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Proposed Federal system for future South Sudan: Let us serialize it (part 5)

By Sindani Sebit

 Part 5

July 18, 2004 (SSNA) -- Part 5 of these series focuses mainly on the sources of financial resources for both the Federal Government and Federal states and how the federal resources can be distributed between the federal government and states. It will further illustrate how state resources can be distributed within the states. It will also outline the role of the body that will be responsible for financial resources distribution at the three levels of government.

Before discussing the sources of revenue for both the Federal and State Governments, it important to point out here that South Sudan is endowed with vast resources that if managed well, would spur rapid economic development in the country and perhaps transform the country into a middle class country within 15 to 20 years. With a population of nearly 10 million and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 1,858 in 2011, there is no reason why the economic transformation in South Sudan cannot supersede its neighbours because South Sudan has the highest GDP compared to all countries in the East African Region. It should also be mentioned here that the GDP referred to above is calculated based mainly on oil income that accounts for 98% of the production in South Sudan. However, South Sudan has other resources that could increase rapidly the GDP if these resources were exploited.

These resources include copper, gold, diamonds, uranium, chromium, manganese, iron ore, zinc, mica, silver, tungsten and hydropower. In addition one would also need to mention some of the potential economic areas, namely agriculture, forestry, fishery, trade and commerce which could have vastly contributed to boast the economy of the country. Sadly enough these resources are yet to be exploited.

In addition to failure to exploit all the potential of South Sudan, rampant corruption and poor resource distribution by the regime in Juba has, severely stagnated the economic development of the country. This is due to concentration of resources in the hands of the central government, poor planning by the central government, incompetent leadership, weak governance institutions at the center, lack of separation of powers between the executive, parliament and judiciary so as to ensure accountability, transparency and prudent planning and implementation. Therefore, as the situation exists now in South Sudan, most of the country resources are used rightly or wrongly in Juba and its environs while the so called states have been neglected. Judging from the 2014 budget of 17.3 billion SSP whereby a total of 14.098 billion (81.5%) (6.590 billion, to repay doubtable debts, 4.130 billion for central employees and soldiers and 3.130 billion for security) was allotted to the central Government, no kind of imaginable development or services can been rendered at state level.

Therefore, the proposed federal System for South Sudan is a deliberate effort to correct the gross failures created by the current constitution and form of government that exists now. This can only be done by establishing independent governing institutions at all three levels of federal government. These are aimed at guaranteeing accountability, transparency and prudent planning and resource management. Secondly, by establishing mechanisms that can distribute resources equitably and equally, to all the federal states as per the population sizes. The objective here is to ensure that these resources reach the intended populations and guarantee that the resources are used for the intended purposes.

In relation to a country, resource is defined as “the means available for economic and political development such as minerals, labour force and armaments” (Free dictionary) or “a country collective means of supporting itself or becoming wealthier as represented by its reserves of minerals, land and other natural assets” (Oxford dictionary) or “is a source or supply from which benefit is produced. Typically resources are materials, energy, services, staff, knowledge, or other assets that are transformed to produce benefit and in the process may be consumed or made unavailable” (Free encyclopedia). Therefore in a federal system, the right to collect revenue from resources must also be divided according to the levels of government namely Federal resources and state resources.

1. Federal resources

The federal government resources will include among others that may be regulated by federal law:

a) Natural resources such as mineral and petroleum
b) Customs
c)  Immigration
d) Federal courts (federal Supreme Court and Federal Court of Appeal)
e) Value Added Tax (VAT)
f)  Assets such as airports, railways, weight and bridges
g) Services such as Federal employees, investments

Therefore, the Federal Government will collect revenue from mineral resources, immigration, customs, courts (Federal courts), VAT, federal investments, income taxes on federal employees, service taxes on airports, railways and weight and bridges. The revenue collected by the Federal government shall all go to the national consolidated fund. The funds collected by the Federal government are for whole nation and the federal government is not entitled to use it until it is distributed between the federal government and the states. The distribution of this fund shall be done by the Revenue Allocation and Distribution Commission. This is an independent commission which is set up under a constitutional provision purposely to ensure that national resources are collected and distributed between the Federal Government and the federal states according to a formula defined by the constitution which should be 30% for the Federal Government and 70% for the Federal States. This ratio is purposely established because Federal States are the service delivery organs in the country and so they must be provided with enough resources to effectively and efficiently deliver services according to the needs of the states. This is meant to offset the current system in Juba where the regions are designated to deliver services to the people yet they helplessly depend on the central government on what is given to them as grants. As usual these grants have always being less than 10% of the national income. As a result the regional governments have failed to deliver services to the people.

