By Jacob K. Lupai
July 7, 2014 (SSNA) -- The advice for people to be cautious in the ongoing rebellion in South Sudan is not a matter of taking sides. It is rather advisable for people to be objective and realistic in approaching issues that have been unfortunately seen contributing to the rebellion. The advice is especially to those who are enthusiastic about federalism. Those people should not be carried away by the euphoria of federalism. Without a rebellion federalism was coming. Even the hardliners against federalism were softening up. Federalism was therefore gaining ground where it was at first shunned.
Equatorians will always stand up without fear for equality, justice and prosperity for all in South Sudan regardless of ethnic and regional diversities. This is in contrast to the highly pronounced nouns above as lip service since the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 that ended the North-South war that lasted 22 years. The lip service had its contributory share in the eruption of the violent conflict on 15 December 2013.
Equatorians and indeed peace loving South Sudanese are advised to take their normal position of high moral ground by not joining blindly the rebellion on the pretext of fighting for federalism. This advice will not make peace loving Equatorians cowards but their perspective of life follows their culture of respect and the love for peaceful co-existence.
People may not like to acknowledge it openly that Equatoria is the anchor. Without Equatoria there may hardly be a viable South Sudan. Equatoria should therefore help to resolve the conflict without taking sides in what seems to be an ethnically charged war for leadership of South Sudan. On ethnic dimensions of the conflict the South Sudan Human Rights Commission Interim Report on South Sudan Internal Conflict December 15, 2013 – March 15, 2014 seems to confirm this. One wouldn’t like to replace hegemony with another abhorrent one.
Federalism cannot be imposed by the use of force. A peaceful environment is needed to assess the viability and relevance of federalism to diversities in South Sudan. Besides war in Equatoria to impose federalism means the people of Equatoria will be killing themselves and dying for no good reason in a senseless war only for the benefit of others. This will be contrary to the perception of Equatoria as the most peaceful. In addition, in the communiqué that followed the Equatoria Conference 2011, Equatoria asserts in clear terms that: “Mindful of the suffering of the people of Equatoria in the past decades, we will no longer accept Equatoria land to be used as a battle ground for any senseless bloodshed”.
Causes of ongoing conflict in South Sudan
The ongoing conflict did not just come out of the blue. There must have been something that triggered it. We may therefore need to be searching for clues that led to the start of the conflict.
For our search we may not need to go that far but to refer to the South Sudan Human Rights Commission Interim Report on South Sudan Internal Conflict December 15, 2013 – March 15, 2014. We may also need to refer to The Truth about the Aborted Coup of Dr. Riek Machar and his group of the 15th December 2013; documented by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (7th January 2014). The two mentioned documents highlight the genesis of the ongoing conflict.
The problem seems to have started when Dr Riek Machar as the Vice President openly expressed his desire to challenge President Salva Kiir Mayardit for the leadership of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The response from President Salva Kiir Mayardit was to make a major cabinet reshuffle, aiming at dropping his Vice President, Dr Riek Machar.
The earlier campaign by Dr Riek Machar against President Salva Kiir Mayardit for the leadership of the SPLM and in addition to the cabinet reshuffle helped to precipitate the ongoing conflict. According to the Government own version, at around 5 pm on the 15th December 2013, a group of uniformed soldiers allied to the former Vice President Dr Riek Machar opened fire at Nyokuron Culture Centre where the SPLM National Liberation Council meeting was taking place.
On the surface the campaign against the leadership of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the cabinet reshuffle that appeared to be aimed at the removal of the Vice President, Dr Riek Machar and the subsequent gun fire on the 15th December 2013 in Juba seem to have been the causes of the ongoing conflict. However, there seems to be a deep-seated dissatisfaction with service delivery and the style of leadership.
Unnecessary armed rebellion for federalism
The incident of December 15, 2013 in Juba has become a full blown armed rebellion led by Dr Riek Machar who is citing federalism as one of the reasons for the rebellion. Initially Dr Riek Machar claimed he escaped from Juba for his dear life. Soon thereafter he was the leader of a rebellion, mobilizing to march on Juba with the intention to usurp power by force of arms. To halt the advance of Dr Riek Machar, Uganda intervened while the Intergovernmental Administration and Development (IGAD), the African Union and the UN sprang into action to stop the rebellion turning into something like a destructive wildfire.
The IGAD Communiqué of 25th Extra-Ordinary Summit of South Sudan in part: Urges the Parties to fully comply with and implement Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement and its Implementation Modalities as well as show their political will and commitment to end the war, and take all necessary measures to encourage the Parties to abide by the Agreement; and Reminds the Parties to negotiate in good-faith guided by the spirit of give and take, tolerance and accommodation and respect the politics of zero-sum-game.
