By James Okuk, PhD
January 16, 2016 (SSNA) -- Last few days after a positive step was taken by the parties to the August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) regarding consensus on selection of 30 national ministries, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan thought that the same honeymoon should be extended to the issue of 28 states. The request was officially placed to the JMEC in its second meeting after having heard the progress report from the National Constitutional Amendments Committee. It was decided thereafter that the issue of 28 states is not purely a legal matter but a political one that could be resolved by dialogue until consensus is reached on how to go about it.
However, 'consensus' is a porous term because it could be understood from perspectives of different directions. Firstly, it could be that ARCISS' parties would agree on endorsement of the Republic Establishment Order Number 36/2015 for creation of 28 States in the decentralized governance system in the Republic of South Sudan by including this in the structure and composition of states governments.
Secondly, it could be that the parties would agree that the issue of 28 states be endorsed for further deliberation and modification but within the mechanisms provided in Chapter Six on Parameters of Permanent Constitution after the transitional government has taken up its duties fully. It is already provided that the TGoNU would initiate a federal and democratic system of government that reflects the character of South Sudan in its various institutions taken together with guarantees of good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, human rights, gender equity, affirmative action, stability, national unity, ethnic diversity, territorial integrity and people's participation via devolution of powers and resources to the states and counties.
The permanent constitution is supposed to be completed not later than 18 months from the time of launching the transitional period. The reconstituted National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) shall include political parties, Civil Society Organizations, Faith-based groups, Women bloc, Youth, Ethnic Minorities, Private Sector, Academics and other professionals who should carry out wide consultations and conduct civic education on the permanent constitution-making. Not only these, but also the TGoNU shall seek assistance of regional and international experts to benefit from the experience and best practices on this constitutional making endeavor. Hence, consensus on the second option is likely possible within ARCISS' mechanisms.
However, consensus on the first option seems impossible, given the diverting public positions of the parties. The GRSS continues to push for the endorsement of 28 states because it assumes this to be a popular decision that would never be revered by H.E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit thought it could be amended by another Republican Order.
The SPLM-IO has come out openly against the adoption of the 28 states for kickstarting the government of national unity of the transitional period, and insists that the dissolved 10 states should be the way to start as provided in Chapter One of the ARCISS because 28 states is a recipe for permanent ethnic conflicts and more continuation of instability in South Sudan.
The SPLM- FDs and Other Political Parties have objected even to sitting down to dialogue for a consensus on the 28 states because this is a violation to ARCISS as well as to the constitutional procedures. The JMEC's Chairperson, H.E. Testis G. Mogae have also voiced out his fear that the 28 states is creating unnecessary further delays to implementation of the ARCISS because it is a violation and un-procedural move by the GTSS on the trust of peace.
As this is the case, it would be miraculous how a consensus could be reached on the crisis of 28 states even if it is declared by the JMEC to be a political issue. What is expected to happen then?
The JMEC has suggested that the formation of Government of National Unity at the national level could go ahead based on reference to the ARCISS while dialogue on the composition and structure of government of national unity at states level continue till a political consensus is reached.
The GRSS tends to be comfortable with this thought because it gives it more time to buy while its de facto 28 states and governors are operational on the ground.
The SPLM-IO may be half-heartily welcoming to JMEC's suggestion as long as its 21 bush federal states and governors continue to exist at the same time, though not necessarily at the same places with the GRSS' 28 states. But the difficulty with this mediocre comfort is that Dr. Riek Machar and other SPLM-IO hardliners may not accept to step feet in Juba until the the crisis of 28 states is resolved by the JMEC finally.
This shall, of course, be considered by the international community and its regional allies as obstruction and delay to the implementation of the ARCISS; an act that has already been red-lined by the UN Security Council Resolutions 2206 and 2241(2015) with targeted sanctions and other methods of interventions.
If the ARCISS raveled, the GRSS shall feel much heat of hit for a failure because of serious economic crises that may get created to add to the already existing hard currency bankruptcy. People's outcry shall dangerously get louder with SPLM factions losing popularity both nationally and internationally, despite the fact that there is no Tarir Square in Juba to demonstrate the frustration. The SPLM-IO may not escape the blame too, especially if its advance team decide to get out from Juba or seek refuge in UNMISS as a sign of resumption of more rigorous civil war against SPLM-IG regime.
Why would leaders of the warring parties want to continue humiliating themselves in the face of their citizens and the world by delaying the implementation of ARCISS because of the issue of 28 states that could even be resolved shortly within a year after starting with 10 states first?
To resolve this problem H.E. Salve Kiir is not obliged to issue another Executive Order to reverse the 28 states. What he needs urgently is to allow the NCAC to incorporate the 10 states into draft transitional constitution (2016) as agreed in ARCISS, pass the transitional constitution in the Council of Ministers, endorse it in the expanded Transitional Legislative Assembly and then sign it into supreme law.
This would drop indirectly the GRSS' 28 states and SPLM-IO' 21 states by revitalizing the defunct 10 states for kickstarting the ARCISS period on right footing. From then the government of national unity would get formed with Dr. Riek and all SPLM-IO arriving in Juba hurriedly so that sanctions and other embarrassments could be avoided in time before it is too late after January 2016.
Viva ARCISS implementation Viva!