OPINION: Is the Government ready for reform?
Updated: Mar 14, 2021
Wani Michael, Juba
The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (RARCISS) is a clear roadmap to transform and transition South Sudan into peaceful, democratic and economic prosperity. The agreement was signed and regarded by many as the reform agenda for South Sudan just like the Uganda reform agenda in the early 2000 spearheaded by the Opposition Leader Dr. Kizza Besigye and the Kenya Constitution making process in 2010 that ushered the Country into a new political and constitutional dispensation which appreciated and introduced most of democracy ingredients enjoyed by Kenyans. The Agreement has provided an opportunity for the leaders to revitalise and jumpstart everything that wasn’t working for the people of South Sudan.
Notably, the Pre-Transitional period provided the parties with an opportunity to implement most of the important activities to paved ways for the RTGONU to be established or reconstituted. The Parties couldn’t finish implementing the critical Pre-Transitional activities within 8 months, the mediators (IGAD) decided to extend the period for another 6 months and again added another 100 days to the Parties to finalize the implementation of the key pre-transitional activities to guarantee RTGONU formation and reconstitution. The key fundamental activities include the security sector reforms especially the unification process of all armed groups into one National Army, amendment and enactment of the six security laws such as; The SPLA Act, National Police Service Act, National Security Service Act, Wildlife Act, Prison Service act and Fire Brigade Bill. These laws are very important for comprehensive reforms and transformation of the security sector into professional, discipline and pro-people army, the National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC) drafted and consulted different stakeholders including the Parties and there was total justice done to the people of South Sudan. These laws were submitted by NCAC to the former ITGONU government but they only ended up at the Cabinet and never found their way to the Parliament. Some of the anti-reform elements were against the massive suggested reforms in these laws, they evidently wanted the status quo to remain and continue without any fundamental change. These are the same people who continue lying to us that they want to move this Country forward, but on the contrary they’re the real problem and a big obstruction to the much-needed reforms in South Sudan. If the Parties can spend more than one year and five months trying to implement activities during the Pre-Transitional period but totally failed to perform such duties and up-to-date these important activities aren’t finalized or completed yet, is there any reason to believe that this particular government is ready for reform and move this Country forward?
Unnecessary and unjustified delays in fully forming and reconstituting a government of their own, the agreement didn’t provide for any public participation in deciding on the selection procedures and appointment of these leaders. Most importantly the right to select was accorded and within the Parties prerogative to make such decision. These are purely appointed leaders but not elected officials who citizens can hold accountable because they got their mandate through their respective Parties but claiming to be representing the people of South Sudan. In real terms, the one year and five months’ pre-transitional period was basically for the parties to prepare their list of nominees ready for the appointments into different slots because RTGONU has only 36 months’ concurrent mandate for all levels of government including the State, local government and the National Legislature. The Parties only managed to appoint the First Vice President and the Four Vice President in February, 2020 and later around early March, 2020 they reconstituted the Council of Ministers and also appointed the Governors, Deputy Governors, State Ministers, Advisors, Commission Chairpersons and County Commissioners. Although, some of these appointments were unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate. With impunity, the Parties deliberately refused to reconstitute the National Legislature and this particular institution is very central in the implementation of the reform agenda in the revitalized agreement. They’re still struggling to fully form and reconstitute the government after spending 2 years and 5 months failing to identify potential nominees to different positions.
Correspondently, there’s total disrespect, gross violation and misinterpretation of the Constitution and the Agreement to fit their wrong narratives and continue to grab powers and resources meant for the States and local government. The future of devolution and federalism in South Sudan is uncertain because they’ve managed to centralized powers and resources. These violations are happening at the watch of the judiciary and the Chief Justice became a violator too because he participated in administering unconstitutional Oath to people who didn’t follow the right procedures in the Constitution and the Agreement. There are a number of Constitutional petitions or cases on his table and he has deliberately and adamantly refused to act on these cases.
The Parties had an opportunity to demonstrate full commitment to implement the much needed reform agenda in the Agreement but decided to do the opposite thing by expanding the government structures further. It is worth mentioning that, government formation and establishment is determined and always driven by the economic viability or prospects and the availability of resources to take care of such huge government expenditures. The Parties instead decided to further expand the state legislative assembly from Seventy-One (71) MPs to 100 MPs in each state and totaling to about 1000 MPs for all the 10 states in South Sudan. There’s already crisis in the states where officials including the Cabinet members are told to facilitate and take care of themselves because their respective states lack resources. The economy is already doing badly and leaves one to wonder where and how the government will get funds to finance its huge expenditures if not at the expense of the poor citizens (Tax payers).
It is unfortunate that government has reduced a rich reform agenda document into a power sharing deal not even the mentioning of responsibility sharing as provided for in the Peace Agreement, they’ve created the impression that the Agreement is about power sharing but not the much needed reforms in the Security Sector, Humanitarian and Reconstruction, Economy, financial and Resource management, Permanent Constitution making process and legislation review, Transitional Justice, Reconciliation, healing, compensation and reparation. The Agreement itself from chapter one to chapter eight is a REFROM AGENDA document for South Sudan and would definitely move this Country forward, unfortunately wrong people are in charge of its implementation with no clear direction or interest to reform the already broken and deformed system save for selfish interest.
There’ll be no reform without clear open civil space for citizens to hold their government accountable, there’ll be no reforms when the opposition parties are too weak to challenge the system and already ‘contented’ and acting comfortable with the situation in the Country. They’ve already joined the wagon of doing the same vices that made them take arms against the regime but now unanimously backing it. There’ll be no reforms if citizens continue to live in fear and can’t challenge their own government and leaders, there’ll be no reforms if the over 12 Million citizens don’t take charge of the affairs of their Country.
Surprisingly and without shame, some leaders are already talking about extension of the Transitional period for another 3 years and others are even suggesting 10 years or more. There’s also another school of thoughts that keep suggesting that, the one full year of the Transitional period (February, 2020- February, 2021) should be regarded as Pre-Transitional period because the government wasn’t fully formed and reconstituted. There’s no doubt that even if the Parties are given 20 years or more, the current crop of leaders will not initiate, support and implement the much needed reforms to move this Country forward.
In conclusion, the only available avenue or opportunity for reforms and better South Sudan is when the over 12 Million citizens revoke article 2 and 4 of the Constitution to exercise their sovereign powers and reign over their leaders. It is when the over 12 Million citizens take charge of their Country’s affairs by holding their government and leaders accountable, the masses should know powers to reform this Country lie in the hands of the citizens of South Sudan not the leaders. Otherwise, it will be like the second coming of Jesus for fundamental change and reform to happen. The Constitution says power belong to people and it is within their authority and discretion to exercise it.
Wani Michael is a youth representative on the National Constitution Amendment Committee (NCAC). He can be reached via email: email@example.com