In part the IGAD Agreement to Resolve the Crisis in South Sudan Addis Ababa 9 May 2014, the Parties: Agree that a transitional government of national unity will offer the best chance for the people of South Sudan to take the country forward; and that such a government shall oversee government functions during a transitional period, implement critical reforms as negotiated through the peace process, oversee a permanent constitutional process, and guide the country to new elections; and thus direct our respective representatives to the IGAD-led peace process to negotiate the terms of a transitional government of national unity;
It can be seen that everything possible is being done to usher in an era of peace and stability in South Sudan. The ongoing armed rebellion is neither in the national interest, regional nor in international interest. The sooner the rebellion comes to an end the better for the country that is witnessing senseless loss of innocent lives and wanton destruction of rudimentary infrastructures and property.
In the context of South Sudan the armed rebellion is unnecessary because federalism is already gaining ground among those who were hostile. The armed rebellion is also unnecessary because there is always a peaceful means for regime change through the ballot box instead of senseless bloodshed and fueling of ethnic and regional polarisation.
Ending rebellion in the national interest
The IGAD and AU and the UN are all doing what they can to resolve the crisis in South Sudan. However, the SPLM-in-Opposition may be an obstacle because anything that does not guarantee a regime change may not be of interest to the SPLM-in-Opposition.
In the best national interest and to avoid South Sudan sliding down dangerously as a failed state, what is so special about being elected while elected governors are removed probably without second thought? The people of South Sudan must act in a peaceful manner on how to end the destructive rebellion.
The youth have a crucial role to play. The women, civil societies and the communities in South Sudan must prevail on the youth because they may be vulnerable. The rebellion is basically to effect regime change with no guarantee that there won’t be despotic leadership.
The youth of Equatoria may be especially vulnerable because of the crafting of federalism onto the rebellion agenda. The advice is that originally the rebellion had nothing to do with federalism. It is nothing but a clever way to attract support from Equatoria.
The youth are advised and reminded that the opponents of federalism are now becoming positive and are endorsing federalism as a system of government for South Sudan. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done by way of articulating clearly the type of federalism suitable for South Sudan. We need a consensus to move forward. A rebellion for federalism is therefore unnecessary.
In a public lecture on federalism in the history of South Sudan in the University of Juba, the discussants highlighted the relevance of federalism to South Sudan. One discussant used statistics to show the extent to which South Sudanese would prefer federalism to a unitary system. This suggests that South Sudan does not need a rebellion to impose federalism.
A peaceful adoption of federalism is ever possible. The youth are therefore advised that they should better get engaged in a debate on the merits of federalism instead of joining a rebellion with the mistaken belief that they are fighting a just war for federalism. Without a rebellion federalism will find its way into the permanent constitution of South Sudan. There is no time limit to rebellion when the permanent constitution is silent about federalism.
Adoption of federalism solution to South Sudan problem
In a nutshell the problem of South Sudan can be identified as absolute poor service delivery to improve the quality of life of ordinary men and women in terms of equality, justice and prosperity. Some people argue that the priority now is peace and stability. However, before the rebellion was there no peace and stability, and how then wasn’t the problem addressed?
Arguably federalism is the solution to the problem because it will bring peace and stability. This is because those who claimed to have joined the rebellion for federalism would turn their back against the rebellion after realizing federalism was being adopted. The continuation of the rebellion may probably be for something else, for the leadership of South Sudan. However, the IGAD, AU and the UN are involved in the realization of an appropriate solution.
The public lecture on federalism in the history of South Sudan was presented by Professor Douglas H. Johnson, the author of the book, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars. What specifically captured my attention was when Professor Douglas H. Johnson said, “Kokora is not Federalism”.
In my articles on federalism I have been arguing that federalism is not kokora but I have never been taken seriously. I have even been viciously attacked. Asked why people equate federalism with kokora one discussant answered that it was the fear of the unknown. I am now vindicated and those who were and are fearful of federalism as kokora should now relax and do not need to be full of anxiety.
The next step should be a debate on the type of federalism South Sudan should adopt. I reiterate that we have to build a consensus on the type of federalism suitable to the peculiarities of South Sudan with its ethnic, cultural and regional diversities in fostering national unity. Federalism is not now a taboo but an openly accepted system of governance for a diverse South Sudan.
In conclusion, the question now is not why to adopt a federal system but when should it be adopted and the sooner the better as a solution to volcanic tensions in South Sudan.