Opinion

CPA model best for durable peace 3/3

By Dr. Festo Faustino Kumba

It must also be noted here that, even though the role of democratic practice is to ensure citizens’ effective interventions in the processes of governance to guarantee their rights, in poor nonhomogeneous backward societies with high illiteracy rates, poor public enlightenment, and extremely rigid ethnic affinities and allegiances, respect for the rights of minority groups could not always be guaranteed by universal suffrage alone.  Even a democratically elected government, if hugely controlled by one or two dominant ethnic groups, could, where the leaders choose to remain corrupt and ethnically biased, be very insensitive to the concerns and interests of ethnic minorities.  Without the threat posed by the double-edged sword of self-determination, it is difficult to see what else in a one-sided ethnically polarized society would deter and contain the selfish appetite of any super-greedy elements who, supported by their own tribesmen, might monopolize (even democratically) the reins of power.

Conclusion: Therefore, as it searches for the correct formula for durable peace in the context of a united South Sudan, the National Dialogue, like the CPA, ought to seriously consider a constitutional rearrangement for the country that incorporates the right to self-determination by any region (state) or group of regions (states) enduring persistent grievances that impact negatively on their rights as demanded in the “social contract”.  This would always serve as a reminder to all those in leadership positions that there would be consequences should they, by their attitudes, decisions, behaviors, or inaction refuse to take peculiar concerns of all groups (minorities included) into serious consideration.  In this way, the role of minority groups in exerting useful pressure to influence situations beneficial not only to themselves but also to the deprived silent and ignorant many within dominant communities would be realized.  In the absence of such an arrangement, as it now exists in South Sudan, anger would always grow into fury and frustration amongst aggrieved groups deprived of their fundamental rights by any ethnically supported corrupt syndicates in government.  Those are real fodders for igniting civil wars!  That was certainly why, in neighboring federal Ethiopia, a provision for self-determination under certain conditions was incorporated into the national constitution.

Finally, it is likely that some members of the corrupt syndicates and their beneficiaries will be quick to equate the above proposal to the infamous “Kokora”.  This would be unfortunate. People who would do that are real bigots who, like the Sudanese Arabs, do not like problems genuinely and durably solved because they fear their selfish personal objectives, which do not care about the common good of all, would consequently fail. The CPA was actually a very stabilizing agreement because it incorporated self-determination not primarily for division of the country but as the necessary checks-and-balance to ensure universal justice for all citizens as the basis for peaceful coexistence and national unity.  “Kokora”, on the contrary, was a destabilizing divisive episode that weakened the stand of Southerners, took them backward in their quest to regain dignity and rendered them more vulnerable to the deceitful tactics of the oppressors in Khartoum. Most if not all South Sudanese political leaders of the time bore responsibility for that episode.

So, as proposed in this paper, a constitutional rearrangement incorporating the right to self-determination would, like all laws in the book, be a deterrent to bad governance and to fragrant violations of the “social contract”.  It would go on to consolidate national unity on a much healthier basis because it would, for instance, positively prepare groundwork for universal respect for the concerns of all ethnic communities in the country irrespective of whatever demographic considerations. It would also make it possible for democratic practice to effectively deal with persistent and unacceptable savage misbehavior by irresponsible groups of persons towards law-abiding citizens, including any ethnically supported grand corrupt practices by greedy leaders. That is the missing link to institutionalize the checks-and-balance needed to build a nation in which all are really equal and not one in which some greedy elements would want to misuse ethnicity to claim they are more equal than others: in short, a nation that offers equal opportunities to all its citizens. This is the kind of country for which the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, father of the South Sudanese nation, and all SPLA comrades fought for so long.  If the National Dialogue eventually achieves this, it will have provided a healthy basis to salvage national unity and peaceful coexistence in South Sudan.  The credit for that would go to none other than the initiator of the National Dialogue, President Mayardit.

About the author: The author is a legislator in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Republic of South Sudan.  He holds a BVSc (Bachelor of Veterinary Sciences) from the University of Khartoum, MSc and PhD from the prestigious ‘Université Pierre et Marie Curie’ in Paris, France.  His professional career took him to Rumbek as Veterinary Officer (1978/1979); to University of Juba as Lecturer (1979-1990); and to University of Namibia as lecturer (1998-2004).  He joined the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in 1990 and rose to the rank of Brig. Gen. He was a delegate of the SPLM/A to the Abuja Peace talks with the Sudan Government in the early 1990s and also represented the movement during the early stages of the IGAD-brokered peace talks that eventually culminated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.  In addition to his work as lecturer in the University of Namibia, he was assigned by the SPLM/A leadership as the movement’s Representative to Namibia and Botswana (1998-2004).  After the CPA, he was appointed founding Minister of the new Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries in the Government of Southern Sudan (2005-2010).  He contested the 2010 general elections on SPLM ticket and won the geographical seat for MP representing Ezo Constituency in the National Legislative Assembly.

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