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Western Equatoria governor backs calls for federalism

June 9, 2014 (JUBA) – The governor of South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state has reignited the debate over federalism, saying it is the system of governance that will control tribal-related conflicts and give citizens the power to decide of matters affecting them.

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Ex-Western Equatoria state governor Joseph Bakosoro, 12 October 2012 (ST)

Governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro made these remarks during Monday’s official opening of the state legislative assembly after three month of recess.

“Western Equatoria State is for federal system of Government”, Bakosoro told lawmakers, members of his government and area citizens.

He appealed to the population not to get involved in the ongoing conflict, saying South Sudan witnessed enough wars during its struggle for independence, which was eventually achieved after a self-determination referendum in 2011.

“There is no reason to start fighting ourselves after attaining the independence we wanted. When we fought, we did not fight as tribes or regions; we fought as South Sudanese and if there are issues we want to discuss now, because they are important to our people like the system of governance,": said Bakosoro.

"We must raise and discus them without necessarily misinterpreting the views expressed by others", he added while calling for open discussions among citizens.

The governor further stressed that democracy had set foot everywhere in the world and that South Sudan was not exception in embracing the practice.

"Western Equatoria state government and its people have thrown their support to the establishment of federal system in South Sudan", he told the assembly.

Governor Bakosoro, the second most prominent political figure in the country to openly voice support for federalism after his Central Equatoria counterpart, Clement Wani Konga, said people from the greater Equatoria region have been demanding for a federal system of governance for long and that such calls should not be ignored.

“Federalism has been one of the longest calls of the people of Equatoria and this is now the time for our people to say it louder without any fear because it is not a crime if people express their democratic rights in a peaceful manner", said the governor.

"No individuals or group of people can obstruct these calls because it is a democratic right to express your feelings about the system of governance”, he stressed.

Bakosoro, however, said his state was stable and achieved a lot despite few cases of rebel defectors visiting the area as well as the movement of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents.

He said his administration, despite the austerity measures and conflict in the country, recorded significant achievements in security, health, information and infrastructure.

While officially opening the country’s national assembly last week, South Sudan president Salva Kiir proposed that citizens should be allowed to decide on what system of governance they wanted instead of imposing federalism onto them as demanded by the country’s opposition group.