Opinion: Thirteen point reply to Dr. Lako Kwajok article on Federalism in South Sudan
On Tuesday, Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok published an article on Radio Tamazuj titled “Federalism is not the cause of war in South Sudan.”
In the article, Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok made several misleading arguments and references to two of my recent articles.
I find it absolutely necessary to respond with the following thirteen (13) points, debunking his baseless arguments that mislead the public on the topics he discussed and what I see as his malicious attempt to harm my reputation as a journalist.
I shall be polite and focused on clarifying the issues in my response to Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok despite everything since these are public matters and should not be unnecessarily personalized as he has done.
1- The title of my article
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok argued that the title of my article “Federalism does not deserve war in South Sudan” “is quite misleading, and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Well, there is nothing misleading about that title though it was Sudan Tribune which unilaterally put it that way, changing my original title “No sufficient reasons to continue a war in South Sudan over federalism” which was published in its original form by other media houses such as Radio Tamazuj and Paanluel Wel.
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok went further in his article, arguing that “it's illogical to suggest that” by rejecting the agreement on the Outstanding Issues of Governance, “NAS is opting for war.”
There is nowhere in that article that I suggested that NAS is opting for war. I was even clear in the article by suggesting that “Gen. Cirillo and SSUF/A of Gen. Paul Malong should be very honest to their fighters, South Sudanese et al about their reasons for fighting if that is what they intend to carry on.” I neither suggested nor concluded that any party was opting for war over federalism.
So, the title for my article being “Federalism does not deserve war in South Sudan” is in no way misleading. It is an opinion in which not only NAS is addressed. Also, being a journalist, I talked to several people all this time and I know there are many people including soldiers of the various parties who say they are fighting for federalism in South Sudan. Any honest person with knowledge of the crises in South Sudan would agree with me on that. Therefore, my article was to raise awareness among the general public, based on the facts I presented in that article, that there are no sufficient reasons to continue a war in South Sudan over federalism. My title for the article was never misleading.
2- Safety and Security issues
On this, I have found three related issues raised by Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok, I have quoted them in points a, b, and cbelow and my response to each is also available thereunder.
a) Agreement on Security Arrangements
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “Our journalist has rubbished the renewal of armed conflict during the upcoming transition like what happened in July 2016. He cited that the signing of the Security Arrangements by all the parties including NAS is enough evidence that such a thing would not happen. But a similar signing did happen in August 2015, and yet war broke out.”
My response: That is a misleading argument from Dr. Kwajok with respect to my article. My argument in my article was that “The alarm over a possible resumption to armed conflict during the transitional period akin to that of July 2016 is not convincing since matters of armed conflict are related to security arrangements and all the relevant parties, including NAS have signed the Khartoum Agreement on Security Arrangements. The current disagreements are on the Agreement (proposal) on Governance matters.” And those are facts. The security agreement provides for, inter alia, “training and deployment of the necessary unified forces…within a period that shall not exceed eight months,” demilitarization of “civilian centers” during the pre-transitional period, cantonment of forces, etc. There is no complain (reservation) publicly from NAS and the rests of the parties on the Agreement on Security Arrangements which they signed and it is reasonable to believe that they are fine with it. So, my point is that there should be clear distinctions between matters of armed conflict which are related to security arrangements and the current disagreements over the Agreement (proposal) on Governance matters. Also, there are clearly huge differences between the current Agreement on Security Arrangements and the last one which failed in 2016. However, I’m not an expert on security issues. If any party, NAS included, argued against the Agreement on Security Arrangements, I would have duly presented their concerns in my analysis. But they have not. And my article was on the disagreements over the Agreement (proposal) on Governance, with a special focus on federalism. My article was guided by facts and I stand by it.
b) Safety of the Opposition
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “..our journalist wants the opposition including NAS to go to Juba on board an agreement that consolidates the status quo. It's ironical that while he feels unsafe in Juba despite not being identified as a potential threat to the regime, he wants those who went through the J1 shooting ordeal in July 2016; not to worry about their safety. It's beyond logic!”
My response: Those are baseless arguments from Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok again. Where did I say someone (a party) should not to worry about their safety? And what does “an agreement that consolidates the status quo” even mean? When NAS rejected the recent Agreement (proposal) on Governance, they did not say they did so because the Agreement included President Kiir and Dr. Machar in the transitional government to be formed thereunder.
