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If federalism cannot be achieved why not try confederation!

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

October 10, 2014 (SSNA) -- It is fairly true to say that a good chunk of the history of South Sudan has largely been about the quest for self-determination and to some extend a search for a federal system of governance. Both were believed if achieved would guarantee for our people an equitable participation in the affairs of their country and a fair distribution of its wealth, power and opportunities among its different peoples and regions.  

Without doubt the well-deserved sovereign status of South Sudan remains the best thing that has ever happened to its great people. However there are still many mind boggling issues that someone like me who believes in more than one Sudan continues to struggle with. The worst of these is of course how the same Old Jallaba practices of political opportunism has made its way into the new country’s political life.  

MPs in South Sudan hit their lowest when many of them were literarily bought into silence on the issue of federalism. 

Some have no shame as they try to express their pro-government position by saying that the federalism they called for is different from the federalism being championed by the rebels of the SPLM – IO and its leader Dr Riek Machar.

Of course many have secretly shifted their stance on governance to support the incumbent corrupt, centralized unitary system.  Shame on them if they don’t know that it was this centralized unitary system of governance albeit cosmeticized to appear as a devolved system that in fact represented the tool used by Jallaba to oppress and dehumanize our people in the Old Sudan.

Whatever cons and pros of decentralisation is being discussed the onus is that the hired apologists will always argue in the interest of their masters who pay them to do so.  During the course of this extremely important debate on governance in the world’s newest country PR has no room and should better be avoided. At best we have heard apologists trying to repackage and resell the same old empty decentralization (in fact heavy centralized) which failed the old Sudan and eventual broke it into two.

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Think about this quote for a second and ask yourself, does this quote apply to the way you run our country?

Barely three years into its independence, South Sudan went ahead to surprise the whole world when its leaders chose in   this record time to surrender the country and the fate of its 11.0 m people to a home grown dictator who heads a system that not only oppresses the people, but is already on record for indiscriminately killing its citizens. It has so far butchered tens of thousands of children, women, and old people I just a few months.  

When a country’s long awaited and hardly won independence turns out only to mean a replacement of the foreign oppressors with local and home bred dictators you know that finger biting, frustration and sense of having been betrayed can be expected to dominate the scene.

Security agents of this new home grown oppressors continue to commit untold crimes while they unquestioningly serve their oppressive president and help him achieve his egocentric dream of becoming a sole dictator. Yet one of the main things that set our country apart is its huge diversities. The illusion of setting up a central government for the sole aim of promoting ethnically driven supremacists’ agendas is not going to succeed.  Have the South Sudanese not walked away from one such rotten system in the January 2011’s self-determination referendum?

Anyone in their right state of mind should have known better whether our people can accept a new imposition of basically the same rotten unitary centralized system of governance in an independent South Sudan! It is not about who presides over such systems. The simple fact that it sets to produce more than one class of citizenship is a reason enough to class it as a nonstarter for our hard won independence!

What we are seeing today is a political betrayal of our people by a handful of politicians who are bent at reviving the long rejected “Jallaba” ideology of dividing our people based on their ethnicities into rulers and the ruled. That ideology was fought and defeated and anyone who wants to reproduce it will taste the same defeat that our people inflicted on the “Jallaba”.

Even the mountains, the woods, the rivers and the wide sky of South Sudan are out there to tell everyone  in the most unwavering terms  that  federalism has not only  been the most  outstanding demand by our people throughout the long history of the struggle for equality and justice, but in fact it is still the most  popular demand.

This time around the political elites have unfortunately chosen to swap positions. Many in search of material gains have moved from the liberation camp to the oppression camp just over night.  Yet we are not surprised at all at such changes in principles. We had in the not far past witnessed how politicians were bribed into abandoning the very masses whom they represent.  

The same “belly-first” politician are at it again. They have suddenly gone back to their old ways and dropped their support for federalism in the current political power wrangling the moment they received financial favours and promise of positions in what essentially is a directionless and visionless government.

No wonder weak hearted people will continue to be lured into serving under the current dictatorship and the price to pay once in positions of power is the all too known sudden retreat in principles.  No one should waste time wondering why this particular kind of behaviours are becoming a common place in our country’s politics.

Were you not there when even the most prominent of politicians,  were  equally made to commute endlessly between Khartoum, Rome and Mecca in the effort to keep their CVs up to date (religious status)  in order to remain relevant in what was an ever changing political atmosphere as it existed in the Old Sudan.  “Always keeping pace”, was the name of the game!

So while the situation remains fluid as it now is, why don’t we continue with our responsibly and ponder further into other options giving special consideration for other alternatives like confederation.  Because by considering confederation as one of the options in our search for the best form of governance that can appeal to our unique historical background, South Sudanese will surely find an opportunity to revisit how well they as both ethnicities and individuals fit into this political equation called Republic of South Sudan.  

Discussion on confederation will essentially enable South Sudanese to test......... maybe for the first time, whether they are all fine with who and what they are in the context of their citizenry in South Sudan and how they actual look at themselves in the new socio-political set up.  They will seriously need to re-evaluate how they relate to other communities within what is now a sovereign state of south Sudan.  

