Toward viable future for South Sudan

Consensus South Sudan never saw any political consensus during the negotiations for or after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The SPLM/A negotiated the CPA in its image and installed itself as the sole political representative of Southern Sudan then. The dominance it enjoyed since then was due to that fact more than to enjoy a popular mandate. Even the 2010 election was predetermined by an agreement between the two partners to the CPA (NCP and SPLM) for each to dominate in its ‘sphere of influence', the North and South respectively. The only attempt at building a consensus through the All Southern Sudanese Political Parties Conference (APPSSC) in October 2010 reached workable resolutions that would have if implemented, laid a solid foundation for the nascent state in South Sudan1. However, the SPLM reneged on those commitments as soon as the result of the referendum was announced, so as to continue its dominance in the governance of the new state. It wrote the Transitional Constitution alone and continued to monopolize political power and economic resources. That was a missed opportunity and a fatal one at that. In fact, the current downslide in the country is traceable to that action by the SPLM/A. Therefore, when consensus in South Sudan is discussed one must be clear of what he/she is referring to. The so-called consensus in the sense of this report and in most of the literature on South Sudan is about bringing together the various factions of the SPLM that split in 2013 and thereafter. Not a consensus between the social and political sections of the South Sudanese community as a whole. Political System One finds himself in agreement with the author that the winner-take-all political system ill suits South Sudan. However, the solution is not in crafted formulae for accommodating losers of elections in the name of avoiding war or power struggle. This goes against the tenets and practice of democracy. Elections are supposed to be a choice between competing programmes for running the country during the period following that cycle of elections. Therefore, the winning party should be given the opportunity to implement its programme on which it got the mandate of the people. Losers should wait until the next cycle. The country should not continue after the transitional period to be held hostage by power-sharing arrangements that only serve a few politicians. In fact, the very purpose of the transitional period was to prepare the ground for a free and fair election (including reforms in many fields) and conduct the election so as to usher the country into a democratic era. Elections Conducting the elections is indeed the finish line of the 3-year transitional period and shouldn't be a hurdle if the political goodwill was there. But it is not any election; it must be free and fair. A conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections needs to be prepared right from the beginning of the transitional period. There must be a level field for political parties and the media, free expression, resettlement of the displaced persons in their ancestral homes, reform of the legal system and the judiciary, forming a national and professional army and organized forces, and adopting a new constitution. Plus international monitoring these are the sine qua non-requirements of a free and fair election. There can be no shortcut to realizing all these. A rushed election without these requirements is a recipe for conflict. Similarly, delaying elections without a tight clear benchmark for implementing these requirements is the surest way to disaster as the regime clings to power. All depends on the goodwill of the parties to the agreement which experience has so far shown to be lacking. Up to here, the report does not lose focus. Federalism: The report has devoted considerable space to a discussion on decentralization and centre-periphery relations. The increase of the number of administrative units without devolution of power and resources cannot pass for decentralization. Therefore, the creation of 28 states in 2015 (later to become 32 states in 2017) is akin to Kokora and even worse as it created tribal and sub-tribal enclaves in the name of states along the lines of the Bantustans in the apartheid South Africa in the last century. The National Constitutional Conference Chapter VI of the 2018 peace agreement is devoted to the parameters of the permanent constitution. The body entrusted with the design, formulation and drafting of the permanent Constitution is the National Constitutional Conference7. This will be the first time for the South Sudanese to deliberate on all aspects of their constitution. It is an opportunity for them to build consensus on the system of governance that suits South Sudan. However, to get there a number of activities specified in the agreement must be implemented on time. This process starts with a workshop for the Parties to the agreement to agree on the details of conducting the Constitution-making process8. After that, the draft constitutional bill adopted by the National Constitutional Conference must be enacted in time well before the elections slated for two months before the end of the transitional period. Conclusion The report tackles in a satisfactory manner the history of the tattered state of affairs in South Sudan. The lack of development and rampant corruption in South Sudan are traceable to the failure of leadership in the SPLM. The same leadership disintegrated in 2013 in a power struggle just over two years from the country's independence dragging the country into a devastating civil war. A power-sharing agreement in 2015 brought a brief respite before the hostilities broke out again in 2016. Once more another power-sharing agreement almost toe to toe with the first one was concluded in 2018. But like the Bourbon's it is clear that no lessons have been learnt. Now, 29 months since the agreement was signed and exactly two years since the transitional government on the national level was patched 1- Final Communique of the All Southern Sudan Political Parties Conference, Juba, 17 October 2010.

2- The SPLM leadership was averse to the idea of holding the conference. Given his cordial relations with Salva Kiir, Bona Malwal was sent by the SSPP to try sell to him the idea of holding the conference so as to build a Southern Sudan consensus prior to the referendum. Following a meeting between the two Salva Kiir agreed. His colleagues, however, decided that it should be chaired by Dr Anne Itto, the Deputy Secretary for the Southern Sector. Again, Bona Malwal spoke to Salva on this stressing that in order to give the conference a high profile it should be chaired by the Vice President, who wasn't popular with the group at the time, which he graciously accepted. The opposition of the SPLM leaders did not stop there. When the conference was held they opposed issuing a final communique. To his credit, the SPLM Secretary General threw in his weight behind issuing the communique.

3- Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), Article 6.2.2, Preamble para 5, Article 1.2.15.

4- See for instance, Lagu, J. “Decentralization: A Necessity for the Southern Provinces of the Sudan”, 1981, reprinted in his memoirs, Sudan: Odyssey through a State from Ruin to Hope, Omdurman: M.O.B. Centre, 2006.

5- Akol, L., SPLM/SPLA: Inside an African Revolution, 3rd edn, Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 2011, pp. 5 – 14.

6- Ibid, p. 7.

7- R-ARCSS, Article 6.6.
8- According to Article 6.7 of R-ARCSS the workshop should have been held on the fourth month of the transitional period. This timeline was missed by a wide margin. Organized jointly by the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) and the Max Planck Foundation, the first session of the workshop was held on 11 – 12 January 2021 in Juba. The SPLM-IG did not send a representative to that meeting. The second session slated for early February did not take place possibly because the SPLM-IG did not up to that time send to the organizers the names of its representatives to the Workshop.

2021-02-23 | News | English |