Also, my recent and previous articles on the need to reduce the excessive powers of the president, reform the National Security Act which contravenes the constitution, and achieve through the ongoing peace process many other reforms to ensure democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms have all been loud and clear. In the very article which Dr. Kwajok is attempting to challenge, I raised very important issues, provided solutions and urged the government and all the parties to resolve them through talks. In all my writings, I have never contradicted myself with regards to my stand on freedom, reforms, and democracy in South Sudan. But I’m not a campaigner. I cannot be repeating myself or incorporating every topic in one article. I’m a journalist. I cannot impose my views/ideas. I inform and educate. I’m not a decision maker. My articles on the other topics are all in the public domain and freely accessible. It is upon anyone to learn from the articles and argue in the right forum to achieve the needed reforms. But to attempt to harm my reputation my twisting my articles is a waste of energy and even self-defeating for anyone who believes in freedom since my efforts are for nothing but the freedom of all.
c) Democratic discourse on the issue of federalism
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “The government went to great lengths to suppress any debates about federalism be it in the media or among the populace. Even a media gag was imposed by the government not to engage in any activities related to federalism. A poor man was shot dead in Maridi for voicing his support for federalism. Such an act would have drawn condemnation from the President and members of his cabinet because it was a politically motivated act of extreme violence by members of the security organs. The case of the unfortunate man was deliberately left to fall into oblivion with no investigation, arrests or convictions. But there were numerous cases of assassinations that went unnoticed by the media. It was noted that around that time the activities of the unknown gunmen suddenly picked up to unprecedented levels. It was common knowledge that the unknown gunmen targeted those who were vocal in their support for federalism. At that time, no one knew for sure the identity of the unknown gunmen. It's only recently that General Paul Malong, the former Chief of Staff of the SPLA unveiled the identity of the unknown gunmen. We now know that they are members of the National Security Service (NSS) under the direct orders of the President and led by General Akool Koor, the Director General of Internal Security at the NSS. Such is the environment Roger Alfred Yoron Modi thinks is conducive for a democratic discourse on the issue of federalism with all the opposition groups in Juba.”
My response: Those are baseless comments about me from Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok and also a sheer misrepresentation of my article and stand on the issues. I humbly urge Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok to respect facts next time when writing about me or any other person.
In the article, I wrote, “Other issues of Federalism shall be achieved through peaceful means during the transitional period, by that time the parties (transitional government) should have prepared the environment and institutions ready for Federalism through implementations of the legal and institutional reforms stipulated in the revitalized ARCSS.”
What is not correct there? The ARCSS being revitalized contains a roadmap for the enactment of the permanent Constitution, including in Chapter 6 Article 3 which says “The permanent Constitution shall be completed not later than eighteen (18) months following the establishment of the Transitional Period and shall be in place to guide the Elections toward the end of the Transition.” These, per the mandate of the ongoing process, shall be revitalized to ensure ARCSS full implementation. Before reaching that time for the enactment of the Permanent Constitution, there are legal and institutional reforms to be achieved on several relevant issues, including on the very security issues which I mentioned above. An environment conducive for a democratic discourse on the issue of federalism with all the opposition groups in Juba shall come from the nature and implementation of the security and other agreements the parties themselves signed and will sign. My analysis is based on the provisions of ARCSS, the agreement which is being revitalized and the rest of the Agreements the parties have already signed in that respect.
But for Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok to suggest that I think that the environment he mentioned above is “conducive for a democratic discourse on the issue of federalism with all the opposition groups in Juba” is a complete misrepresentation and disrespect to my journalistic efforts for fundamental reforms and democratic transformation in South Sudan, efforts which have been consistent and most probably louder and life-threatening for me than what Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok himself has done in recent years in that aspect.
3- NAS vs. Federalism
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote that “It's an oversimplification or just outright dishonesty to claim that the National Salvation Front (NAS) is rejecting the agreement on the Outstanding Issues of Governance because of non-inclusion of federalism.” I do not want to make arguments on this. Also, still I do not understand if Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok is speaking as a NAS spokesperson. But I would like to refer him and all to a news article published by Radio Tamazuj on August 2nd titled “Cirillo refuses to sign governance deal without federalism.” The article also partly read, “Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), said Thursday he will not sign a peace deal that does not include federal system of governance.” The article is available on the link below and Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok above argument should be judged based on this Radio Tamazuj article: https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/cirillo-refuses-to-sign-governance-deal-without-federalism
4- Inconsistency or not
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “Our journalist also brought up the issue of NAS signing the Security Arrangements but not the Outstanding Issues on Governance as a sort of inconsistency or contradiction.”