Importantly the people will have to openly discuss and express how they independently and without any external influence rate all these complex intercommunal relationships as they play out in in real time. The  different forms of how communities interact with and react to issues like cattle rustling, child abduction, rape as a tool of war and revenge, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, impunity............etc .....etc, are all worth revisiting?

Decentralization like education only works well, when you have enough of it.  And as little education can be dangerous so is the case with decentralisation. This without the least doubt leaves confederation as our best choice.  When considering which type of decentralization to adopt in South Sudan as it languishes today under the rule (misrule) of self-proclaimed liberators now turn oppressors, no stone should be left unturned. Our common oppressors’ single priority at this cross roads in our turmoilous history is to consolidate a system that will provide them with the legal means to decriminalize their appalling human rights records.

There are those who oppose federalism to the extent of unjustifiably declaring an all-out war on its advocates.  Thinking that they will succeed in pushing the status quo down the peoples’ throats is something that needs a rethink. But why should we not just say enough is enough and stop these lunatics from further subduing the others while denying the new country any chance of democracy, meritocracy and justice or even a good name among nations!

All that said above, there still is an important missing connection here before we are done with this issues. Can someone tell us why our politicians don’t remain consistent in their demand for a federal SYSTEM, when every logic says that it is the only system to stabilise our country.  For as things stand now, it won’t be too long before even this popular call for federalism becomes irrelevant once again. What we may all end up with couldn’t be any less than a confederation of three regions! Our history is our teacher.  

At this juncture it makes sense to say if we cannot make President Kiir and his coterie see the  benefits of  a fully blown  federal system  for our downtrodden masses ( citizens of South Sudan), then we are duty bound to lower the bar and settle for the confederation of the Three Regions (Bahr Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile ).

That is as far as people can go in perusing a peaceful settlement. But if the cost is made to include bloodletting, unnecessary loss of valuable lives and loss of properties,  then lie assured  that our bitter history with the Jallaba wont tale long before it savagely repeats itself.

Dr Justin Ambago Ramba is a columnist and a blogger on South Sudan politics and member of the South Sudan political parties’ delegation to the IGAD mediated Peace Talks!

Loyal to government or allegiances to “rebels”: Confusion and controversy over the fate of Upper Nile Students’ Union in Uganda

By Gai James Kai

October 10, 2014 (SSNA) -- Just hours after a group of “not-particularly-popular-or-influential;” greater Uppernile Students’ Union in Uganda leadership announced that they have switches allegiance to “rebels,” under the commands of able and charismatic leader, Dr. Riek Machar, drama emerged when a radical group lead by the Union Vice President, Jacob Kuerwuel Yang sent a shocking press release, published by Nyamelepedia news site; denouncing the statement made by H.E, the President of the Union, Tharnyang in Sudan-tribune popular news that claimed an allegiances to the SPML – IO  and term it as “reckless statement by one man’s decision”

Personally I have seen a lot of criticism from members in many corners in Kampala and social media leading up to the poor team-work between the President and his deputy right from the day one. I resisted the temptation to comment until now since I hadn’t yet seen the alleged power wrangle between the two gentlemen, and though the early footage and previews seemed to discount these charges as wildly reactionary and having little to do with the actual goal and objective of the Union, I wanted to be sure I hadn’t been taken by my own anticipation and the formidable powers of Union’s leadership.

Now that I have seen it, I believe it’s even more important to confront these accusations head on, because not only are they way off base, they distract from the union’s true message and may actually be detrimental to the promotion of peace, unity and cooperation among students. Anyone who supports the depiction of disunity or perhaps taking his selfish interests over the reality, not to mention the negative representation of sorrel bonds, ought to be championing tribalism within the union and its leadership.

It’s true that the Union leadership, most especially the President and his deputy have a princess dilemma; in their way of managing the union’s affairs. The member’s quests driven phenomenon are extremely popular and lucrative, yet its detractors are becoming increasingly vocal and demanding glories instead. I personally tied to stem the tide of these power fighters and I am here to tell you it’s a constant struggle. The Vice President’s response to the backlash has been so rationale. At the same time, the President promoting the resurgence of “the little mermaid,” with his archaic message of “changes yourself for your men”. And then that progress was undermined with infamous slimmed-down, glommed –up redesign by the two wranglers (the President and his deputy).

Without going into too many spoilers, let me just say that these power wranglers’ climax doesn’t involve a man coming to rescue of a starry-eyed disputes. The misunderstandings at the center of Uppernile Students’ Union in Uganda leadership are defined by their unique upbringing and estranged relationship to one another, not by the men in their lives. They have fully fleshed out characters with a wide spectrum of poor leadership qualities including anger, frustration, bravery, impersonal and tribalism. The stakes couldn’t be higher for them though.

That said, there is no getting around the fact that those members who have been hoping for change in April this year are disappointed by power wrangle between the President of the Union, Tharnyang and his deputy, Jacob Kwerwel. There is a legitimate conversation to be had what happened between these two and their companies and whether these gentlemen should even had the gut to mention the connection to either government of “rebel” but the divided Assembly couldn’t get along to discussed such a heating debate. Consequently, we have seen both declaration and denouncement between hours.

