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Federalism in South Sudan.

By Mawut Guarak January 20, 2008 --The Chukudum Convention of April 1994 (commonly known as the First SPLM National Convention) clearly laid out how New Sudan (South Sudan, Nuba Mountains/Southern Kordofan, Ingessina/Blue Nile, and Abyei) ought to be governed. It was in this convention that the Civil Administration of the New Sudan (CANS) was born on the premises of federalism, thanks to the chairman of that convention, late Cdr. Yussif Kuwa Mekki, for pushing this superb idea. Although there were many agenda on the table in that convention, restructuring of the movement was the best SPLM had to get out of Chukudum. A clear line was drawn between the SPLM, SPLA, and the civil administration. The convention specifically defined the duties of each institution and their collaborative roles in pursing the same objective. Despite hardships of the time, the First SPLM National Convention revitalized the movement and energized the 'people' one more time. People were able to better understand the government because it got closer to them. Eleven years later, the most magnificent document of the life time was produced out of Naivasha negotiations--the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This document paid closer attention to governance than any other issue in the Sudan. It is the foundation on which the interim constitutions (federal, regional, and state) were based. Yet to be recalled, the SPLM was guided by articles and system put in place in Chukudum. The First SPLM National Convention and the CPA emphasized on the importance of federalism in the Sudan. The word "federal" or its synonyms are commonly visible in the two documents. After intensive two years of negotiations in Kenya, a government of national unity was formed to hold the country together for the next six years until the internationally monitored referendum in South Sudan and Abyei. Juba-based Government of South Sudan (GOSS) was also born as a result of the CPA. Guided by the First SPLM National Convention and the CPA, the GOSS backed federal system of government as the best form to make goods and services reach the last person in the countryside. That was the idea of the late Chairman, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, of taking 'towns to the people' than the reverse. Federal form of government is the best way to reach to the most disadvantaged of whom the SPLM/A fought for. In federalism, the powers of government are divided between the central, regional, state, and local governments. The constitution clearly spelt out the duties of each level of government in Sudan and South Sudan in particular. Federalist in the SPLM and South Sudan seemed to understand the significance of such government whereas anti-federalist in the Movement and GOSS opposed it. Despite the differences, those elements in the SPLM and South Sudan who could not agree have since reconciled their dissimilarities and have agreed to form a government (based on federalist ideals) that works for the common citizen. In August 2005, the people of South Sudan witnessed a flag that has been denied flying on the roof of the best building in Juba. The Parliament of South Sudan was inaugurated and its work commenced. Shortly thereafter, the parliament backed the SPLM and CPA articles on federalism declaring that the 10 states of South Sudan be federally governed. Not perfectly sure about the texture of such laws but they do exist in theory. Yet, I doubt that any of them has been or is being implemented in any way necessary. In stead, Juba often times contradicts itself by not respecting the rule of law it made; it frequently interferes in issues that are not constitutionally spelt out for its level of government. I may be mistaken understanding the Constitution of South Sudan but I have read it about five times since adoption in 2005. Nothing in that constitution gives the GOSS permission to interfere in state, county, payam, or buma duties unless it is a "national security problem." However, GOSS, in the final half of 2008 unforgivably ignored the rule of law and broke almost every single one of them as far as federalism is concerned. At the 6th Governors' Forum held in Juba, President Kiir promised that his government was going to hand more powers and constitutional authorities to the state and local governments as a means to reach down to the local population. This possibly means that the central government in Juba was to respect state and local governments in their provision of goods and services to the people, policy making, and ability to generate revenue as long as it does not interfere with national policies/security. However, in just a matter of weeks, Juba issued a decree ordering the leveling of governors' salaries in the ten states of South Sudan. This contradictory verdict came directly from the office of President Kiir in consultation with the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources. Following the orders, Ms. Awut was quick to travel and start implementing the law with out due process and consultation with appropriate institutions such as the South Sudan Legislative Assembly. It is unclear to this writer, and maybe to you, the reader, if this move was presented to, and approved, by the South Sudan Legislative Assembly. If a true federal system was in place, the central government in Juba has no right whatsoever, under any circumstances, to demand for unification of salaries in state and local governments. The state governments are mandated by the constitution to raise their own revenues; therefore, it's up to each state to pay her public servants however it wants as long as it has money to do so. If Juba is to interfere in such little house-keeping activities, what constitutional power do state and local governments have? Why federalism in the first place? It is not to be argued that Juba interference in local activities is as a result of financial support it appropriates to state and local governments because the money is part of its core function as a central government. This money is channeled in form of aid and grant to balance the budget gap that such levels of government may experience. In other words, it is a jump start to the state and local economies. Precisely, it is a sole duty of a federal government to provide such aid and grants to lower governments in order to maintain its legitimacy as a unifying body where all ten states come together. But looking at how Juba has conducted itself over the last three and a half years, there is no such a thing as federalism in South Sudan. Juba intervention in state salaries is not the only conflicting move taken by the GOSS since its birth. GOSS went even lower to county's level. A good example is that of a former commissioner of Juba, Mr. Albert Pitia, who was fired for practicing his constitutional authority at the county's level. By the authority vested in him as commissioner, the former head of Juba County in conjunction with county's government had