My response: The above comment from Dr. Kwajok is unfounded. I did not say that. On the contrary, I raised major issues of concern in that article and I urged the government and all the parties to resolve them through the ongoing Talks. I did not say NAS signing the Security Arrangements but not the Outstanding Issues on Governance is a sort of inconsistency or contradiction. I did not urge any party to sign the Agreement as it is. I urged for talks. In that article, I handled specific topics and I rightly argued that “It is, in fact, contradictory for Gen. Cirillo (NAS) to call for immediate implementation of Federalism (which they have not even specified) during the transitional period through the ongoing Talks when in the first place he wanted “crafting and adopting, through a wide consultative process, a modern, democratic, truly federal constitution.” And I continued that “wide consultative process is only achievable in peacetime, during the transitional period through the permanent Constitution making process,” not via peace talks among elites.
5- Declaration of Principles DOP
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “I am sure that our journalist is aware that the government refused to sign the Declaration of Principles (DoP) in Addis Ababa in March 2018, yet the negotiations were allowed to continue. So now the government has signed the agreement on governance because it gives it what it wants but not the DoP that was approved by NAS and the other members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA). So, where is the difference between the two positions? And why is the government's position right while the one that belongs to NAS is wrong?! Are we dealing with a worthless, biased view?!”
My response: I neither argued nor implied anywhere that the government position on the DoP was right. And why should I compare the DoP with the current Agreements which in themselves are the final (substantial) agreements being made per the ongoing process [HLRF]? There is no reason for me to include the DoP issues in my article since, according to the mediation team, as reported by Sudan Tribune, the DoP was optional, voluntary and hence arguably none binding so far. Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok should have known these differences or is he just intentionally disregarding the reports? See the stories on the DoP here: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64698
I have no reason not to believe the media reports since the mediation made no arguments to the contrary. NAS and the rest of the parties should have pressured the government to sign the DoP if that was their priority and they should have stopped going further with the talks without the government signing the DoP if that was the case. But they carried on with talks and never challenged the reported stand of the mediation that the DoP was optional. Then, how is that now becoming my problem if my article failed to make reference to a DoP that was declared optional, as far as the reported mediation team comment is concerned? My article was never biased. There was no relevance to include the issue of the optional DoP in my article.
6- NAS type of Federalism
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “It's untrue that NAS didn't propose the type of federalism that suits South Sudan. It was contained in NAS's proposal to the pre-Forum Consultations of the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) for the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). But to our surprise, our proposal, as well as the ones from the other opposition Movements/Parties, were ignored by the IGAD mediation team.”
My response: As the public, we expect NAS and all the parties to publish their type of Federalism widely, providing it to the media, the public and including the same on their websites. All NAS and the others (apart from the SPLM-IO which presumably intends to abide by the procedures for Federalism in the ARCSS) have been doing publicly, recently, is continuously saying they want immediate introduction of Federalism with “a clear devolution of power and resources.” These are vague statements and could mean many things. Is the Federalism they are calling for based on states or the former three regions (Bahr el Gazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile? Etc. Making a proposal to proposal to the pre-Forum Consultations of the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) is not enough. They should have continued presenting their proposal to the ongoing peace process and keep the press and the public informed by publishing their proposal containing their preferred model of Federalism for South Sudan and enumerating the powers and approximate percentage of resources they want to be devolved. I presented facts and argued those points in my recent articles to guide any party to come up clearly on the issues but it is only the People’s Democratic Movement PDM which has so far publicly released a more detailed argument, though not comprehensive, on the type of federalism they prefer, two weeks ago in a press statement.
7- Insisting on Federalism during the Transitional Period
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “There are good reasons to insist on the institution of federalism in the transition. Firstly, ARCSS stipulates that the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) drafts a Constitutional Amendment bill within (21) days upon signing the agreement. The bill shall incorporate the agreement into the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (TCRSS). Federalism could be incorporated into the TCRSS within that timeframe. All are supposed to occur in the pre-transition period. All are doable and in good time.”
