Framing Possible Resolutions for Political Settlement of South Sudan’s Conflict



1. Introduction

The two Sudans signed the landmark accord in 2005 which ended the longest war in the Africa. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement granted people of South Sudan the rights to vote for a United Sudan or secession in a Referendum. In 2011, people living in South Sudan and those in diaspora voted overwhelmingly, casting almost 100% votes in favor of independence. That vote fulfilled the very essence, and ideals of the long decades of the liberation struggles. All citizens were delighted to celebrate that euphoric moment of political autonomy with an awe-inspiring manner that superseded the meaning of happiness. The dreams and hopes were entrusted into leaders of South Sudan, the first president and vice of South Sudan, which to some extent remain unrealized.

Celebration of South Sudan independent was not simply meant for gained sovereignty, territorial integrity, and recognitions of our country by the international community; it means that the ideals of liberation shall be realized. Citizens were celebrating those envisioned ideas of perfect country. A country where better hospitals or clinics will be built to offer contemporary health care for the sick, a country where well equipped schools will be constructed to enhance child learning, a country where main cities would be connected by roads, and tarmac high ways. We, citizens envisioned a state where basic democratic ideals and the Bills of Rights will be realized, and observed.

However, citizens did not enjoy or realize this vision of a perfect country because of wide spread deficiencies in structures of government institutions and lack of necessary tools to arm citizens to seize rapid economic and social development that could have set nation in path of self-reliant and sustainable development across the nation. Citizens in dire situation need government’s aided self-reliant developments to build the endogenous mechanisms of society that will enable this nascent nation ultimately achieve economic growth without aid from foreign countries. Besides, South Sudan had abundant resources can be used for innovative purposes to pave way for sustainable development and ensure stable growth pattern in such a way that economic development is in harmony with the environment and political culture. The founding father of our nation one said that rich citizens mean wealthy government, and poor citizens mean poorer government. Efforts could have been made at the initial to engrave in South Sudan’s constitution policies that could ensure opportunities that could improve participations in processes of social economic and political development.

In order to settle any problem, policymakers first identify problems, define problems, and identify policy options that are potentially feasible with state limited resources. Since the developing nation of South Sudan limited sources of revenue is already engulfed in war, and it is certainly important to identify in the subsequent paragraphs.

2. The Factors which Caused War in South Sudan:

  1. Not integrating tribal militias, and dangerously tribalizing presidential guards to protect their ethic leaders in the capitol.
  2. Deep-rooted autocratic government that tiredly works to prevents peaceful demonstrations, political rallies and legitimate criticism of the government.
  3. Failing to dissolve Politburo and National Liberation on the eve of South Sudan inceptions. This allows the disgruntled group founded their voices in these SPLM two elitist bourgeoisies’ organs, and it sparks chaos in Juba.
  4. Malfunction and deficiency institutions of government.
  5. Corruption, and nepotism
  6. Presidential amnesty given to rebels and flawed integration policy were disaster for our Country. Thousands of men and women lost their life because of this policy; the government can learn from it and rectify missteps.
  7. Sponsored deep seated tribal hatred and violence among tribes (for instance, calling citizens Nyagat, or rebels’ escalated hatred and violence).
  8. Failing to adherence to basic human rights, law and order.
  9. The government fails to meet the deadline of completing new constitution and not annexing election laws.
  10. Wide range usage of the presidential and executive powers.
  11. Repressive government behaviors.
  12. Security apparatus cracking down on legitimate critics of government.
  13. Growing regionalism.

3. Problems Definition and Articulation

The SPLA-Tiger Division stationed in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan, is composed of Presidential guards of Salva Kiir, vice presidential guards of Riek Machar, and Former deputy commander in Chief Guards of Matip Nhial. These guards were never integrated. Each unit within the presidential guards was deployed to protect its own tribal leader. Nuers were protecting their son, and Dinka were protecting their son. And not integrating, and failing to build more patriotic army cost South Sudan immensely. This is one colossal error among many of what is wrong with the SPLA which places South Sudan in more complex, and treacherous war.

Besides, when founding father of our nation Dr. John Garang de Mabior died in 2005, he left the country with two highest organs, Politburo, and National Liberation Council (NLC). These elitist organs become venue for planting political tribal hatreds. NLC and Politburo robbed citizens of their rights to hold constitutional referendum, participate in organizing, and reforming SPLM party into democratic state political party. Arguably, December 15th war could have been prevented if these two organs had been dissolved immediately after independent of South Sudan. NLC and politburo served the Liberation Struggles better but had no place in an independent democratic state. Inside every member of the Politburo and NLC is a man struggling to be president of South Sudan. These hungry folks for power tend to exacerbate conflict….what makes matters worse is because senior members of Politburo and NLC are serving as pseudo tribal leaders. The SPLM two elitist are becoming bourgeoisies’ organs that hinder citizens’ political participations, and engagement in governmental affairs. Issues matter to the nation that warrants citizens’ involvement most of the times are suggested to resolve by Politburo, and NLC. This is clear indicative of what is wrong with South Sudan.