2. Federal state resources

The federal state government resources will include among others that may be regulated by state law:

a) Land
b) Games and parks
c) Courts
d) Royalties
e) Services
f) Taxes
g) Loans

Therefore, the federal states revenue sources will include land and housing rates, market taxes, licenses, agriculture, court fees, game and game parks, tourism and recreation services including parking fee and income taxes from state employees and residents. Others are vehicle registration fee, service taxes such for water, sewerage and electricity, road tolls and import and export taxes. However, interstate taxes such not be levied. The states will also get resources from royalties, federal contribution and loans from local banks.

3. Distribution of federal resource between the Federal Government and states

In sharing the national resources at whatever level, the principle of public finance is underpinned by the fact that there shall be openness and accountability, including public participation in financial matters. The public finance system shall promote an equitable society, and in particular that the burden of taxation shall be shared fairly and revenue raised nationally shall be shared according to the federal constitutional provision of 30% to 70% in favour of the federal states and that distribution of resources at state level is equitable. Expenditure shall promote the equitable development of the country, including making special provision for marginalized groups and areas in addition to ensuring that the burdens and benefits of the use of resources and public borrowing shall be shared equitably between present and future generations. The principle shall also guarantee that public money shall be used in a prudent and responsible way. Financial management shall be responsible and fiscal reporting shall be clear.

However, while sharing the federal resources, the following additional criteria should be taken into consideration:

a) The national interest and obligations shall be a priority particularly such as in a state of war and national calamities. This means the Revenue Allocation and Distribution Commission must ensure that resources are made available to the Federal Government to meet these challenges before distributing the federal resources according to the formula set out in the constitution. In such situation, the federal government is required to come out with concrete budget proposals that shall be reviewed by the commission to ensure that they meet legitimate needs that are in the interest of the nation. Thereafter the commission with present such request to the Federal Parliament for debate and approval. Once approved these funds shall be credited to the emergency fund account created for this purpose.

b)      The need to ensure that State governments are able to perform the functions allocated to them

In order to ensure that the annual federal resources are shared between the federal government and the state governments according to the stipulated formula, this money shall be calculated on the basis of the most recent audited accounts of revenue received and approved by the federal Parliament.

4. Distribution of 70% of the federal resources among the states

The distribution of federal resources among the states shall be shared according to population size in each state. This is to ensure equity in distribution of resources among the states and guarantee that every citizen in each state gets its correct share of the national resources and services. This means that states with large populations will get more money than those with low population. This is because high population density means there is greater need for more services such as health, education and road infrastructure. Demand for housing, water and electricity increases with increasing population in addition to other social demands such as recreation, sporting and urbanization. Therefore once the 70% of the Federal funds is credited to state allocation account, the Revenue Allocation and Distribution Commission shall calculate the amount to be allocated to each state according to the population of the state. This shall be done independent of the state governments so as to avoid undue pressure exerted on the commission by the state governors. The population of the state shall be calculated according to the latest census taking into consideration the country’s average annual population growth rate.

5. Distribution of state resources to the counties

The state resources that shall be distributed among the counties of each state shall include funds received from the federal government and the funds collected by the state. All these constitute the state revenue. While distributing these funds, the Revenue Allocation and Distribution Commission should first consider the state government budget which should not exceed 30% of the total state revenue. This must be the budget approved by the state parliament. Having allocated the amount to the state government, the rest of the funds (70% of the total) shall be distributed among the counties based on the following criteria

a) The fiscal capacity and efficiency of county authorities to absolve the funds;
b) Developmental and other needs of counties are ensured
c) Economic disparities within and among counties and the need to remedy them is considered seriously
d) Affirmative action in respect of disadvantaged areas and groups is upheld