My response: This is not an honest interpretation of the issues. The mandate of the NCAC to in completely different from that of the National Constitution Review Commission (NCRC) to be reconstituted for the purposes of the Permanent Constitution making which ARCSS stipulates shall be Federal and democratic and “reflects the character of South Sudan in its various institutions taken together, guarantees good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, human rights, gender equity and affirmative action.”
Even the processes the two to undertake and their own formations are completely different. The lifespan of the NCAC is shorter and it’s to revise relevant laws and draft new legislation pursuant to the Revitalized ARCSS to prepare the ground for its full implementation. While the membership of the NCAC shall be drawn from among the parties and IGAD representatives, Chapter 6 Article 5 of the ARCSS provides that NCRC shall be appointed by the Executive [of the transitional government to be formed by all the parties to the Agreement] “after adequate consultation with all key stakeholders including but not limited to the Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations and Faith-Based groups for their views to prepare a Draft Constitutional Text”
Among several other relevant provisions of ARCSS on the process, Chapter 6 Article 5.1 provides that “The Commission [NCRC] shall carryout wide consultation with the people and conduct civic education and prepare the Draft Constitutional Text.”
The process to be undertaken by the NCRC is wide and different from that of the NCAC which Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok has referred to in his article. I believe he should be knowing these differences. I refer him and any interested person to read Chapter Six of ARCSS, Chapter One Article 13, and The Khartoum Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance with specific focus on Article 6.10 and 6.13.
Additionally, the process the NCAC shall take during the pre-transitional period is technical and is never expected to be wide and shall never be wide for known reasons including insecurity and lack of a democratic space since the rests of the relevant reforms are stipulated in the agreement (ARCSS), including permanent ceasefire, to take place in sequence.
Therefore, for Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok to call for the incorporation of federalism through the NCAC is itself contradictory to NAS manifesto which calls for “crafting and adopting, through a wide consultative process, a modern, democratic, truly federal constitution.” Those are the facts. That was the point I made in my article and I don’t understand why Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok should attempt to misrepresent my arguments intentionally or unintentionally. I don’t disrespect his views but he should argue independently, without mixing and misrepresenting my views in his opinion article.
8- Federalism is a popular demand
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “Secondly, Federalism is a popular demand since 1947, and there's no any convincing reason to further delay its implementation. Thirdly, The government track-record and apparent hostility against federalism as outlined above is no comfort for leaving the matter to be addressed well into the transition.”
My response: Indeed Federalism since 1947 was and remains up to date a popular demand of the people of South Sudan. The government and the parties recognized that in ARCSS and reiterated the same in the provisions of the Khartoum Governance Agreement. I recognize that too in several of my recent articles. However, the question of whether Federalism should be introduced immediately at the start of the transition or during the transition through the Permanent Constitution making process goes back to the mandate of the ongoing peace process [HLRF] and the relevant arguments I made here above and in recent articles. The ongoing process is a revitalization of ARCSS and not its renegotiation, or say not of its substantial parts. It is possible for the government and the opposition to agree on certain things outside that mandate but it is always weak for any party to argue for any issue not explicitly provided for in the HLRF mandate. That was why I once argued that the new parties who were not signatories to the ARCSS, like NAS, should have called for a new peace process or broadening of the mandate of the HLRF to include more clarity on the nature of the negotiations if they have certain urgent matters outside the explicit mandate of the HLRF. But with the current mandate of the HLRF which they have already joined, it is not easy to achieve much, apart from revitalizing the same ARCSS which puts Federalism through the process in its Chapter Six, to be introduced during the transition.
9- Enlightenment on types of Federalism
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “The notion that our people need understanding and enlightenment on the various types of federalism is flawed. How many among the elites in South Sudan who know the types of federalism? Not very many. I contend that the percentage of those who know would not be much different from the one belonging to their peers in America, India or Brazil. According to the US Department of Education, 32 million adults (9.8%) in the US can't read. The federal government was established in 1789, that's 229 years ago. If the illiteracy percentage is 9.8% now, what was it over two centuries ago?! The Americans managed to run a successful federal government and made America a superpower. The federal government of Brazil came into being in 1889, which is 129 years ago. At that time the literacy in Brazil was 16%. It means, 84% of the Brazilians were illiterate people when federalism was introduced. Regardless of the population size, the case of India is much closer to ours. The literacy percentages in India in 1951 and 2001 were 17.02% and 21.59% respectively. Our current literacy percentage is 27% which is higher than that of India. India is the biggest democracy on earth enjoying a prosperous and stable federal system of governance. Roger Alfred Yoron Modi would struggle in vain to make people favor such an assertion.”