Concurrently, South Sudan has seen more rebels since 2005 because soldiers and generals have not been trained to adhere to codes of conduct and ethics that guide all military personnel to love and protect their country. Tribal militias were intentionally kept separate for reasons only known to government officials and military leaders. Severe lack of clear policies of integration makes the SPLA more of tribal army than national army. It is fundamentally important for all soldiers to be trained as national army to protect sovereignty of South Sudan state, and stand firmly ready to help people of South Sudan in an event of manmade and natural disasters.

This brings me to bad governances. Some leaders that served in the government of South Sudan for the last 9 years have poorly governed the country and they do not want to accept the responsibility that they have failed. The leaders presides over wide range of malfunction and deficiency institutions of government, and corruption, and nepotism, and if they do want to accept failure than who failed people of South Sudan? Things could get worse if there is no clarity in term of government own humanitarian interventions, framing peaceful resolutions to conflict, constitution and whether or not election laws are made clear to public before end of President Salva Kiir terms in 2015.

South Sudan is facing bigger problems of entrenched divisions and tribal war. What seemed to be isolated coup d’état has taken tribal dimension. Divisiveness and engrained tribalism are growing among South Sudanese communities in unprecedented rates. Leaders and citizens alike should all be concerned. It is sad that tribes are divided, sub-tribes are divided, and even clans are divided, where are we taking this country? And the government owns television in Juba has not adjusted its tone to pave way for healthy dialogue between government and rebels.

The system of governance has become more corrupt and dangerous tyranny is taking its routs. Even when the constitution of South was derived democratic constitutionalism, system by which power is shared between state and federal governments. Federalism clarifies that some powers reside in central government while some are left to state or local governments. The local and state governments act as vehicles to implement national laws. The basic principles of federalism echo checks and balances, and a division of power between the states and the national government.

4. Federalism as Political Alternative and Feasible Solutions to Current Conflict.

The team writing new constitution can attribute the power arrangements among the several levels of government. For instance, enumerated powers of federal constitution are specifically granted to the national government, reserved powers are specifically granted to the states, concurrent powers shared jointly by federal and state governments; and prohibited powers which are denied to either or both levels of government (Ajang’s Lecture Note, 2014. Powers can be enunciated and articulated in the constitution to help maintain stability, and peace in the country. States and localities retain sovereign powers, while yielding only outlined authority to the central government. Legitimate constitutionalism ensures fair distribution of powers among governments.

This country can rise up from its ruin only if it chooses to create meaningful sequential political settlement of conflict. This can be done by making incremental improvement of peaceful conflict resolution and policy implementation that would work to sustain peace. This begins with the president Salva Kiir honoring his terms limit, and if he cares about his own legacy, people, and the future of South Sudan, he can unilaterally appoints an interim government using presidential enumerated powers. This seems the best options that could save South Sudan’s soul.

The interim government and teams writing new constitution must firmly engrain the following four major feature of federalism into South Sudan’s constitutions to ensure powers arrangement, calm growing discontents and avert regionalism:

  1. Enumerated powers: are specifically granted to the federal government (for example raising army, federal tax collection, signing treaties, trade agreements etc)
  2. Reserved powers: are specifically granted to the states, (for instance, governorship elections, collection of state taxes, agricultural developments, encouragement of entrepreneurship, building schools )
  3. Concurrent powers: are shared jointly by federal and state governments (for instance Tax Collections, police, subsidiary funds for business)
  4. Prohibited powers: are denied to either or both levels of government. These powers belong to citizens (For instance civil liberties or Bill of Rights, freedom of press, speech, religions, legitimate criticism) Note that the Bill of Rights under the constitution ensures protection of citizens from their government.

The federal system requires coordination and cooperation among state governments. This is done to ensure full faith and credit provision, privileges and immunities provision of the constitution, as well as interstate compacts that shapes the relationship among the states. And, because states in a federal system may experiment with different social and economic policies, policy innovations pioneered at the state level have often sparked widespread political changes, (Ajang Lectures Note, 2014). National-state relations are influenced by fiscal and political relations as well as constitutional and legal controls. Nevertheless, these relations need to be enunciated in constitution of South Sudan, and sell to ten states or citizens.

