress; however, the ambitious project could also backfire as hinted above- “mtaka yote hukosa yote” 


1- On one hand, it is highly recommendable for the parties to respect and adhere to the responsibility sharing Ratios and all the other relevant articles of the R-ARCISS; however, having analyzed the intent of president Kiir and his inner circle, it would be wiser to recommend to the parties, and especially the SPLM-IO, to compromise to share one of the states with the SPLM-IG in their respective ratios. In this sense, to break the ice, the SPLM-A/IO would take the governor of the shared state and leave the deputy position of that shared state to the SPLM-IG and see what the government has to offer in return. As hinted earlier on, this would serve as a short-term solution to resolve some of the outstanding issues; however, it is not a permanent solution by itself!

2- With regards to the administration of the administrative areas, I would recommend as explained above that either the parties choose the second option (Option Two above) and put both the states and administrative areas on the table for grab or alternative, the administrative areas should be managed collectively bet the presidency and not by the office of the president alone!

The author, Deng Elijah, is the Executive Director of Nyamilepedia; however, the views expressed in this article do not represent the views of Nyamilepedia Press and its management. For more information, you can reach the author through his email at dengsimon2000 at yahoo dot com or through his social media: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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