My response: My argument that South Sudanese should be enlightened on the various types of Federalism is not flawed. It is Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok interpretation and argument in relation to it that is flawed. It is a legal requirement to establish a Federal system in South Sudan in line with the ARCSS being revitalized and I mentioned that clearly in that article. The understanding and enlightenment of South Sudanese on Federalism I talked about is also in line with the provisions of the ARCSS, especially on the required “wide consultation with the people” and the conduct of civic education while preparing the Draft Constitutional Text for the Permanent Constitution provided for in Chapter Six of ARCSS. None of these mean renegotiating or attempting to drop the legally required establishment of Federalism. It only means the people should be engaged in discussions on various types of Federalism, for example, in the context of South Sudan: is it Federalism based on states or the former three regions (Bahr El Gazal, Equatoria, or Upper Nile) that they want? It is not upon any single party or group of parties to come up with their preferred type of Federalism and then impose on the people of South Sudan without engaging them in a wide consultative process.
I would like to draw the attention of Dr. Kwajok and all to some of the relevant observations of the African Union of Inquiry on South Sudan AUCISS which I also quoted in one of my recent articles on the peace process. In its report, the AUCISS wrote:
“What emerged from the views gathered by the Commission, as well as commentary on the subject is that the issue has been politicized, and that the debate appears to be coloured by historical narratives of exclusion and inclusion. Equally, there is misunderstanding in a significant portion of the population as to what federalism entails. Some, including those who advocated for change, appeared unaware that the current system in South Sudan includes elements of federalism.”
“There are those who believe that federalism means separate existence or segregation, which evokes painful historical antecedents for some. One respondent told the Commission that in the federal arrangement he envisions, ‘we want to be left to live alone, us in our area and the xx in theirs’ referring to two ethnic communities. Some of those advocating for ‘segregation’ told the Commission that inter-ethnic relations were irreparably damaged by atrocities committed during the conflict, and that it would be difficult to co-exist side by side. For the Commission, these sentiments underscore the need for genuine reconciliation at the communal level, irrespective of the system of government adopted,” the AUCISS report continued.
You see? A genuine reconciliation among communities is indeed important for South Sudanese to be able to move forward from the belief that federalism means separate existence or segregation, which evokes painful historical antecedents. There are provisions for such reconciliation in the current Transitional Constitution TCRSS and the ARCSS being revitalized.
When the people are enlightened, they will understand and then a popular view shall be formed on the type of Federalism that “reflects the character of South Sudan” as ARCSS enshrines. A federal system is a law and law needs some sort of ownership from the people upon whom it shall be implemented. Engaging the people does not mean overturning the legal requirement for Federalism or attempting to have it renegotiated. It is about following the right process provided for in the ARCSS, which, once implemented in letter and spirit, shall automatically lead to greater awareness and acceptance which would make implementation of Federalism even simpler and avoid all avoidable conflicts. So, there is no reason for Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok to misrepresent my argument.
10- Baseless, misleading and malicious comment about me
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote “We know that Roger Alfred Yoron Modi was the former Managing Editor of Juba Monitor and former Chief Editor of Bakhita Radio. Also, we do know that Alfred Taban, the Editor-in-Chief of the Juba Monitor was appointed as MP to the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) on the ticket of First Vice President (FVP) Taban Deng Gai. Now we all know that Taban Deng Gai's group has gone back to the SPLM mainstream under President Salva Kiir Mayardit. So, I don't understand why Roger Alfred Yoron Modi should feel insecure in Juba. His previous boss who is now part of the ruling party could phone the Chief of Intelligence General Akol Koor, and his name would immediately be removed from the blacklist in case of a mistaken identity. As for those individuals who continue to pose a threat to his life and who are not members of the regime, General Akol Koor could similarly be contacted, and the problem would be sorted out in no time. He would unleash the unknown gunmen to hunt-down those "criminals".”