Government Can Enhance Peace using the Following Tools and Methods

The government of South Sudan should play significant in bringing peace and stability to South Sudan. Juba can craft inclusive policies that would ensure incremental peaceful political settlement of the conflict. The public good and welfare of the citizens are disregarded when leaders struggle for power. Hence the following could bring peace to South Sudan, if they are concurrently implemented in political sequential paces.

  1.         i.            President Salva Kiir could use his enumerated presidential powers to appoint an interim government without Riek Machar. Kiir, and Riek need to give peace a chance and rather prepare for election in 2018. The appointment of interim government and withdrawal of Ugandan troop can pave way for cessation of hostilities, and guarantees way forward.
  1.       ii.            Allocation of resources or funds to trusted leaders or organizations that would implement peace, and reconciliations.
  1.     iii.            Writing new constitution that is premised on constitutionalism of federalism and Annexing election laws and term limits. This new constitution should be derived from South Sudan political cultures, values, norms and traditions, and feature separation of powers within the government, its creation of checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
  1.     iv.            SPLM political party must change its manifesto, code of conducts and rule of laws. This party chairperson can be elected by member of the SPLM council from ten states, and chairperson cannot contest for primary or presidential elections. If the chairperson wants to contest, he/she must resign from chairpersonship. SPLM must be transformed from its liberation Struggles organs to democratic political party organs. This could mean eliminations of Politburo, and National Liberation Council because political cultures and values of the liberation struggle may hinder democratic ideals. However, some leaders that had unique qualities of leadership could work around these political cultures and values to propagate the most needed ideals in a country. A leader that holds tribe and ethnicity dearly impedes progress and failed. Executing visions and programs, and lifting laws to the highest ethical standards is a leader that succeeds.
  1.       v.            South Sudan must establish institutions that could transform army, an SPLA that will be loyal and patriotic to the nation of South Sudan not to tribes or leaders or generals in the army. This mean initiating training programs in which all the soldiers can go through in order to graduate in the South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF). Rules and laws that govern Military must be pound into their heads to honor and defense the sovereignty of country.
  1.     vi.            Creation of democratic institutions of government that would ensure accountability and transparency. For instance, and Independence Agency that can audit the government and holds senior officials accountable for their wrong doing in an event of missing funds.
  1.   vii.            Since 2006, the instability, cattle rustling, and tribal violence have claimed innocent lives. The massive unemployment of youth in South Sudan escalates violence. It is time for government to give this youth incentive. White army is neither loyal to rebels nor government, they are loyal to their traditional leaders. The government could use some resources as an incentive to initiate cease fire and persuades them to accept peace. Finally initiate long term programs for deviant youth. The government can initiate three tier levels of peace process, an inclusive one that had elders, youth, and women and people from diaspora or diaspora communities of Greater Upper Niles.
  1. Repair threatens fabric and ethnic relations among Shiluk, Dinka, Nuer and Murle. This means government needs to organize grassroots movement that would champion peace in the hotspots parts of South Sudan. Tribal leaders, youth, elders and diaspora must join hands to repair damaged ethic cohesion.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the South Sudan government could work effectively and efficiently toward the achievement lasting peace and stability. And this could be achieved if the government starts working toward maintaining a unified state, defending and developing its economy. State needed to develop a self-reliant to ensure sustainable development and social justice, and this can only happened when security of all citizens guaranteed. The government needs to take pride in diversity of its citizens because it is one way of promoting peace.

Moreover, it is paramount that government officials get ideal orientation as a mean of achieving peace and reconciliations. South Sudan government’s legitimacy in citizens’ view lies in its accountability, securing of human rights and ensuring local autonomy, and protection of civil populations. The essence and ideal functioning of government entirely depends on whether the government has the competence and/or the political and administrative structures and mechanisms to function effectively and efficiently. The government must embrace legislations and institutions that are administrative functioning with clear transparency, decentralization, and the creation of an environment in which South Sudan’s market economy could work properly. The government works as a vehicle to provide support for people’s participation in the political, economic, and social realms. In other words, the basic needs of the people and indirectly support the people’s freedom of activity and the functioning of market mechanisms and thereby promote the process of participation: they are ideal functioning of government as the foundation of participatory development.

New election laws must be annexed, and incorporated into constitution to ensure democratic and defuse tribal violence that had consumed states significantly. Hence, South Sudan’s good governance must be an ideal orientation of the state does not have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with participatory development, but the government can assume the role of a provider of a proper environment for market economy, extensive promoter of people’s capabilities, builder of efficient administrative structures, and reflector of the popular will. The ideal of good governance is an ideal orientation of citizens understanding of conceptual component of a state striving toward greater democracy that is embodied by the effective and efficient functioning of government assumes the aforementioned responsibilities.

Gabrial Pager Ajang is a Political Science and History Instructor at Wright Career College, Former State of Nebraska Legislative Assistance. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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