Revenue Allocation and Distribution Commission

This commission shall be established through a constitutional Act like other independent commissionsestablished under this Act.This means members of the commissions are:

  • Subject only to the Federal constitution and law
  • Independent and not subject to direction or control by any person or authority

The Commission members shall be nominated and appointed by the President/Prime minister subject to approval by the federal parliament. It shall be composed of:

  • Four persons who are not members of parliament nominated by various political parties represented in the federal Parliament according to their strength
  • Permanent Secretary in the ministry of finance
  • Two persons nominated by the Public Service Commission. These should not be members or employees of the commission
  • One person nominated by the Judicial Service Commission who is not a member or employee of the commission

Person nominated to be appointed to this commission shall have extensive professional experience in financial and economic affairs or should be a qualified lawyer in case of the representative of the judicial service commission

The commission shall be charged with the following responsibilities

1. Ensure that the revenue raised by the federal government is shared according to the constitutional stipulated sharing formula of 70% revenue going to the states and 30% remaining with the federal government

2. Make recommendations concerning basis for the equitable sharing of state revenue to the counties

3. Make recommendations on the matters concerning financing of, and financial management by state governments

4. While formulating the recommendations, the commission should seek to consider the following:

  • National interest
  • Public debt and other national obligations
  • Ensure that state governments are able to:
a) Perform their functions
b) Development needs
c)  Economic disparities within the counties in each state
d) Affirmative action in regard to the disadvantaged areas and groups within the states
  • Population density of each state
  • Desirability of the county and predictable allocations of revenue
  • Need for flexibility in responding to emergencies
  • When appropriate define and enhance the revenue services of the federal and state governments
  • Encourage fiscal responsibility

5. Determine, publish and regularly review a policy in which it sets out criteria for disadvantaged or marginalized area within states

6. Submit recommendations to the senate, federal parliament, federal executive, state assemblies and state executive

In conclusion, the proposed federal system intends to deliberately establish a robust and independent revenue allocation and distribution mechanism that first aims at fighting corruption and money laundering at any level of the federal government. The objective is to ensure that national resources are distributed equitably and transparently between the federal government and states and among the states. The second objective is to curtail or obstruct the federal Government from garrisoning funds in the Federal capital instead of ensuring that states have resources for development and service delivery. The third objective is to ensure that all federal states get equal chance for rapid and equal development. This means all South Sudanese will have access to basic services regardless of where they live or settle. The overall intention is to avoid the current constitutional loopholes that have resulted in amassing all the national resources in the hand of the central government giving no chance to the regions to access resources and foster development. Currently the regions are totally dependent on Juba government for their existence but the federal system aims to put the states in-charge of their own affairs and promote equal development and growth.

Due to the fact that many South Sudanese have misunderstood Federalism as a system aimed at sending other South Sudanese away from Equatoria or other parts of the country though is absolutely far from it, part 6 of these series shall focus on the rights of individuals and citizens in the proposed Federal Republic of South Sudan. The aim of serializing this system is to enable South Sudanese fully understand what is being proposed. We try here and there to compare the proposed system with the current one so as to see the advantaged and disadvantages.

The author can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

There is fundamental difference between decentralisation or devolution of powers and federalism

By Jacob K. Lupai

July 17, 2014 (SSNA) -- The debate on federalism for South Sudan has produced some mixed feelings and reactions. Some people are totally opposed to it, claiming that the system of governance in South Sudan is already federalism. They argue that the present decentralization or devolution of powers is already a federal system of government in South Sudan. For others federalism is perceived as dangerous to national unity. Furthermore some people are very suspicious that the proponents of federalism have a hidden agenda. In their paranoia the opponents of federalism relentlessly assume that once federalism is adopted they will be thrown out of the states of proponents of federalism.

For obvious reasons the vocal proponents of federalism are people of Equatoria. The opponents of federalism reason that when people of Equatoria call for federalism it is kokora. The opponents are very fearful that once federalism is adopted they will be unceremoniously evicted from Equatoria. The paranoia of the opponents of federalism even caused restriction of open debate. There was intimidation for any mention of a federal system of government. The opponents of federalism wanted the mouths of proponents shut. This was despite the government’s clarification on censor on federalism debate through a letter by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to newspaper editors. However, newspapers were still being confiscated.