My response: Basic facts: first, Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok is wrong to conclude that I am in South Sudan. I left South Sudan almost two years ago and have never returned there since then. I only worked very briefly at Juba Monitor newspaper. I stopped working for Juba Monitor Newspaper since January 2017. My former Chief Editor Alfred Taban was appointed Member of Parliament on the ticket of First Vice President (FVP) Taban Deng Gai in July, 2017, seven months after I left the newspaper. I was already out of the Country at that time. I did not have any personal relations with my former Chief Editor Alfred Taban, I still do not have. Also, I have never made any form of communication with him since January last year. Juba Monitor and other newspapers in the Country do publish my analyses when they pick from online or when I send via email to several media houses and editors who Alfred Taban is not even one of them because he left journalism, at least officially, as has been reported publicly.
Secondly, with regards to the nature of my threats, I am not obliged to make the full details about my threats public. But I don’t understand why Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok would think that my safety would be settled by my former Chief Editor who I left nearly two years ago just because he is currently a member of parliament and in “the ruling party”? The reasoning Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok has made here is too low and completely baseless. When has it become that being a former junior staff or employee of someone in a credible (at least during my time there) media house automatically translates to having the same political view on any issue with your former boss [Chief Editor] who has joined politics?
I have several former bosses whom I worked with before in different media houses in the Country and some of them have joined politics (government or opposition inside and outside the country) does that mean I automatically share the same political opinion with any of them or any of them would come to my rescue when I face threats because of my profession? What shall be the future of my profession if I have to depend on a politician for protection when I know politicians’ interests shift from time to time but my profession requires consistency? You (Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok) mean I don’t care about my profession and reputation to engage in anything you have described above? Why would Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok baselessly link me with the political/armed officials above and the “unknown gunmen” just because my view on an issue has not satisfied him? Why would Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok suggest that with all the credibility I built for myself over the years I would accept the arrangements he described above as a means for my safety? The arguments Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok has presented do not hold any ground and I feel sorry for his reasoning. I think that he is being malicious to my towering journalistic career, life or he has been influenced by someone against my career and progress to make such baseless arguments against me.
I know also that some of the problems disturbing a number of South Sudanese are their false assumption that everyone has a price and is furthering an agenda of a political party, movement, tribe or region. I am only a professional. I am committed to what I do; I do not compromise my independence and the requirements of my profession. I believe that telling the truth never damages a cause that is just. I am always able to defend my work and articles, intellectually and with facts like I have done here and elsewhere always. So, why not challenge my work and wait for me to respond instead of maliciously twisting and misrepresenting personal information about my previous work at Juba Monitor newspaper? I would humbly urge Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok to amend his article accordingly and withdraw the parts making misleading arguments about me. I will write to him a comprehensive piece privately on this also.
11- On the number of States
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “The number of States should have been a non-starter. The journalist knows very well that ARCSS is based on the pre-conflict 10 States.”
My response: Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok should have never misunderstood my argument calling on the parties to focus on more than just agreeing on the number of the states with the government. It was an advice, factually argued with good intentions and there is no reason to take it out of context. I have never disputed that ARCSS was signed based on 10 States and that the creation of 28 states was a contravention of ARCSS. But a lot of facts have changed since then. Also, on 28 last month, I published my view on Radio Tamazuj on how to resolve the issue of the states when the proposed governance agreement came out at that time. I stand by my words and never contradicted myself but no one should expect me to be repeating myself in every article even when the contexts differ.
Though there are few changes on recent drafts on the subject, my recommendations on the states issue remain the most balanced, fair, and considerate and based on facts, not a one-sided argument which Dr. Kwajok has raised above. The article is available on the below link for anyone interested in developing a well-informed position on the issues: http://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/analysis-five-contentious-issues-in-the-south-sudan-peace-process
Also below are some excerpts from the article:
“The statement signed by Pa’gan Amum Okiech on behalf of the FDs argued that “The idea of holding a referendum within five (5) months before the end of the Pre-Transitional Period is a ploy to entrench the 32 States, as it is not feasible to conduct a meaningful referendum within this time frame. During this period of time only the current TGoNU that will be in charge of conducting the referendum including all matters related to it such as matters not amenable to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ options. How can a referendum be conducted in a situation when it is one Party to the conflict that will be in power and controls the state including security, registration, producing of voting materials? There will be no conducive atmosphere and sufficient political space for other political parties to campaign and propagate their view on the pros and cons of the 32-state arrangement, among others.”
