June 22, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese students studying at various East African institutions said calls for federalism in the new nation should be handled in accordance with citizens’ demands.
- South Sudanese students at their embassy in Kampala, Uganda (ST/File)
“We, the student leaders from the republic of South Sudan representing the ten states, having come together to hold friendly and soul searching deliberations after closely following recent discourse in our country, about the system of governance, agree to affirm our support to the choice of our people, specifically their popular demand of federal system", the students’ body said in a 20 June statement.
Peaceful co-existence of various ethnic groups and unity in the country is paramount, they argued.
Acknowledging the challenges facing the country, the students urged the leadership to enforce unity and fight against divisions within the various communities.
"Our country was still young. Our borders with Sudan have not until now been demarcated. We still use Sudanese pipelines to export our oil to the international markets and the issue of Abyei has not been resolved", stressed the group’s 20 June statement.
"These issues, among others, require strong leadership and unity and we cannot afford to divide our ranks again”, it added.
Federalism, the students’ body argued, was a system agitated for by South Sudanese and that president Salva Kiir acknowledged this while addressing lawmakers recently. The South Sudanese leader said citizens be allowed to decide on federalism other than imposing it on to them.
President Kiir observed that a federalism system was what southern Sudan demanded for from north Sudan during the Juba conference, held in 1947.
"This means it [federalism] is a popular demand and should therefore be treated as a red line and anybody who would temper with it would be the enemy number one" noted the statement.
“We call on our government to accept federalism and allow public debate so that the people decide the type of system they want instead of dividing people into proponents and opponent. Failing to come out and allow public debate will polarize the country and will encourage enmity”, it added.
The framers of South Sudan’s 2011 transitional constitution avoided mention of federalism and instead opted for a nominally ‘decentralized system’.