For example, the letter of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting dated 2nd July 2014 in part outlined that, “It is the policy of the Government to encourage the people of South Sudan to participate in debates on topics or agendas which are of National interest among others, the debate on federalism”. Despite all this The Citizen was still confiscated on the 6th July well after the Minister’s letter. This seems to show clearly that deeper below the surface the debate on federalism was indeed hated. One can only speculate as to why there was such a poor coordination between government institutions in observing government policy.

The debate on federalism turned ugly when a soldier became undisciplined and shot dead a civilian in Maridi County in Western Equatoria State. Apparently the soldier was opposed to federalism and as with opponents of federalism, must have assumed they were the target for eviction from Equatoria. It is a pity that both illiterate and literate opponents of federalism have no any other positive perception except the paranoia of terribly missing all that is good of land of Equatoria. They do not give themselves a minute to think of anything positive that federalism can offer. This type obstinacy is a problem because people do not stand back and be a little bit reasonable in looking at the wider picture.

Opponents of federalism live in deep rooted suspicion and will never appreciate an inch of federalism. This becomes worrying when people are being murdered in cold blood such as the murder in Maridi of an innocent civilian simply for advocating federalism. However, there will come a time when enough will be enough that the murderers will be accountable for their heinous crimes. Killing people with impunity for expressing a contrary view is not the way to build national unity when others have the license to kill while the victims have no justice.

Coming back to centralization or devolution of powers and federalism which are considered to differ fundamentally, it is appropriate to look at them separately.

Decentralization or devolution of powers

Decntralisation or devolution can simply be defined as the transfer of part of the powers of the central government to regional or state authorities and it is in response to demands for diversity. In general decentralization or devolution is a response to the problems of centralized systems. It is seen as a solution to problems like economic decline, government inability to fund services and the demands of minorities for greater say in local governance. Decentralization or devolution of powers is linked to concepts of participation in decision-making, democracy, equality and liberty from high authority.

The processes by which entities move to decentralized state vary. They can be initiated from the central government in a top-down approach. Top-down decentralization may be a political gimmick while bottom-up decentralization initiated by individuals or states may be opposed as is the case with federalism we are now debating. At any rate whether it is top-down or bottom-up decentralization or devolution, it may not be constitutionally binding. Such decentralization or devolution may depend on the whims of the central government either to implement or ignore it.

Can anybody say for certain that the decentralization in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 is being implemented as expected of a decentralized system? If the decentralization in the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 were being implemented as expected, there wouldn’t have been a loud demand for a federal system. The level of demand for federalism seems to correlate to the level of regression to centralized system of government in South Sudan.

Federalism

Federalism is a political concept used to describe a system of government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units such as the states in South Sudan. In comparing decentralization or devolution with federalism it can be observed that there is a fundamental difference. Decentralisation is devolution of powers by the central authority to lower levels. The central authority may withdraw the devolved powers at will. In contrast, in federalism powers are constitutionally divided. There is a covenant between the central authority and the state in the division of powers in federalism. This is the fundamental difference between decentralization or devolution and federalism.  

Unlike in devolution of powers, in a federal system the central authority cannot easily withdraw powers from the state without the ruling of a competent constitutional court. So federalism is more just and fairer than decentralization or devolution because the aggrieved party has a chance to challenge any infringement on their powers through the constitutional court for justice. There is no any other fairer system than that justice must be seen to have been done.

Development under federalism

The high level demand of Equatoria for federalism is precisely to accelerate development but not to evict others as the alarmists would like to claim. It can be asserted with confidence that it is not to throw others out of Equatoria. Equatoria is an integral part of South Sudan. So it is mind boggling for people to fear the adoption of federalism as tantamount to Equatoria being a no go area for others. What is very clear, though, is that people with hegemonic tendencies fear federalism the most because they want to cling tom be rulers at any cost. However, adoption of federalism wouldn’t have been a big issue if it were seen from a developmental angle.

Right now federalism is seen from an ethnic angle and so it is perceived as targeting other people of different ethnic group. In fact the opponents of federalism are thinking they are under attack. This is of course false and baseless. The centralized system is favored simply to maintain the status quo. The people of Equatoria would have none of this and so the demand for federalism would always be there. Federalism is seen as a means to accelerate development.