“To begin with, the idea of referendum has nothing to do with the issue of the 32 states and the decision of the IGAD Council of Ministers referred to earlier. The 32 States which were imposed in contravention of Articles 1.6, 15.2 and 15.3 of Chapter I of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), is an illegality and a violation of ARCSS and the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, (2011). It cannot be allowed to stand in a revitalized Agreement. So we reject it,” the statement further added.
“If the idea of setting up a commission is not a ploy to maintain the 32 states, it will be better to apply the original decision of the 55th Extra-Ordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers in letter and spirit. This should mean setting up an Inclusive Boundaries Commission to discuss and resolve the matter within one month. The default position, in the event of failure to agree, is reverting to the 10 states.”
Indeed the decision of the 55th Extra-Ordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers which Article 4.1 of the (Proposed) Agreement referred to on the appointment of an IBC recognized that the creation on then 28 states was “inconsistent with the terms of ARCSS” and urged the Parties “…in the absence of agreement on the creation of new states, to suspend further action on implementing the operationalization of new states until an inclusive, participatory National Boundary Commission comprising all Parties to ARCSS reviews proposed states and their boundaries, and that this review process occurs, for a period of up to one month.”
The decision of the IGAD Council of Ministers further indicated to the parties that “in the event there are outstanding disputes at the end of the boundary commission review process, the Parties should revert to the provisions of the Agreement.”
But a lot has changed on the ground since that 2016 decision of the 55th Extra-Ordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers. On one hand, IGAD continues to recognize the incumbent TGoNU, and by extension, the parties constituting the TGoNU.
On the other hand, the TGoNU moved on and increased the states from 28 to 32, presumably with full agreement of the parties taking part in the TGoNU, something which they could argue to be (partly) pursuant to the decision of the 55th Extra-Ordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers itself, especially the point which talked about “agreement on the creation of new states.”
But indeed, the rest of the exiled or excluded ARCSS parties have the right to protest since those who remained behind did not represent them as at the time of ARCSS signing in 2015.
Now, what should be the solution to the issue of the States? We already know the states increment is a violation of ARCSS and many of the States lack competent institutions (infrastructure) plus it is economically difficult to run many States effectively. We know our people had demanded more counties to the former ten States.
However, now, many of our innocent and mainly uninformed population are already celebrating the increased States thinking power and resources have been brought closer to them without understanding the implications involved. Taking away the States from them by reverting to the 10 States may have huge implications with a possibility of creating another conflict.
On the other hand, many others also feel the new states are bad and have tempered with their boundaries and peaceful coexistence.
Also, of course, a credible Referendum is not possible within the given period.
Nevertheless, Article 4.9 of the (Proposed) Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance provides that “The IBC shall strive to adopt its final report (on the number of States of the Republic of South Sudan, their boundaries, the composition and restructuring of the Council of States and to make recommendations on the same) by consensus. If consensus is not achieved, the IBC shall adopt its final report by a decision taken by two-thirds of all its members that shall include at least seven (7) of its South Sudanese members.”
This is where the parties opposed to the States should clearly identify the grievances of the communities affected and together with the incumbent TGoNU, without (political) bias, reach a solution, preferably by adding more states or merging some states or counties where necessary.
This is an avenue all the parties (the incumbent TGoNU included) should use very well by demonstrating leadership to come up with a settlement on the states and related issues, thereby avoiding talks about a referendum on the same. It is possible. It requires courage and honesty.
- The Problem is not merely Agreeing on the Number of States
In November 2015 after ARCSS was signed, it was widely reported over the media that South Sudanese Parliament amended the TCRSS, relaxing the number of states stipulated in the Constitution and gave the President powers to create more states, appoint governors, etc.
“Article 162 (1) which fixed the number of states to ten was amended so that ‘the President may for the purpose of efficient discharge of functions of the government, divide the territory of the Republic of South Sudan into states and other areas in accordance with procedures prescribed by law or provisions of such law as may be enacted by the concerned House of Legislature.’” Sudan Tribune reported.
“Article 164 (1) which defined the current states legislative assemblies, the manner of their composition, was amended to add that other members will be appointed by the president during interim period.”
