Opinion

Truth Empowers – IGAD Mediators: Cease Meddling with Peace Talks

By Christopher Sebit

sebitomini@gmail.com

The logic that “too many cooks spoil the broth” is equated to the logic, “too many proposals spoil the peace talks”. Rotating face-to-face negotiations with frequent change of proposals is leading the country nowhere other than to a situation characterized by vicious cycles of permanent confusion and failure—thus negating the fruitful progress that have been achieved through tremendous efforts of the mediators, negotiators and funding bodies.

Mediators, cease meddling with peace talks; cease harassing negotiators with many competing proposals; unify all the proposals and select the best average proposal worth accepting to the parties and the people of South Sudan; put aside geopolitics for the time being; listen carefully to the voices behind the negotiating table and get the message correctly; centralized the discussions on revised bridging proposal in Khartoum and give the parties enough time to digest the proposal and offer their opinions; and above all, do wider consultation with the secondary parties behind the negotiating table.

Consultations taking the popular opinions of the people of the three regions: Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile into account increases the likelihood that the people will support the agreement and participate fully in its implementation. Both negotiators and mediators are advised to consult with the people before and after signing the final agreement. “No matter how good, fair, creative, and just an agreement is, others will not support it if the negotiators do not consult with and educate them about the agreement” (Docherty, 2005, p.12-13). Docherty further states that education and consultation need to start before formal negotiations convene and need to continue after an agreement is reached.

An agreement that concentrates on giving powers to the parties but fails to address appropriately the root causes of the conflict as well as the diverse needs and interests of the ethnic groups constituting the country is unrealistic and defective in the sense that it falls short of establishing contexts that enable pursuance of permanent peace and credible reconciliation processes. Contrarily, an agreement that forges stronger unity on the one hand and establishes federal governance structures based on the former three regions of Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile on the other hand is likely to receive popular support from the majority citizens—thus establishing contexts that guarantee suitable environment for initiating and consolidating peace building activities that benefit the present and future generations.

It is true; the power structure at the central government follows the characteristics of the three regions. Our president comes from Bahr el Ghazal region; the first vice presidents comes Upper Nile region; the vice president comes from Equatoria region; and the speaker of the parliament comes from Equatoria. What is wrong about all these governance arrangements intended to address regional diversity? Why resisting federalization of the whole country based on the three constituent regions if we are able to do that at the central level? The presidential decree establishing the 32 states listed these states according to regional dimension—thus indicating the importance of regions as federal constituent units. What kind of federal arrangements are worth applying in the context of South Sudan?

Many of the present 32 states are established on the basis of multinational federalism or ethnic federalism. Ethnic federalism uses ethnicity as the basis of political organization of the state. It focuses on drawing the internal boundaries of the state along ethnic lines in such a manner that each linguistic group has the right to occupy and control a specified territory. Equally true, many of the states particularly in Equatoria region are created on the basis of territorial or administrative federalism. Territorial federalism advocates the drawing of boundaries along geographical or administrative convenience. Jubek, Yei River, Torit and Kapoeta states have their boundaries determined on the basis of administrative or geographic convenience.

Which of these two types of federalism are of advantageous to the people of South Sudan? Why rewarding few ethnic groups with ethnic federalism while subjecting majority groups to territorial federalism? Experience has already shown that territorial federalism doesn’t work well in restoring inter-ethnic solidarity and strengthening national unity in multi-ethnic states. Territorial federalism denies ethnic groups enough space essential for the promotion of their identity. Territorially structured federations are said to be characterized by strong assimilationist and integrationist tendencies at the expense of ethnic diversity. As such, territorial federalism makes minority cultural groups vulnerable to domination of the majority group.

Ethnic federalism offers more advantages to the people of South Sudan provided that it is equally applied to ethnic groups at the level of local government. It enhances self-rule by giving ethnic groups enough space to practice their identities on the one hand and by availing equal opportunities for representing ethnic groups at the national government on the other hand.  Territorial federalism is relevant for state or regional level of government because it strengthens national integration.

What the people of South Sudan want to hear now from IGAD and the negotiators is that a federal system based on the three regions is put in place before the beginning of the expected transitional government of national unity. In the event of no clear federation project, power sharing arrangements are of less importance. Whether you have 5 vice presidents, 35 ministers, 550 members of the TNLA and 50 members of the Council States, all these means nothing if the federal system of government is not determined and its major principles are clearly indicated in the agreement.

The major function of the coming TGoNU is implementation of the federal government in order to ensure permanent peace, stability and unity. Cease meddling with peace talks, IGAD mediators! Listen more to the voices of the victims of war. They are the voices of truth. The politicians want to stay in power until they die. The war victims want federalism now, not later! God bless the war victims.

 

 

 

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