February 3, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese academics from various international universities have called for inclusive dialogue to resolve the six-week-old conflict in the world’s youngest nation, according to a proposal Sudan Tribune has seen.
The academics pointed to the necessity to carry out radical and comprehensive reforms across the board to address the root causes of the political tension that triggered the fighting, which began on December 15.
Released to the public on February 1, the proposal entitled "Unleashing the potential for good governance in the Republic of South Sudan" provides recommendations on numerous issues. Some of which include, governance, democracy and rule of law, stronger and effective federal system, corruption, accountability and transparency.
South Sudan’s national army (SPLA) - mainly a coalition of armed groups who were active during the civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal that allowed the country to secede from Sudan in 2011 - is also in urgent need of reform, the document said.
Since the fighting began in mid-December large sections of the army defected from the main barracks in the capital Juba and from Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
The academics also suggested that South Sudan needs an effective and efficient taxation system, a renewed emphasis on asset recovery, and addressing the issue of land grabbing, which is one of the causes of conflict across the country.
As many as one million people have been displaced during the conflict, according t the United Nations.
The paper argued that issues involving the relations of internally displaced persons with host communities, not only from the current conflict but for those who have still not returned to their homes since the end of the civil war with Sudan.
The group of South Sudanese academics said that adherence to the rule of law and respect of constitution needed to be improved, as well as recommending that Presidents only be allowed to serve two terms in office.
Delivery of public services to the people, as well as improving the economy through attracting investment in education, infrastructure, oil and tourism.
The restructuring of the civil service featured in the proposals in order to improve the accountability and democracy of the country’s nascent institutions. Corruption is a major issue in the young nation with around $4 billion in oil revenues acknowledged to have gone missing by President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The proposal also observed that South Sudanese military is heavily dominated by two ethnic groups - the Dinka and Nuer tribes - and is not representative of the population, citing ongoing crisis as one of the evidences.
"As recent events have shown, political rivalry and tension between these groups can quickly degenerate into widespread violence with dire consequences not only to them, but to everyone else. It is important to remember that South Sudan has over 60 ethnic groups. This means that the vast majority of the citizens do not see themselves represented in the military”, the proposal says.
It argues that South Sudanese people yearn for a disciplined, professional, ethnically representative and balanced military that not only protects them, but also helps the country to live up to its promise of justice, liberty and prosperity for all.
One of the radical reforms is the part of the proposal which seeks the armed forces to be a neutral body when it comes to politics involving political leaders within institutions.
"A neutral force, not a partisan one, acceptable to all may be necessary to help with the process of professionalizing the army, for about 18 months", the proposal suggests.
The proposal calls for an inclusive national dialogue once the cessation of hostilities agreement has been fully implemented and respected by the parties to the conflict.
"The reform and restructuring of the armed forces, the security services and the civil service should be a matter of urgency. Once the modalities and mechanism for monitoring the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement are in place and the peace talk extends into the issues of governance, democratization and resource management, all stakeholders need to be involved. Admission must not be based solely on the size of one’s gun. The stakeholders to be involved should include the various political parties, women’s groups, youth groups, religious leaders, academics, the Diaspora, and the civil society", it stressed.
It recommends that the sitting president, Salva Kiir, should be allowed to complete his remaining term of office, stressing that it would set a dangerous precedent. Kiir accuses his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting to oust him in a coup on December 15 but this is denied by Machar and his supporters.
The academics recommend the formation of a broad based and inclusive government to conduct a national census, complete of the writing of the constitution and run the elections scheduled for 2015.
Abraham Jok, a native of Abyei - an oil-producing contested with neighbouring Sudan - said the proposal expressed the “obvious issues”, stressing that he doubts whether the proposal would draw significant attention from ruling elite.
The proposal "expressed the obvious and practical" solutions to South Sudan’s problems.
"All that is in the proposal is all what our people had wished from the day we started running our own affairs in 2005. Everybody accepts transforming the SPLA into a disciplined [force] so that it looks more [like a] professional army" he said.
"Also, our people have been looking for a decent and representative constitution and the government which diversifies the economy instead of relying largely on oil revenues", Jok told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
Anthony Sebit, a political analyst, told Sudan Tribune in a separate interview that South Sudanese would massively support a system that provides broad-based mechanisms for addressing political differences within or between political institutions and peacefully accepts the transfer of power without the use of violence.
"From my reading of the events in this country, our people are tired of war but they need change. They do not want leaders who resort to violence as a means to remain in power or ascend to it, especially the people in Greater Equatoria. I don’t know much about other regions but given the level reaction of reactions and interactions with different leaders from other regions, I find that South Sudanese do not prefer war. They use war as the last resort, which can be avoided if there strong leadership”, said Sebit
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