Dr John Apuruot Akec, the Vice Chancellor of Juba University, in his article Decentralisation or devolution and federalism are faces of the same coin, which appeared in the opinion column of The Citizen and quoting my article in Juba Monitor of June 12, 2014, said I miss the point about the yardstick by which the strength of a federalist system of governance is measured. Dr Akec added I should have acknowledged that for every 10 South Sudanese, 4 are Dinka and that in the 10 states of South Sudan, 7 states have Dinka population.

Another interesting point Dr Akec raised is that 85 per cent of South Sudan government revenue is currently spent in Central Equatoria State and that Central Equatoria State continues to lead the whole country in most development indicators. I may say I have no quarrel with the assertion made but to make my own observation.

I agree with Dr Akec that in the 10 states of South Sudan, 7 states have Dinka population. However, my observation is that in some of the 7 states, for example in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity and in Western Bahr el Ghazal, the Dinka are a tiny minority and could hardly be a dominant force to reckon with. Nevertheless, they are the overwhelming majority only in Lakes, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. So the Dinka are mostly concentrated in only 3 states of South Sudan. Giving an impression of Dinka dominance in 7 out of 10 states for numerical superiority should not be used to justify domination which is any way irrelevant in terms of quality.    

 The claim that 85 per cent of South Sudan government revenue is currently spent in Central Equatoria State for its development is disputable. Dr Akec has not specified clearly budget line items from the revenue corresponding to development activities carried out in Central Equatoria State that amounted to 85 per cent of the revenue. The bulk of the alleged 85 per cent spent in Central Equatoria State if any may actually be for salaries and. the security and law enforcement sector.  

A very insignificant percentage of the alleged 85 per cent revenue may go for some minor development but not for the sake of development of Central Equatoria State as it is home to citizens from the other states. When asked whether the national government was really spending 85 per cent of its budget for the development of Central Equatoria State, the respondent said that was laughable. He said if that were the case why then should people of Equatoria demand federalism. The respondent concluded by saying it was a white lie and that high rising buildings in Juba is the result of individual efforts but not of any government budgetary intervention. 

Dr Akec may need to visit the residential areas in and around Juba including the city centre, to travel on Juba-Yei main road and to establish what development projects in Central Equatoria State are being financed by the central government. This is in order for him to be realistic about claiming that 85 per cent of the government revenue is spent on development of Central Equatoria State. This is to avoid making misleading assumption. The development in Central Equatoria State is because the people here are industrious. They make the use of Constitutional Development Fund (CDF) to build schools and health centers, and improve existing hospitals and roads for access to agricultural production areas. When others do not use the CDF and their budgets as intended it is not the problem of Central Equatoria State. The government of Central Equatoria State is also keen on development as shown by Central Equatoria State leading in most economic indicators.  

National unity of South Sudan

It is always quoted that there are 64 ethnic groups in South Sudan. However, my little research seems to show that there are more than 64 ethnic groups. This suggests that more research needs to be carried out. People should also share information about ethnicity in South Sudan so that they are knowledgeable about their history.

Each and every South Sudanese yearns for unity because it is strength. When united people can move mountains but divided people are weaklings. The problem is how to promote national unity. There may be many theories. One theory is that development can bring national unity. The question is how? Well equitable power and wealth sharing can go a long way to promote national unity. With the diversities in South Sudan the only known system of government that will accelerate development hence promotion of national unity is a federal system.

We have seen how people are in despair when service delivery is poor and when development is accelerating at chameleon speed. A federal system will accelerate development at the speed of a rabbit. The economy of State of California is the 8th largest in the world if the states of the United States were compared with other countries. What is the secret of such a gigantic stride in development of a state within a country? The answer may not be that so simple. However, like some states in South Sudan, California is endowed with abundant resources and besides, it does not need to depend on decisions and funds from the federal government in Washington, DC for its development strategies and plans.