On this also, The Nation Mirror reported that the “issue of 28 states also attracted criticism as it was passed by the National Legislative Assembly. Several MPs walked out of parliament accusing the Speaker of bias. They also said that parliament passed the Creation Order illegally as it lacked quorum.”
In December 2015, Radio Tamazuj reported that the Council of States “ratified the Constitutional amendments on the establishment of 28 states.”
For all this time, the opposition and others only talk about reaching an agreement with the government on the number of the states for the purposes of the transitional period.
However, in reality, all should focus on much more than just an agreement on States number. This is because the government may reach an agreement with them (the opposition, parties) on the states today or at any time as per the Igad-led ARCSS process but the President could later still divide the Country in to more or fewer States, citing the controversial “Constitutional Amendment” or the Establishment Order approved by the Council of States. That could happen especially when ARCSS expires before a democratic Permanent Constitution is enacted with clearly defined States number, withdrawing the powers said to have been given to the President to divide the Country into States.
One option is to challenge the “Constitutional Amendment” and the Establishment Order before the Courts in South Sudan but experience shows that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get a just ruling on the matter since the Judiciary is still not Independent from the Executive in several ways.
Hence, the best is for all the parties to get a balanced power sharing in the Council of States through the ongoing (Proposed) Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance on the ARCSS revitalization since it is the Council that shall have powers to approve or conduct reforms on the issues of states and also stop the same from being centralized to the office of the President.”
12- Peace through non-violence
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok wrote, “NAS could undoubtedly cause problems for the government in various ways, but its leaders are more concerned about the plight of the ordinary people of South Sudan who are yearning for a just peace.” He continued “NAS has prioritized peaceful settlement of the conflict over other means as long as opportunities for peace talks remain on the table for all the parties. It's out of NAS conviction that the victims on both sides are the same South Sudanese people. Therefore, if there's a way to resolve the conflict peacefully and save lives, then it's the option NAS would choose.”
My response: Indeed it is commendable if NAS and any other party could bring a just peace without using violence against the government, any South Sudanese, and any person. I have never urged NAS or any party to use violence against anyone.
It is clear to anyone with in-depth knowledge of South Sudan crises that there is currently a lot of politics over the issue of Federalism. Some parties do not want Federalism to be achieved through the provisions of the ARCSS as they see such a process shall give credit to Dr. Machar who led the major opposition movement that brought ARCSS in 2015 and President Kiir who also signed ARCSS with Federalism included. That is politics and the parties are free to do their politics. But as a journalist, I am obliged to present facts to the public and the common man. It is simply a genuine peace and federalism that the suffering South Sudanese want, not the question of legacy or a credit for who has championed federalism in South Sudan. It is also inaccurate for anyone to suggest that all those in government or all those who have not joined the war are against reforms and federalism in the Country.
Further, Gen. Cirillo is a good leader, a historical figure with great potentials to lead the Country one day but no one with ill intentions should give him a misleading advice on the course of action to take with regards to federalism or the current crisis. As a journalist and a citizen, I will continue to be vocal on how to bring peace and reforms in the Country, in line with my profession. It is clear that some politicians who have or have picked up a personal rivalry with Kiir and Machar have never been serious about the search for genuine peace in the Country and they continue to influence others to reject any agreement that does further their selfish interest in favor of war. Those are politicians no one should work with their selfish agenda. They should never be allowed to mislead the Country and the world on how to end the recurrent cycle of armed conflicts in South Sudan.
I don’t know which category Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok belongs to but there are harmful South Sudanese within the various political/armed parties who continue to exploit painful historical differences and various deadly incidents including of the last decades of liberation wars to cause more wars to further their selfish political agenda at the expense of any genuine, inclusive peace with justice reforms, federalism, freedoms and reconciliation and healing included.
Such harmful South Sudanese should be encouraged to rise above their selfish interests and respond to the need to end the conflict and achieve a lasting peace in the Country. On my view on federalism, the nature of reforms and how to achieve a just peace in South Sudan, read this article again and my several articles on the ongoing peace process.
I have successfully replied to all I intend to respond to from Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok article and I hope he and those misled by his article now understand the issues better.
The author, Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the former Managing Editor of Juba Monitor Newspaper and former Chief Editor of Bakhita Radio. He can be reached via his email: email@example.com
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.