every right to make laws in his jurisdiction. Legally, he issued a decree banning untraditional importation of failed cultures from other countries and asked the youths to live up to their cultures and customs. After directing the local law enforcement for implementation, the highest office in the land interfered leading to his immediate dismissal. Mr. Pitia became a victim of a system that parallels itself. While addressing the units of Manyang-dit and Tit-baai battalions (militias trained in Panyido and Tharpham), Dr. John Garang warned that people's cultures must be respected. "That is the law of land," warned the late Chairman. "If Agaar goes to Ngok, he must be Ngok; If Malual goes to Bor, he must be Bor; and if Bor goes to Agaar, he must be Agaar. That is the law of God," John Garang stressed to the graduating battalions. This statement is self-evidence that the SPLM/A fought for dignity and freedom of all citizens. When a lot of Sudanese migrated to North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, they became ones of those countries. For instance, those who went to Australia became Australians and those in the United States became Americans and so forth. That is the law of God. There is no way a Sudanese who settled in Canada would turn Canadians into Sudanese unless something is really wrong in the system; the reverse ought to be true, however. That was one more reason Africans in Sudan went to war to protect their cultures and way of life. They went to war because it makes no sense for Arabs, who crossed into Africa not too long ago, to turn Sudan into an Islamic Arab state. It is them (the Arabs) who should be Africans, not the reverse. Under federalism, each state, county, and even lower levels (payam and buma) have right to govern themselves and live up to local cultures and customs. That is why federalism was adopted during the movement to promote all cultures, traditions, and respect for all. In essence, every citizen has a right to move and live anywhere in the country but must respect indigenous rules and cultures where he chooses to reside. For instance, if a Mundari decides to move to Torit, he has every right as citizen of New Sudan to do so but must live according to the native custom of Torit. One can only do what he/she feels comfortable in his/her own residence, not in public places to undermine the local rule of law. In the above example if one is aware of the rule and opt to break it anyway, he must pay the price without interference from any level of government. If a Murle, for instance, whom life depends on livestock decides to migrate and settle in Magwi County where local population lives on crop production, he must not gainsay the local law of land by coming in with cows and/or do things that are not part of the local custom. He (the Murleman) can either leaves the cows and conform to the local custom or do not move altogether. This example is applicable to every person or party, including the government in South Sudan. SPLM chose federalism as a means to compromise the diversity of the South Sudanese and its customs. South Sudan is a nation of nationalities. There are too many cultures and customs that exist in it. However, its population is bond by the tradition of Africanism, tolerance, and respect. Like autonomy, federalism gives every locality a chance to be a master of its own jurisdiction. Therefore, each state, county, payam, or buma has a constitutional right to punish those who wish to import negative cultures and no government from above or below is justified to interfere. South Sudan does not have "niggers." Those who chose to be "niggers" have option to give up, accept punishment or resettle to where niggers are. That is fair and correct. It is undeniable that Juba is the capital of South Sudan and belongs to all South Sudanese; but the city of Juba is not and should not be governed by the GOSS or the Government of Central Equatoria who also has its headquarters in the city. It is and always should be governed by the County of Juba and city council in particular; that is the law of God. Any citizen, whether of Sudan origin or from any part of the world who chooses to live in any city across South Sudan must understand that it is his/her responsibility to conform to the local norms and traditions or pay the price of deviancy. Having discussed these, why then, was the former commissioner of Juba fired? Who sacked him and was the move constitutionally justified? Answering these queries is critical and challenging for those who lead the government. Arguably, the President has over-used his authority and so did the ministry that was involved. If Commissioner Pitia's action was intrusive with national security, the Ministry of Legal Affairs was the first to intervene with directions from the presidency, not the President of South Sudan or SPLM secretariat as it was the case. The former commissioner of Juba was amiss terminated for doing what was right for the people of Juba and South Sudan. He became a victim of vacuum, hollow system with no due process whatsoever. The examples discussed above are just a few of many that have confused the population of New Sudan. There are two forms of government that are practicable in the world today: one that looks like in Kenya (centralized) and the other like in the United States (federalism or decentralized). Both of which are perfect as long as they are practically understood by the governed. It is up to those in power to chose, make a law about it, and teach the population about what form of government is in place and why. The government should not teach one thing and does the other. South Sudan is a young nation, the youngest in the world, and those in authority must be extremely careful about every step they take. In so doing, the marginalized will board the same boat and learn what is in front within. If one thing is taught and another is done, citizens with mediocre knowledge about centralized and decentralized forms of government are completely lost whereas those with no knowledge are misguided. I must not be misunderstood there is nothing wrong with either centralized or decentralized government, or the President of South Sudan interfering in state, county, payam, or buma levels. However, whatever form of government must be clarified in the book of law so as to avoid misguidance and confusion. In conclusion, each level of government must respect regional constitutional and act within its powers. Interference by the most powerful is a rule of jungle that has no room in modern government. It only spread fear and injustice, making it hard for the local authorities to provide goods and services to the people. This is time for Juba to encourage creativity and cohesiveness in all levels of government. Mawut Guarak holds a BA in Political Science/International Relations and an MPA in Public Administration; he resides and works in New York and can be reached at

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Jan 21, 2009
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