Let’s dispense with the notion that Uppernile Students’ Union in Uganda is anything rather than a students’ body, influenced by not base on tribes or individuals whose aims are gear toward divisionism, focusing on what they don’t know or don’t have. This Union doesn’t purport to be a faithful adaptation in case that wasn’t already obvious. The difference between its leaders shouldn’t make it crystal unclear.

And if you would be predisposed to be offended by my words, to hell! What I am writing is the truth, nothing but the truth and apparently, you could take these comments to mean that Uppernile Students’ Union in Uganda as a body is concerned with attractiveness of its heroines. In other words, keeping the character, looking the original goal set.

Finally, I have one last thing to say about, and then we move on with our live. When we get incensed that Union’s principles are too petty, too vague to be disobeyed at any given time, or look too much, aren’t we really saying that aesthetics are more worthy of concern than any other aspect of character? Doesn’t it matter more how they were written and depicted the context of the Union? To focus solely on the personal interests without considering what’s beneath the polished exterior isn’t just shallow, it’s hypocritical. The general Assembly’s decisions are more than petty faces.

Therefore, I would urge those who some of the same feisty reactions I did to keep an open mind about the confusion and controversy created by these two power hungry creatures, whose leadership failure read beyond their ages. I waited until I saw the wrangles, to see if the complaints about Tharnyang and Kuerwel were legitimate, but you don’t have to take my words for it. See it for yourself if at all you are in Uganda and make your own conclusion about these two gentlemen.

Gai James Kai is a Law student at Nkumba University – Kampala and prominent member of Greater Uppernile Students’ Union in Uganda. He can be reached through This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or add him on facebook by searching for the above mentioned names.

Kiir's security law marks the burial of the Constitution: A day for more mourning in South Sudan!

By Biel Boutros Biel, South Africa

Fellow citizens:

October 8, 2014 (SSNA) -- Salva Kiir's oath law (security bill) has been passed by his small loyalists in Juba on 8 Oct 2014.

Good citizens and friends of the honest South Sudanese, join me in mourning the burial of the last good parts of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011.

The Constitution fell sick in November 2011 just four months after our independence when Kiir's family used the security agents to arrest, detain and torture our friends and courageous young journalists; Dengdit Ayok and Ngor Garang for authoring and publishing the 'Nyan-Beny'-Ethiopian marriage's article.'

The Constitution was deadly wounded on 5 December 2012 when our outspoken colleague, good fellow country man and brother Isaiah Abraham was assassinated by the same security agents.

By January and May 2013, the Constitution was hospitalised at J1 when Mr. Kiir removed those leaders elected by South Sudanese like him, the state governors in persons of Gov. Chol Tong Mayay and Gov. Taban Deng Gai of Lakes and Unity states respectively. This was a rule by law and not a rule of law since article 101(r) of the Constitution allows him to do so. In fact, in constitutional terms;it was  a dismissal of elected leaders by constitutionalised unconstitutionality.

By 23 July 2013, the Constitution went into coma as Mr. Kiir dismissed the whole country's executive government to get rid of one man; Riek Machar; leaving South Sudan going without an executive wing of government for almost 3 weeks but Kiir himself was the President without executive arm members!

By 15 December 2013, the Constitution was dead when Mr. Kiir made his self-coup, sending Machar into the bush and imprisoning the liberation heroes and humiliating the mother of the nation mama Rebecca Garang de Mabior.

When to bury the Constitution, has been debatable in Juba but on 8 Oct 2014, the long-serving rebel fighter for democracy and freedom Mr. Salva Kiir has decided to bury the Constitution which unconstitutionally  he helped created in 2011, wounded in the same year, fell sick in 2012 and went into coma and died in 2013.

The reign of terror is finalised!

As you join me fellow citizens and good friends, in mourning for the good parts of sacred document, may we remember all the heroines and heroes who died from 1995 to 2014 for our liberation. May we remember the good golden days when our fellow country man Salva Kiir Mayardit was fighting for the liberation which he has now decided to kill!

May the Soul of our Constitution except article 101(r) and (s) rest in peace.

Kenyans say it is not yet 'Uhuru' and I repeat, that it is not yet 'INDEPENDENCE' for us


Under the Transitional Government in the making, if that government comes; fellow citizens, we who are of not 'inside the government', I can assure you, will be back in the country and courageously challenge constitutionally this anti-people law using constitutional principles before a Transitional Constitutional Court. Believe me; the ruling will be in our favour as long as the case is not launched before the current Judiciary.

With this, we have now tentatively launched our case before the incoming Transitional Constitutional Court to challenge this unconstitutional Act! However this terror Act, to my mind, means two things; either the man; liberator-turned-oppressor Salva Kiir, is ready and about to leave the power and these are the last days of Charles I and Louis XVI or it is the start of a serious war in South Sudan.

We shall be coming up with our analysis of why the new Act is unconstitutional.

Biel Boutros Biel is an Executive Director of the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA) and former Secretary General and Spokesperson of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance but the views expressed here are his own. He fled to exile since December 2013 and is currently pursuing his Master’s of Laws Degree (LLM) at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He can be reached on:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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