John A. Akec*
Week Cannot be Longer than Seven Days
you catch cold and seek medical advice, it will take you only a week to recover
from it; and if you don’t see your doctor, the cold will last for only seven
days to get over. This was how we would quip during our beautiful school days
when we saw a friend struggling with cold.
What is the point to be made here, you wonder? Simply put, some things mean the same thing, because
a week and seven days measure up to the same length of time (68 hours and 0 seconds).
A one-week old girl is not older than seven-days old boy.
will be no more "Just" or "Fairer" than Decentralisation or
in the same way, the disaffection with the implementation of decentralization clauses
in our constitution has driven many of our citizens to call for the adoption of
federalism as a better cure for our political injustices, be they real or perceived.
However, from a personal perspective, this debate is nothing but war of
synonyms. It is a vain attempt to reinvent the wheel when we have plenty in the
store, to create a bone of contention when none existed, and to pretend to be
innovating when the real term for this kind of futile exercise is "recycling"
the old instrument.
self-confessed federalists, I think, do not seem to realise that
decentralization clause in our constitution is meant to address the same
governance concerns that are tackled by different brands of federalisms applied
in other jurisdictions. First, by bringing government closer to the people (as
stipulated by article 36 (1) of SSC 2011, and Local Government Act 2009).
Second, by devolving power to three levels of government: national, state, and
local (article 47 SSC 2011). And third, by accommodating diversity in terms of
cultures, beliefs, languages, values, and economic resources (article 48 SSC
2011). Finally (by implication and extension) reducing complexity of governing
a large expanse of land; and installing systems of checks-and-balances in the
way a country is run by the executive.
means, amongst other things, local problems will be addressed using local
solutions that are conceived and crafted by local people; as opposed to
centralized, one-size-fits-all prescriptions that are handed down from capitals
to states; or from states to counties; or from counties to payams and bomas.
who believe that appending the term "federalism" to our constitution
will add value to our decentralized system of government have not shown us as
yet as to how this could be achieved, unless they have other definitions of
federalism in mind, which they have not shared with us.
reminds me of the saying: "in
the land of the blinds, one-eyed man is king." And in South Sudan these
days, I have never witnessed such a large number of one-eyed men and women, (in
form of politicians bored out of their bones for the lack of challenges, and
lazy intellectuals masquerading as federalism experts), misleading such a large
number of us. And that is not acceptable.
is wrong with Current Decentralisation Arrangements?
to some of the opinion writers (Refer to Jacob Lupai's article in Juba Monitor,
June 12, 2014): "The present centralized system dubbed as decentralization
mostly favour none other than Dinka."
writer goes on to point out the percentage of presidential advisors, the chairs
of commissions, the undersecretaries, and security personnel who come from
Dinka ethnic group as higher than those from the remaining 63 ethnic groups
that make up South Sudan. And as a matter of fact, this was a correct
observation (the relatively higher percentages of Dinka occupying high
political positions cannot be questioned or denied). However, the writer misses
the point about the yardstick by which the "strength" of a federalist
system of governance is measured (it should by how much power is centralized
and how much is devolved to lower local levels or concurrent).
assuming that federalism is measured in terms of representation of different
states/ethnic nationalities in the central government, the writer should have acknowledged
the fact that for every 10 South Sudanese, 4 are Dinka. That in South Sudan's
10 states, 7 states have Dinka population. And in order for any system to be
just and fair, the distribution of political and economic power should be
reflective of such asymmetries (the 64 ethnic groups forming South Sudan have
sizes ranging from several millions to a few hundred individuals).
and tragically still, according to this same school of thought, being "favoured"
by a system is measured solely in terms of ministerial portfolios held by
members of an ethnic group and not by distribution of economic benefits and
service enjoyed by each community.
is because the graduates of this school overlook the fact that 85% of South
Sudan government revenue is currently spent in Central Equatoria State (Juba); that
Central Equatoria continues to lead the whole country in most development
indicators: according to the 2009
statistical year book, it is evident
that that it had the highest level of children immunized in the country (43%
compared to 12% in Warap State, and 6% in Northern Bahr El Ghazal); recorded
the highest rate of primary school enrolment (20% compared to 2% in Warap and
1% in Northern Bahr El Ghazal); the second highest percentage (30%) of households
with access to improved water resources after
Western Bahr El Ghazal which has 37%, but higher than 12% in Upper Nile, 7% in
Jonglie, 2.3% in Eastern Equatoria, and 6% in Warap. This is to say nothing
about the number of kilometers of paved roads in Central Equatoria or access to
better health services compared to the rest of the country.
prosperity indicators are better benchmarks for measuring economic and social inequality/equality
in any viable country, as opposed to a ludicrous headcount of how many Dinka or
Non-Dinka are occupying how many ministerial portfolios, all of which bear no
correlation to how our various communities are faring on the ground.
