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Thursday, September 4, 2014

No to Ethnic Federalism in South Sudan

Federalism is not a bad governance system as long as those leading it have the interest of the country at heart; and as long as the mindset leading it is selflessly conducive for development programs.

My only concern, and the word that I’ve always passed to fanatical proponents of federalism, is that ‘Federal System’ in itself wouldn’t change things unless our inter-tribal relations, inter-personal relations and our understanding of leadership and government change.
People’s attitude inform the system not the other way round.

While I’d welcome the Federal System of governance in South Sudan as long as it’s conscientiously structured, I’m gravely opposed to any form of ‘Ethnic Federalism’ … like the ones in Ethiopia or Nigeria.
Many misguided South Sudanese believe that South Sudan Federal system can be modelled after the ones in Nigeria and Ethiopia. While there are presumptions and face-value indications that some people love the system in Ethiopia, one can’t be certain that it’s an advisable, exemplary system of governance.

In a world that’s increasingly moving towards acceptance of diversity, it’d be a bad precedent to move South Sudan toward statehood that exist as pockets tribal homogeneity. We can’t unite a country by compartmentalizing it into pockets of tribal exclusivity. While it’s a feel-good proposal for some people, it’s a destruction of the country based on parochial presumption of ‘We-ness.’ We, the Nuer! We, the Jieeng! We, the Bari! We, the Kachipo! We….We…We….

While many Ethiopians were happy with Meles Zenawi’s idea of Ethnic Federalism in order to get rid of the Amharic face of the country in what some call the ‘De-Amharization of Ethiopia’, one can clearly see that the example of Ethiopia is a stone-age example South Sudan shouldn’t copy!

The Nigerian example is badly self-explanatory that one can’t even think of it. It’s a disaster!
While it might sound very ambitious, it’s in the best interest of South Sudanese to work toward the creation of a ministry (Tribal Affairs) that should work out long-term models of inter-tribal understand in South Sudan. Making Tribal leaders, Elders and grassroots part of the governance system in which each and every tribe feels included and heard is better than ethnic fragmentation of the country.

This would help the people in understanding the role of government in their lives. In the long run, it’d bring the government closer to the people with deeper appreciation of their local leaders; thereby making it hard for greedy politicians to mislead them.
Tribes don’t fight because they want to. They fight because they feel marginalization and insignificant. Besides, some fight on behalf of leaders from their own tribe because they don’t understand what government actually means. In South Sudan, we don’t just have ‘individuals’ but ‘individuals from a given tribe.’

Practical Federalism, not Paper Visual Federalism, can bring people closer to those who govern them; however, we have to resist attempts to ethnicize South Sudan any further. To further tribalize a new nation with no sense of unique, clear and understandable sense of ‘NATIONHOOD’ is to be hellishly irresponsible.
We have to first create an understandable national Identity before we gladly or mischievously disperse into our tribal enclaves in the name of ‘Ethnic Federalism’ or more appropriately, ‘National Destruction!’

We’ve been divided fatally enough! Let’s unite while accepting our differences!

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RECOMMENDED READINGS:

FEDERALISM IN AFRICA: THE CASE OF ETHNIC-BASED FEDERALISM IN ETHIOPIA

FEDERALISM, FEDERATIONS AND ETHNIC CONFLICTS: CONCEPTS AND THEORIES