By Peter Gai Manyuon
The idea of “Federalism” in South Sudan does not emanate from the SPLM-in Opposition nor does it stem from Equatorians (as claimed)but it was first proposed long time ago by some prominent South Sudanese politicians who were by then in parliament in Khartoum. These politicians got fed up with the system in Khartoum and proposed that they needed federal states (they wanted to govern and manage their people and resources by themselves). Their call for federal states was never accepted by Khartoum. This subsequently resulted to Hon. Both Diu saying “refuse it but we will rebel against this to have our own autonomy”
Though it is popularly wanted by the people of South Sudan, however, the SPLM-in Opposition and Equatorians should not use it as their hard-earned agenda without acknowledging the producer, Hon. Both Diu. This is a real plagiarism (stealing of Gatdiu’s patents).
Honorable Both Diu was also the one who advocated for self-determination of the people of South Sudan. Dr Machar and Dr Lam Akol also advocated for it after realizing the goodness of self-determination, likewise to Federalism but they were not the ones behind the program to adopt the system. Absolutely people like Dr Machar and Dr Akol should be appreciated because they vigorously continued the flight for self-determination and implemented it through advocacy but for the case of Federalism; all appreciations should go to Hon. Both Diu even though he is not alive. There is no short cut in the history; this is the time of documenting what is real because we don’t want others to take other people’s initiatives.
Most of the South Sudanese globally and in South Sudan as well have misinterpreted the concept for Federalism. Most people have taken it as personal/tribal agenda which I think might not be the case. To the way I have viewed the issue, it is something very unique that just needs good advocacy and more enlightenment in order for the illiterate people to understand the pros and cons of the federalism in South Sudanese context. Unless otherwise those who don’t accept federalism can be called anti-peace and development because they have not seen what has taken back the people of South Sudan to square one.
Hence, Federalism is a political philosophy in which a group of members are bound together with a governing representative head. The term federalism is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units like states or provinces. Federalism is a system in which the power to govern is shared between national and central state governments, creating what is often called a federation. Proponents are often called federalists.
Moreover, the perception of some individual persons about Federalism is something that needs good advocacy so that those who have not understood the concept should learn more other than opposing it without good convincing the people of South Sudan.
Well, Federalism has various advantages for the country like South Sudan where social diseases like tribalism, corruption and nepotism and arbitrary arrests and killings are the only objectives and visions of Kiir Mayardit’s government in Juba.
However, I ran an article last year, May 2013 on my Column titled “Educating the nation” with Juba Monitor Newspaper in South Sudan about Federalism. After some time, order came from the highest authority to suspend my column for some weeks because the Managing Editor was intimidated. Many people gave me calls, others were appreciating the article but others were threatening me with arrests and disappearance. But now, what is happening? Everyone is talking about it (federalism) everywhere in South Sudan.
First of all federalism creates and fosters patriotism and loyalty to the state. Many Americans feel close to their home states. They feel loved and owned by their state authorities. Federalism maintains the close relationships between the federal states and the people by giving power to the least important people in the grassroots.
Practices pragmatism; running a country the size of the United States, with such a diverse population, is much easier to do if power is given to local officials. Likewise, state and local officials are closer to the problems of their areas, so it makes sense for them to choose policies to solve those problems. Why not South Sudanese to adopt this system of governance?
Federalism creates laboratories of democracy. This means that state governments can experiment on other federal countries’ policies and can learn from their successes and failures. Many politicians specifically in Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) are always advocating for democratic reforms in the country, why not implementing this system when peace come to South Sudan?
In other hand, it also leads to political stability, by removing the national government from some contentious issue areas, federalism allowed the early United States government to achieve and maintain stability, if there is Federal system introduced in South Sudan in due time, South Sudan will be the stable nation globally.
Encourages pluralism , Federal system expand government on national, state, and local levels, giving people more access to leaders and opportunities to get involved in their government.
It as well ensures the separation of powers and prevents tyranny, Even if one person or group take control of all three branches of the federal government, federalism ensures that state governments would still function independently. Federalism, therefore, fulfills the framers’ vision of a governmental structure that ensures liberty.
In any system globally there are pros and cons and for federalism it prevents the creation of a national policy. The United States of America does not have a single policy on issues. Instead, it has fifty-one policies, which often leads to confusion.
Secondly, it leads to a lack of accountability; the overlap of the boundaries among national and state governments makes it tricky to assign blame for failed policies.
And lastly, it creates citizen ignorance. Critics argue that federalism cannot function well due to ignorance and in South Sudan there is too much ignorance.
The way forward
If South Sudan is at peace, then federalism can peacefully be introduced without it being misinterpreted by people, but because there is too much mess in the country right now, people are ethnically divided and this has led to poor discussions over the matter. I would like to urge the two parties to come to common understanding and thereafter federalism will come automatically.
Each and every South Sudanese knows that federalism is what most of the South Sudanese communities are advocating for but rectification of the current crisis is very important before anything. I had experienced in this discussion about federalism, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, I was among the civil society groups that moved to all the ten states of the Republic of South Sudan, and what the Civil Society Resource Team on the Constitution got on the ground was the call for federalism. So, it is something liked by the majority in South Sudan.
Out of ten states, only one state refused the idea of federalism. People of Equatoria and the SPLM-in Opposition should not put it in their heads that they are the ones who first started advocating for federalism. If anyone wants, I can also forward to him/her what the civil society gathered for the last three years.
The Government of South Sudan under Kiir Mayardit and the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition under Dr Machar should come up with the solutions to address the ongoing crisis rather than talking on something that will be resolved by the people of South Sudan as a whole afterwards. Introducing a new system of governance needs consensus and good enlightenment so that citizens get informed properly. The call for federalism is for all South Sudanese but for those who are not informed or who have not carried out any research claimed to have been the ones behind federal system of governance advocacy. Why didn’t you ask Civil Society Resource Team on the Constitution to tell you more about the work they carried out?
In conclusion, the federalism agenda was a system proposed long time ago when Sudanese were still one and it was accepted by then, therefore what is remaining is coming for the peace first and thereafter, the system will be adopted quickly. How can we introduce the system when people are still in the mess? Who will understand it? Will people not take it as divide and rule policy? Let us be realistic when we’re talking about something obvious. Talking about reforms within the SPLM as a party and the Nuer massacre that was carry out in Juba last year 2013 December , is what people should talk about in Addis-Ababa right now and the world at large. All South Sudanese are for Federalism based on the Constitutional dialogues which were carried out by South Sudanese Civil Society Organizations under the umbrella of Resource Team on the Constitutional making process.
The author is Independent Journalist and Columnist who has written extensively on the issues of Democratization and Human Rights in South Sudan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.