Systems are Many Types
many opinion writers acknowledge that federalism as a system of governance differs
from one country to another, they fail to acknowledge the peculiarity of our
adopted version of federalism as a natural consequence of our peculiar
political and cultural ecosystem.
the United States, for instance, the central government is referred to as the federal
government. Federalism in the US was a result of the move by the founding
fathers away from previous confederal union of semi-independent states, to a
tighter union (the United States of America). In fact, in recent years, the US
federal government powers have increased at the expense of powers exercised by
the states. The state governors in the US are democratically elected as they
are in South Sudan. The federal government controls one state (the District of
Columbia). Attempts to surrender (more persuasive and makes sense) control of
Juba metropolitan area to central government were stiffly resisted by Central
India, there are three types of lists for areas of jurisdiction for the central
and state governments. The union list contains items on which Indian central
government exercises exclusive jurisdiction; a concurrent list shared by both
central and state governments (but if there is a conflict between two levels of
government, the central government's jurisdictions prevail); and a third list,
called state list containing items for states' jurisdictions. Furthermore, where
national interests are threatened, the government of the Union of India can
dissolve the entire state government. States of India do not enjoy equal
representation in the Parliament but depend on demography. Doesn't it make
sense to weigh in the population size of each ethnic group?
Germany, the central government, also called the "federal government",
is much stronger than the US federal government and many other known
Australia, the states governors are appointed and not elected. Like India,
there are powers for individual jurisdictions and others for common overlapping
jurisdictions. The Central government is called Commonwealth government. A high
court rules whenever conflict arises between states government and Commonwealth
government. More often than not, and in many high level cases in recent years,
the Australian high court ruled in favour of Commonwealth government.
As we can see, there are varieties of
federalist systems, each dictated by individual countries' needs with some
similarities and differences here and there. The Western federal governments
and their associated democratic and economic systems that are being emulated
today everywhere are a creation of centuries of intellectual debate and political
activism and governance that dates back to times of Socrates in Athens; Thomas Hobbes,
John Locke in England, David Hume in Scotland; Montesquieu, Voltaire, Jean-Jaques
Rouseau in France; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison,
Martin Luther King in the US; Karl Marx, and Emmanuel Kant in Germany; and list
goes on to no end.
In contrast, most African systems of
governance, including our own, are second hand models inspired by Western
systems and values. Our systems of governance lack originality to the extent
that they could be fairly described as "copy and paste" democracies
that are yet to stand the test of time (with apologies to Justices John Luk).
It will take us decades in South Sudan to internalize, implement, and test-drive
these systems, and modify them as our experiences using them grow and mature
fact that in South Sudan the President can remove an elected governor is not
unique as is the case of India where the central government can dissolve the
whole state government. Should we disagree, we need to amend such clauses in
the next constitution after a thorough debate, while ensuring that a provision is
made about the measures that would safeguard our sovereignty from actions of
unruly state governments. It is an issue which cannot be left to chance in the
is much unutilized capacity in our constitution, especially in regards to
devolution of powers to lower levels of government and delivering services to
our citizens through a devolved power. For instance, local government act 2009
has not been fully implemented and that is why we still have appointed county
commissioners as opposed to elected commissioners. County legislative councils
have not been set up due to financial constraints. The central government in
Juba has been trying its best to be inclusive in the distribution of political
power with appropriate regional representation; representation of women, religious
minorities, special interest groups as such army and business sector, those
with special needs, and other minorities such as Muslims.
far this author is concerned, the structures and forms of an inclusive society
and representative if equitable government systems with generous provisions for
federalism are in place. The challenge at the moment is to give it a substance
and how to fund these arrangements function as well as how the whole structure orchestra
(from federal, to state, to local) can be made to play in constructive unison
in order to deliver prosperity to all our citizens; from Raja to Pibor, and
from Renk and Abyei to Nimule.
strength lies in discovering our shared patriotism and history, and as African
Sudanese and not fretting over our ethnic differences. This is an ideal for
which we as the citizens of this great nation should live to realize, or die to