California’s success story in development makes federalism very attractive as powers are constitutionally divided that the federal government has no business to interfere with California’s development plan. For the states of South Sudan with their abundant and untapped resources, a federal system will tremendously accelerate development in the states with the added effect of promoting sustainable national unity as confidence increases with development. South Sudanese must be informed that the struggle to maintain the status quo is a liability to national unity.

Conclusion

The One Nation, One People sloganeering is misleading and a mockery. How on earth can one people have no mercy on each other? How can people hate each other and slaughter each other and yet call themselves one people? The correct slogan should have been One Nation, One Destiny.

It is the oneness in destiny that can pull people together. This precisely explains how people of South Sudan with their different ethnic groups had fought jointly against Arab domination and marginalization because their destiny was one. Being of one destiny and regardless of whether one was a Zande or a Murle, Southerners had fought and died together in trenches defending their destiny.

It must be understood, though, that it is not only domination and marginalization that may pull people together as of one destiny. Challenges of development and nation building for a better future for all should also pull people together for strength in order to eradicate poverty. It is poverty that may be tearing people apart.

In conclusion, federalism is the most appropriate and peaceful means of accelerating development for a higher standard of living while a centralized system serves nothing but only hegemonic tendencies of others to terrorise, oppress and rule.

The author can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

We must be sober-minded about federalism

By Philips Al-Ghai

July 15, 2014 (SSNA) -- While the country lies apparently on the verge of falling apart, recent weeks have seen the infiltration of calls for federalism into the national agenda.

 Typically, like any other political debate in S. Sudan, cheerleaders have already spiced it with sentiments that suggest dishonesty, contempt, and mistrust as they attempt to lure their flocks into embracing their take.  Phrases like  “rebel agenda”, “agenda of Equatorians”, “saving Equatoria from Dinkocrats”, “to get rid of Dinka” etc are currently floating in the mouths of many.  

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that 1) Federalism is a national agenda and deserves opinions of S. Sudanese from all walks of life. Those harboring cognitive allergies to this topic might need to see their psychiatrists. 2) It should not be used as a tool to hold the current government for disguised political ransom. It carries more value for all S. Sudanese than just individual interests.

Although I am a strong supporter of federalism, a system that would mark the next politico-economic step towards the prosperous S. Sudan in my definition, recent calls for federalism leave a lot to be desired.  

Let’s be a bit rational about this. It is an overhaul of the existing system, a change easier said than done in reality.

Establishing a viable federal system would need careful study of failures of the current political system –which are countless of course, identifying common pathologies that need to be remedied by the federal governments, and ensuring that better alternatives are at hand. Otherwise, recycling the present selfish, abusive, aliens-to-the-rule-of-law, unambitious, ‘Oyee’ stooges in the national parliament, as crude as they are, for instance, would spell a whole different disaster for ordinary S. Sudanese who are certainly in dire need of change. It is in the hands of these same individuals that the nation is rocked by conflict, still nursing unspeakable poverty and poor delivery of services. What would federalism bring if it happens tomorrow? Just as the conversion of units doesn’t change the quantity of a substance, giving these lots new micro-niches in the name of federalism won’t make them any different at the look of things.

Furthermore, the federal system, whichever form it will be, would require prior evaluation of the national budget, current & future state of the economy, and terms of sharing resources, just to name a few. Yet none of the above is possible with the current state of affairs.  So, how is federalism possible without any of these? Or are they not necessary altogether? These, I feel, cast serious doubts on sincerity in the voices calling for federalism now.

Although it is a commendable agenda, federalism at this point is utterly misplaced and mistimed. An unrealistic, disguised maneuver of opportunists trying to nurture safer foraging nooks for themselves, it seems. A resolute action to taming the reigning bloody thieves would have laid concrete foundation for the revolution of people’s power that can be advanced into federalism.

Whatever the motives, we must not lose sight of the future. Federalism promises long-term solutions to most of our problems. I believe. But it must be given direction. It must be geared towards salvaging S. Sudanese from the rule of elites. A slight mistake in crafting it, which is likely to happen if we choose to cloth the elites with federalism and shuffle them around, is bound to break S. Sudan into pieces that would be hard to assemble.

We must approach it with more rationale than taking it at face value!

Philips Al-Ghai is a proud S. Sudanese and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on Twitter @ Al_Ghai211.

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