By Hon. Timothy Tot Chol,
April 8, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — South Sudanese began demanding a federal arrangement with Northern Sudan since 1947 when the Sudan was still a British colony. Federalism, as understood by many, is a governing system of shared rule and self-rule. It is therefore a governing system in which power is divided between federal constituent units at the national, state and county levels.
The concentration of power and resources in Juba to the exclusion of the other federal constituents (state and counties), are common problems of our existing decentralized system of government under President kiir. In our proposed federal structure, it is hoped that most problems associated with power sharing and allocation of resources will be addressed. Diversity will be respected; tension and conflict will be reduced. Federalism will give lower governmental structures the right to self-rule and control over their own destiny under the united state of the Republic of South Sudan.
The modern political history of South Sudan reveals that it was part of a unitary state of the Republic of Sudan that Britain and Egypt colonized under a Condominium arrangement. Sudan got its Independence in 1956 in the midst of Southern rebellion under the Anya-Nya Movement. The British handed over the Sudan to Northern political elites to the exclusion of South Sudanese who became dissatisfied with the distribution of the national cake.
In 1972 an Ethiopian brokered peace, the Addis Ababa Agreement, was signed. South Sudan was granted an autonomous status which crumbled in 1983 leading to the second rebellion under the SPLM/A.
In 2005 the SPLM/A under the leadership of late Dr. John Garang and the Khartoum Regime under Omar Hassen Al Bashir, signed what became the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Under the terms of this Agreement the South was to govern itself for an interim period of six years after which they would be allowed to vote in a referendum to choose between unity of Sudan and separation and establishment of an independent state of their own.
In July 2011, Southern Sudanese voted for Independence and declared a country of their own and became the number 193 in the family of nations (UN).
South Sudan is a land of much diversity. There are over sixty tribes or ethnic groups. They practice Christianity, Islam and African Religions making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Experience has proven that few multicultural states are stable as is the case in the former states of the Soviet Union, Asia and Africa. This situation is caused by the monopolization of state political and economic power by the majority group elites to the disadvantage of other minority groups and the failure of the former to recognize the importance of the involvement of the excluded minority groups in the state building process. Therefore, for a diverse multicultural state to be stable, it is important for the political leaders to implement just, democratic and inclusive policies.
One such arrangement that can facilitate the creation of a politically stable state and society is the adoption of a federal system of government. Under the anticipated reforms proposed by SPLM/A –IO, a crafted process with ideals of a new South Sudan nation building that will involve stakeholders from the South’s diverse communities is important and necessary.
Although President Kiir has frustrated the efforts of building a united multicultural and harmonious society in the new state of South Sudan through his regime’s corruption, tribalism, nepotism and disregard for the rule of law, the current crisis must be squarely placed on his head. As the President and head of government he should have known better, done better and avoided what we have got into today. Surely, the current crisis is the result of the President’s impunity and failure to manage his government by good example. Unfortunately, the current crisis is the end result of that inaction.
Students of political and social sciences will agree with me that when political, social and economic government structures and their policies promote and protect discriminatory policies, the potential for social tension and violent conflict will be high. Similarly, the inability of the state to deal with the socio-economic sources of poverty and social evils and perversions, eventually will fuel feelings of injustice, frustration with the government and eventual its rejection by the people.
Despite the fact that decentralization has been enshrined in the Transitional Constitution as the system of government in South Sudan, President Kiir ignored this and effectively centralized the country. He dismissed state governors and appointed others in their places in violation of the constitution. As mentioned earlier, the decentralized system under President Kiir failed to address the fundamental structural causes of conflicts within our society. As such it is our contention in the SPLM/A – IO that an appropriately designed and publicly owned version of federal system will help to transform our social conflicts into harmony and unity among our people and will address the issues and concerns of South Sudan’s multi-ethnic and multicultural society.
The merits and demerits of federalism have been the subject of hot debates among South Sudanese political groups and intellectuals. Sometimes these debates are informed by personal political interests than reality of our situation. President Kiir and his cohorts reject federalism for obvious reasons of losing some of their powers which they used to intimidate state and county officials and exhort from them money, land and cattle.
Conflict resolution mechanism within the proposed federal arrangement
Effective and efficient functioning of the proposed federal structure will require dynamic conflict resolution mechanisms for addressing conflict between the federal, state and county governments. The Council of states, one of the components of our parliament will be entrusted to deal with any conflicts arising between federal constituents. A constitutional court or any competent court shall also be entrusted to deal with such conflicts.
Similarly, different formal arrangements will be made to deal with intergovernmental financial issues. The South can benefit from experiences of other federal countries that have created councils and commissions to deal with financial related conflicts. E.g. Malaysia, (National Finance Council), Australia, (The commonwealth Grant Commission), and South Africa, (Financial and Fiscal Commission). These bodies will deal with financial and related conflicts among the constituents of the federation.
In a federation the sharing of natural resources among federal units can generate conflict. In such a case an independent authority – natural authority commission – shall be established to address and resolve issues related to land, water; mines and minerals; hydro-electric power, etc. This independent commission will be a useful mechanism for resolving conflict and confusion related to sharing and use of of natural resources. Finally, and to safeguard our federal arrangement, the federal constitution will provide for a referendum on highly contentious issues of national importance. This provision shall be enshrined in the federal constitution.
The SPLM/A –IO proposed federalism in order to fulfill the aspirations and expectations of our people for justice, equality, democracy, rule of law, political stability, development, equal opportunities, pluralism and separation of powers and prevention of impunity and tyranny.
In conclusion, the success and failure of federalism in South Sudan or anywhere will depend on the degree of public acceptance of the form of federalism adopted and the degree of implementation of the basic values and processes in addition to the political will of our leaders. If the principles of federalism are rightly and honestly operationalized and internalized, many conflicts and tensions in our country will be addressed and amicably resolved. Federalism, like any other system of government is not 100% perfect. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. In reality there is no perfect system in the world. Everything is influenced positively or negatively by its environment.
Hon. Timothy Tot Chol, a former MP in the national parliament, is the current National Chairman of Committee for Federalism and Good Governance, and the National Leadership Council, SPLM/A- IO.