October 2, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has unilaterally decreed expansion of the current 10 states to 28 federal states in the country in an unexpected move announced on South Sudan Television (SSTV) Friday evening, prompting reaction from the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, that the unilateral move was a serious violation of the peace agreement.
- South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (seated) signs a peace agreement in Juba, August 26, 2015. (Photo Reuters/Jok Solomu)
President Kiir, in order read on SSTV at 8:20pm, criticized his current governance system which he said has been holding the people’s power in the center in Juba, saying there was need to adopt a federal system of governance in the country, surprisingly in line with the demand of Machar’s rebel movement which the government had been rejecting at the peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for nearly two years.
“Over the last ten years, the power which was given to you by the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] has remained in the center,” said Kiir, referring to the peace deal signed on 9 January 2005 with Sudan by then SPLM rebels to end 21-year long civil between north and south of the former Sudan.
The CPA granted South Sudanese a referendum on self-determination which resulted to overwhelming vote for secession from Sudan in 2011. He said his rationale for delaying creation of more states in devolution of powers to the people was because he was allegedly busy preparing for referendum from 2005 to 2011.
“My administration in the center was busy with issues to do with your self-determination such that you become free and sovereign state. Now, indeed you are free, therefore, there is no reason for me to retain your constitutional right for self-governance, self-reliance, self-development and determine your through free, fair and democratic elections in three years to come,” he claimed.
He went on to say that the creation of 28 states, which shall come into effect within 30 days, will provide an opportunity to “develop your locality, your home villages through mobilization of local and states resources.”
“We should therefore abandon culture of war and embrace culture of peace, co-existence and hard work such [that] you and I together develop our country because our country is a country of opportunities,” he said.
The order number 36/2015 AD for creation of new states of South Sudan said the president will now have the chance to nominate more state governors and additional members of the state assembly in his newly created states.
The sitting state members of parliament (MPs) will be maintained at 21 members in each state and there will be no more than 21 lawmakers.
The president acknowledged that his administration has been facing economic declines, surging unemployment as a consequence of the war which erupted on 15 December 2013.
It is not clear where more resources will be mobilized to fund the development of the states as the creation of 18 more states has become as a surprise to the nation and the international community.
In the breakdown of the states, Kiir created 8 states for greater Equatoria which included Imatong, Namurnyang, Maridi, Budi, Amadi, Jubek, Terekeka and Yei river.
For greater Bahr el Ghazal he decreed into being 10 states namely, Wau, Aweil, Ngor, Aweil East, Twic, Gogrial, Tonj, Eastern Lakes, Western Lakes and Gok.
In greater Upper Nile he also decreed 10 states to include Leer, Northern Guit, Ruweng, Eastern Nile, Jonglei, Western Nile, Eastern Bie, Lajor, Buma and Western Bie.
Kiir also acknowledged that the new states will create difficulties or conflicts in determining their respective boundaries, but added there shall be state border disputes committee to address issues that may arise.
The leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Riek Machar, in response to the abrupt unilateral change, said the move by president Kiir was a violation of the peace agreement he signed with him on 17 and 26 August, respectively.
Machar questioned the rationale behind the initial rejection by president Kiir of his demand to adopt federal system of governance which initially sought to create 21 states based on colonial districts which had clear boundaries so that the expansion of the states should have been incorporated into the peace agreement and in the constitution of the country.
He said although creation of more states based on federal system of governance has been a popular demand of the people of South Sudan since 1947, the unilateral way has been decreed by president Kiir after the peace agreement is a violation of the peace deal.
“The creation of more states in the Republic of South Sudan is the cornerstone of the vision of the SPLM/SPLA in the process to realizing a “Democratic Federal State” in South Sudan. The SPLM/SPLA, before the Peace Agreement, established 21federal states based on the former “British Colonial Districts.” The twenty one (21) colonial districts have clear delineated borders that were demarcated before 1st January 1956,” Machar said in a statement released on Friday in response to the order.
“The Presidential Decree issued unilaterally today, Oct 2nd 2015, by President Salva Kiir Mayardit creating 28 states in the Republic of South Sudan is a clear violation of the Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan signed on 17th and 26th August 2015 by myself and President Kiir respectively. The peace agreement is based on 10 States,” he said.
President Kiir and his government had been rejecting the rebels proposed adoption of federal system of governance and creation of 21 states in the peace talks, dragging the talks for nearly two years. Government’s argument has been that South Sudan is not yet ready for federalism or more states, but the abrupt change of mind has come as a surprise.
Due to the disagreement between the government and the rebels at the negotiations table, the peace agreement was therefore based on the current 10 states until a permanent constitution making provides for creation of more states. The current transitional constitution also says South Sudan is composed of 10 states.
The agreement also gives the rebels 40% of power sharing in the two oil-producing Unity and Upper Nile states as well as Jonglei state, which president Kiir has now split into 10 states. It is not clear whether the governors of the new states coming out from Unity and Upper Nile will be nominated by Machar’s group.
The agreement also restricts national cabinet to 30 ministries with some having deputies and that no new ministerial positions should be created in the 30-month of the transitional government of national unity which will be formed in December.
Machar said the sudden unilateral move by president Kiir was a clear message to the world that he is not committed to the peace agreement and can violate it at any time of his choosing.
“In the light of the action of President Kiir, we call upon the IGAD Plus and the international community to take a position,” he concluded.
Analysts say the abrupt change of mind by president Kiir was to try to score a number of things: to claim credit for creation of more federal states, thus federalism, dismantle the oil-producing states given to the opposition by the peace agreement and set Machar against the people in case he opposes the creation of the new states.
Creating more states without historical known boundaries, they say, will likely create further crisis in the determination of new boundaries from the scratch as majority of them will not be based on of the colonial 1956 boundaries.