Federalism for South Sudan

By Simon Kulusika


South Sudan states by region (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

October 11 2018 (Nyamilepedia) – Federalism is proposed for SS in light of the failure of the current political system to achieve national cohesion and realize the political aspirations of the people. One may decry the effects inherent in the prevailing system as well as throws blames on the political leaders for failure to make the system work effectively and efficiently.

The current governance system in SS is based upon the principles and rules of powers devolution. That is the national government sheds some of its inferior powers to the states with strings attached. The main feature of such an arrangement is that the national government is free to withdraw all or some of the devolved powers as it thinks fit. The President of the Republic may dismiss a governor of a state without following laid down constitutional procedures.

The President also may create new states, dissolve existing ones and redraw the boundaries of states without consultation. Such acts and decisions negate the spirit, principles and rules organizing a federal system of government. As a result, there have been cries from the states denouncing frequent interference of Juba in affairs of states.

The federal system that is being advocated for SS can be called or classified as a true federation, a strong federation or classical federation. This type of federation realizes the ideals of ‘unity in diversity’. It is not a unitarian federation. This kind of federation permits indiscriminate interference by the national government in the affairs of states. It is not called quasi – federal system because that term creates more confusion when it comes to define powers of the national government and states limits of powers.

A classical federation is based upon the following pillars of democracy:  it is governed by the principles that powers of the national government and that of each state are derived from a written national constitution as the supreme law of the land. The national constitution cannot be amended by ordinary legislative procedures. An amendment requires a certain percentage, such as 2/3 or 3/4 majority of both Houses of the legislature. In addition an amendment of the national constitution must be ratified by 2/3 or 3/4 majority of all the states for the amendment to be assented to by the President to become law.

The national constitution must define clearly the distribution of powers between the national government and the states. The national constitution should define the exercise of concurrent powers.

There should be an independent and impartial judiciary at national and state levels. The courts are the custodian of the constitution and they interpret the provisions of the constitution in case of conflict between the national government and the states or among the states. There shall be one Supreme Court for the whole country and one final court of appeal on constitutional matters. This court shall be called as the Constitutional Court.

The existence of the federation is to be conditioned by centre – state cooperation, coordination and national integration.

A federation will respond positively to the political aspirations of the people. One must be reminded that the socio – political organizations of the majority of the people of SS are based on confederation (e.g., Dinka – clan confederations).

It is claimed by the unitarianists that federation will lead to separation. This claim cannot be supported by any evidence. There are many countries in the world flourishing under federal system of governance,  e.g., Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, USA, etc. Federation enhances unity in diversity. It enables people states to manage their local affairs. It gives people the opportunity to choose and determine the types of policy that are suitable to their environment. These policy priorities will be agreed upon by the people than dictated from the national government in Juba.

There should be compatibility between structure of government in the centre and in the states. For example, where the national executive is called President, a state chief officer should be designated as Governor. The President and the Governor should be subject to recall by the electorates or both must be subjected to impeachment processes by the respective Lower Houses of the legislature.  

Where the national executive is a collective one (e.g., State Council with PM as chief administrator), the chief officer of a state may be called prime minister or first minister. Any of the chief officers loses his or her job through a motion of no – confidence in the Lower House of their respective legislative houses. They may also be amenable to impeachment where necessary.

The national constitution must contain specific provisions on impeachment, recall, and no – confidence motion. These provisions should cover cases involving Superior Court judges, Attorney – general and Directors of Public Prosecutions at all levels of government.

Whatever adverse arguments that might be advanced against federal system of government, such as, its costs and the proliferation of civil servants, it is the best political arrangement that minimizes claims of lack of participation in governance. For a vast country as SS and taking into account ethnic and linguistic diversity federation operates to bridge those differences.

The author, Simon Kulusika, is an associate Professor of Laws Zambian Open University (Zaou)


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