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A call for an ethnofederal South Sudan - Acuil Banggol

Acuil Banggol, Juba


A free, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and just ethnoferedal arrangement for the 39 states should be considered to ensure widespread stability and prosperity. This would be for all and by all in a multisocial, multitribal, multiethnic and multicultural South Sudan of 72 nationalities.

At the 2018 All Tribes Conference in Nyakuron, the number of tribal nationalities was formalised at 72. Considering this, an ethnofederal system of governance is relevant and justified, particularly in accordance with Chapter 6 of the R-ARCSS. Here, respect, recognition and the incorporation of ethnic and cultural communities at all levels of South Sudanese decision making is prioritised.

Chapter 6.2.5 of the R-ARCSS

Hence, an ethnofederal constitution should also be instituted in accordance with Article 33 of the Transitional Constitution (TCRSS). This mandates State recognition and respect to ethnic and cultural communities, and is supported by Articles 166, 167 and 168 (I,II). In these sections, it is decreed that the Council of Traditional Authority Leaders (COTAL) is to sit as the second and third chambers in both National and State legislatures, respectively. Both National and State Houses should meet twice a year to discuss policies, reports and programs concerning governance and resources across all levels of government. This includes local government at state, county and payam level, as well as community government at county, boma and village level.

Chapter 33 of the TCRSS

Such second and third chambers, or legislatures, are to be convened four times a year for the purpose of policy debate and validation. Policies passed by these legislatures are primarily those concerning federal governance and smaller communities.


Those states producing key resources such as minerals, oil or agricultural products, are to have 20% of the national government. 40% is to be allocated to the other states, meanwhile the other 40% is given to the central government. Taxes are to be categorised into state and national levels, as mandated in the TCRSS.


A collegiate Presidency is to be established, consisting of two representatives from Greater Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile Regions respectively. A seat for women nationwide should also be added. Each collegiate Presidency should serve a 7 year term. The head of the college should sit for one year, as the position is rotated amongst the 7 members. This is similar to the current political structure of Swiss Cantons.


A graphic illustrating the organisation of Swiss local government, from Canton to National levels.

A comparable system to this is that of Singapore. Here, local government succeeded because of pragmatic and professional development programs. However, in a truly ethnofederal system, a form of cultural affirmative action will be instituted to ensure no minority is excluded from governance.


At present, the Kingdom of Belgium has a community government based not off territorial claims but instead language and cultural identity. The United Kingdom is also founded on ethnofederal terms, as is Germany. There, smaller and poorer federal states such as Berlin rely on productive, industrious states like Bavaria. Indonesia and India are also ethnofederal.


With some deep thinking, perhaps a similarly amicable settlement could be adopted in a South Sudanese context. We must not allow ourselves to be colonised by oligarchy and autocracy. As Dr Majak de Agoot described it, this is ‘nothing but a club of gun class’.


In his book House of War Africa, Dr Deng wrote that tribes and ethnomilitary youth are often used in wars of liberation, only to be dumped by post-colonial governments. As a result of this, they can become a pool of discontents used by warmongers and electoral losers for the sake of power. More specifically, such tactics often result in ‘power sharing agreements’, better called ‘looting sharing agreements’.


South Sudan is very vulnerable to manipulative ethnomilitary realpolitik. Hence, ethnofederalism is an apt solution.


Considering this, we should translate Article 36(4) of TRCSS into a series of political, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks for the purpose of allocating ethnic constituencies to a National Legislative Assembly. The national capital should be moved to Ramciel. At Ramciel should be located the Foreign and Defence Ministries, and National Commissions and the Tricameral Legislature which will sit every 6 months. The remaining Ministries should be situated in Wau and Malakal. Railway lines and highways should also be build connecting Malakal, Juba and Wau with Ramciel. If Dr. John Garang International Airport was moved to Tali Post, the rest would no doubt fall through smoothly.

A proposed design of Ramciel, South Sudan's proposed new capital.

The lasting effect would be an inclusive, just and collaborative system of decision making. In this process, every entity is counted and responsible. As a result, the involvement of different ethnicities and cultural communities would be improved. The parasitic tendencies of pressure politics by the elite political and military oligarchs would also be reduced. They would no longer be able to invest in anarchy to justify their relevance.


Dialogue on the values of South Sudan should also be encouraged, to give choice to ethnic and cultural communities as to how they guide their ethnomilitary forces away from mercenary wars and ‘lootocracy’. Ethnofederal systems of governance have proved effective in pacifying ethnic warlordism in Ethiopia, which tactfully uses Cultural Affirmative Action.


However, ethnofederalism already exists in South Sudan. In Naath it is Chieng or Chie. In Jieng is Jur or Wut. In Bari it is Jur. In Azande it is Rangara. In Chollo it is Omudiya. In Murle it is Aashira with Community Government through Buulok. In Acholi is Hot Dhok. In Ottohu we have Community Government by Monyomiji whose administrative and jurisdiction I would like to know. If there are more examples, please write to me.


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