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Sunday, November 29, 2015

28-States Proposal is a Myopic, Unforgivable National Disaster


History is supposed to be one of those phenomena that informs us about what we should and should not repeat. Unfortunately, in South Sudan, history is just irrelevant unless it serves the interest of the ruling elites. And we’ve seen with a damning, scary reality how history has been used not only to repeat the past, but to also consciously destroy the nation. Decisions coming out of the two sides of the political divide in South Sudan are depressing. The rebels are intransigent; and they easily exploit government’s bad and ill-informed decisions/decrees. And the government makes one dangerous decision after another without any thought put into how dangerous such decisions might be.
I’m going to ignore Dr. Riek Machar’s 21-State proposal because it was rejected during IGAD negotiation process. Dr. Riek too has no practical authority—unlike the president—to enforce his proposal. Besides, 21-States proposal is another unnecessary re-division of the country. However, the case of 28-States proposal (also known as Order Number 36/2015) is different and disconcertingly, futuristically, divisive and disastrous.



I’ll also ignore the then constitutional illegality of the 28-States proposal as it was clear the president had no legal authority to establish new states. We also know that the vote to change the constitution to constitutionalize the unconstitutional order is something that needs no more explanation.
Undoubtedly, the country has been divided and the wounds are still fresh. However, the primary goal of the leadership in South Sudan should be to find ways to make sure that South Sudanese come together, speak the truth about what happened, forgive one another, and then reconcile. However, the leadership in Juba finds it expedient to further slice up the country into tribal states that’ll continue to keep people apart and close any window that’d have allowed South Sudanese of all tribal stripes to forgive. People can only forgive if they are given an appropriate avenue to meet and talk. Segregating tribes in their own ethnic enclaves is both myopic and disastrous for any possible future in which South Sudan is expected to reduce politicization of tribal differences.

Once South Sudan is divided into these 28 tribal states, people will have no incentives or need to travel to different states, especially between Nuer and Jieeng. Since people are already afraid of one another because of the divisive, war generative effects, the fear of moving to other tribal states will even be worse.
For those who think that giving some tribes their own states will reduce tribal feuds, I have to tell you that these tribal states aren’t coming with Berlin Walls or Israeli walls, or would-be Trump-Wall. As long as you don’t have walls separating these people, you should expect tribal feuds to continue to exist. Murle will not stop attacking Twi, Bor, Nyarweng, Hol, or Lou Nuer simply because they have their own states. Murle continue to attack and kill people in Jonglei even after the president gave them ‘Greater Pibor Administrative Area.”  We can also see in Mono-Tribal states like Warrap and majority Jieeng states like Lakes in the current 10-States system that clans continue to fight and kill one another in their hundreds. So the advocates of 28-states system, the likes of the Jieeng Council of Elders, who argue that they proposed the 28-States to help solve the problem in South Sudan should know how ill-advised their intentions are.

When did political segregation ever work in the world? When did it ever become morally acceptable?
I also oppose the 28-States proposal because of redundancy. We can still decentralize power or federate governance within the current 10-States system. We currently have 1 central/federal government, 10 states, 86 counties, 514 payams and over 2100 bomas. Decentralizing power and administration to this administrative centers is better than the redivision of South Sudan into mostly tribal states that’ll further keep tribes apart and reduce the chance for people to forgive and reconcile. Advisedly, some sectors and ministries should be given to the states. Law enforcement, education, agriculture, tourism and other appropriate sectors should be given to the states. This will ensure that people who’d want to work in those sectors will be forced to move to the states and create residence there. State governments can further move some sectors to counties and counties to payam. For instance, a state government can further decentralize administration by making sure different sectors' headquarters are distributed to different countries. Counties can further decentral power to different payams. This arrangement will not only save money, it’ll bring the power to the people without any creation of more unnecessary controversies.

I also oppose the 28-States proposal because its proponents don’t have any solid rationale why they think it’s better than the current system. The vacuous reasons given are mostly visceral reactions of “we now have our own state.” So? Another reason being flaunted around is that ‘people in South Sudan love it.” When did the populace develop any sense of political autonomy and informed decision-making. We can only talk of ‘people love it’ if there’s a chance for the average person to publicly express his/her dissenting opinion. Have we ever seen a public rally where South Sudanese expressed any disapproval of some government's decisions? Every public rally supports the president's decisions however bad: “Kiir Mayardit Oyee!” What does that tell us?
The last reason why I oppose the 28-States proposal is the problem of borders. Some tribal lands will be divided up and forcefully included in a different tribal state. This will cause tribal feuds and unnecessary deaths. And we’ve seen that the government of South Sudan isn’t effective in preventing tribal deaths. Why create a problem you shouldn’t create in the first place? Why create a problem you can’t help solve?

Let’s keep the current 10 states, avoid the creation of more problems and embark on a decentralized national development with what we currently have.