July 1, 14 (BOR) – Youth from South Sudan’s Jonglei state have strongly rejected the introduction of a federal system of governance proposed by the country’s rebel faction under the leadership of Riek Machar.
The youth said it was not the right time to introduce federalism in South Sudan as the “level of development is still low in all the states”.
The group said the system would therefore negatively impact on states that do not have natural resources and are dependent on crude oil.
“As South Sudanese, the state we are in now and the crisis we are in, we cannot think of federalism because we are faced by tribal issues,” Ayar Monyawch, chairperson of the Jonglei State Youth Union, said on Tuesday in the capital, Bor.
Youth say stability and national harmony must be restored before considering any major changes to the country’s political system.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since mid-December last year after a split emerged in the ruling SPLM, sparking violence around the country.
Bor was particularly hard-hit, with thousands of civilians fleeing and much of its infrastructure destroyed in the ensuing violence.
Union member Jacob Achiek Piok, who also works in the state ministry of local government, said the government needs to assess both the good and the bad sides of the new system before it is imposed.
“We need our government to be more capable than [it is now] to prepare for federalism. We need to take time, for us as South Sudanese, to analyse what is good about federalism and what is bad about it,” said Piok.
A senior state government official said South Sudan’s weak institutions need to be reviewed and restructured before taking any steps toward a federal system.
The introduction of a federal system was put forward by the rebel leadership during ongoing peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. President Salva Kiir has rejected the proposal, saying restoring peace must be prioritised first.
However, there has been a growing wave of public support for federalism, including in the Greater Equatoria region. Some women’s groups and church leaders have also come out in support for the proposal.
While the governors of the Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria states have not publicly expressed their support were allegedly said to have expressed their support for the proposal, rumours have surfaced that the president was planning to arrest the three leaders.
South Sudan’s rebel faction is also demanding the introduction of a federal system, saying it would help ensure equitable resource distribution among all states and promote unity and diversity.
In an interview with Sudan Tribune earlier this week, Machar cited the success of Switzerland, which is governed by a federal system and home to four distinct nationalities.
“We are a diverse nation. There are nationalities, ethnic groups; there are people of different cultures. So what will bring us together is a system of governance that accommodates our diversity and that is the federal system of governance,” said Machar.
However, presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told Sudan Tribune last month that the question of governance should be determined by citizens in a referendum once stability had been restored.