June 18, 2014 (JUBA) – As renewed demand for federalism is rapidly gaining momentum in South Sudan, state of Warrap has become the first to declare opposition to the system which the rebels led by the former vice president, Riek Machar, have tabled at the IGAD-sponsored peace talks.
Machar’s opposition group which is predominantly composed of fighters from the greater Upper Nile region have called for restructuring of the state on the basis of a federal system of governance, hinting an overhauling reforms in all public sectors.
Also all the three state governments of greater Equatoria region have thrown their full support to the call for federalism, but said their decisions were a coincidence and did not imply that they were directly supporting the demand by the rebels.
However, Warrap state minister of information, Paul Dhel Gum, has broken the silence and announced the state’s opposition to the federal system during a recent speech he delivered at the University of Bhar el Ghazal during the weekend.
Media outlets have quoted the official spokesperson of the state government, home of President Salva Kiir, as saying federalism would “disintegrate” the country, appealing for further dialogue on the matter.
“Let us open dialogue at all public places to determine what outcomes the federal system of governance would bring to us the people of this country,” he said.
While diplomatic gains by the rebels in the region seem to worry the government in its external struggle, Juba is equally worried that the idea of federalism may dismantle the “internal front.”
President Kiir while addressing the national parliament last week cautioned the lawmakers not to embrace the idea of federalism, alleging that the call for the system was used as a ploy by the rebel leader, Riek Machar, to split what he described as the internal front.
Unlike the current decentralization system in the country, federalism would devolve political, administrative and fiscal powers to the states as well as smaller units of governance, leaving the national government at the center to coordinate between the states, but centrally maintain firm control over the foreign affairs and military establishments.
South Sudanese rebels have decried abuse of power and misuse of resources by the center, coupled with the recent “disintegration of the ruling party, the organized forces and the society,” saying the situation required the restructuring of the state as a remedy “in order to harmoniously keep the diverse people of the Republic of South Sudan united, happy and prosperous.”
Analysts however say as federalism would expose the states to fairer competitions in development, poorer regions and states fear that this will be a disadvantage to them as richer states with human and material resources may develop faster, leaving them to lag behind.