Since the founding of Southern Sudan, first as a region and later as a country, the Dinka tribe has continued to exercise absolute control and domination. Following secession of South Sudan, tribalism got elevated to a level that threatens the very unity of the new country. This study was therefore based on the hypothesis that Dinka lead governments in South Sudan cannot accept any system of governance which will not leave them in charge of leadership of the country and this will inevitably push the Equatorians to opt to secede to form their own country. Just as the Southerners felt that they had been handed over to a new colonial master when the British trusteeship of Sudan ended in 1956, so too do the people of Equatoria feel that they have become subject people of the Dinka dominant tribe, following secession of the region from Sudan. The study brought out the factors that perpetuate the ever-enduring turbulent relationships between the Equatorians and the Dinkas as well as mechanism for eliminating the factors if unity of South Sudan were to be preserved- colonial annexation of otherwise independent Equatoria territory to South Sudan as well as marginalisation and domination by the Dinka tribe. Carrying out research in this area was not only necessary, but also timely as there is on-going search to find solution for the country’s chronic tribal problems. Ethnicity in governance and all spheres of life have gotten so deeply entranced that it is affecting the Equatorians disproportionately and thus meriting the search for other ways of governance in the country.
Tribalism and ethnic conflicts in South Sudan are both old and chronic. This situation can be traced to as far back as the 1950s when different peoples and territories were lumped together by the condominium government in Sudan to constitute what then came to be known as Southern Sudan. As one observes developments in the region, one can only deduce that there is a state of subdued, if not an outright open conflict between the Equatorians and the Dinkas even during peace times.
To unearth the drivers of such conflicts and solutions as perceived by the participants in the study, the researcher first carried out expert consultation through literature review which explored historical background to Equatoria and its experiences in Southern and South Sudan at different time periods. Following the literature review, the author obtained first-hand information from the respondents using qualitative research methodology to generate theory by describing and analysing suitable prescriptions to the subject of the study. I used this methodology in preference to quantitative method out of the consideration that the study is not so much about how many or how much, but sought to describe, explore and analyse the why and how of the problem in order to gain deeper understanding and the factors that compound them, as well as the requisite solutions (Patton, 2001). The research, and especially the data gathering process, was guided by four domains of open ended questions which were: (1) What, in your opinion, are the major causes of the uneasy relationships between Equatorians and the Dinkas? (2) Based on your responses above, what would you recommend as the best solution (s) to resolve the problems? (3) Suppose your recommended solutions are rejected, what, in your view, would be the only option left for ending the ever-enduring turbulent relationship between Equatorians and the Dinkas? (4) Any additional issues/recommendations. A questionnaire was used as data collection instrument because it ensures a high response rate and offers the possibility of anonymity given that the subjects’ names are not required on the questionnaires.
Given the time constraints and inaccessibility to most areas of South Sudan during the entire period of the study, the sample population of study was limited to Equatoria members in the national parliament who represented various constituencies of the Greater region, Equatoria members of faculty at university of Juba, students as well as some eminent Equatorians in Kenya. Fifteen Lecturers at Juba University and similar number of students at the university and eminent Equatorians in Kenya were purposefully selected as respondents. Some people might question the rationale for limiting the population of study to Equatorians only. The limitation was dictated by the focus of the study, which was not about the universal problems facing all the people of South Sudan. And this is not to imply that there were no such problems, but because to look at the universal problems of the people of South Sudan would be way beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, due to the regional focus of the paper, it was only natural and logical that the respondents had to be selected from Equatoria region, whose population are the recipients of the actions of the Dinkas.
Factors that push Equatorians towards secession
There are several factors that can be cited to explain why Equatorians are showing more pronounced inclination towards secession in recent times. However, the most significant causes lie in colonial action of bringing to an end the independent existence of Equatoria and annexing it to South Sudan; as well as tribal avalanche inflicted on Equatorians by the dominant Dinka tribe in the region.
As colonial powers moved towards ending their rule in the African territories, they rushed to create African countries by drawing artificial borders, with no involvement or regard to what the concerned African peoples may have wanted. In their haste to create the countries, the colonial powers took little or no care at all in clustering and grouping people together or breaking them apart to form a country. Due to the arbitrary creation of countries, many people groups find themselves out of place in the country into which they had been lumped, resulting in their desire to opt to secede (Bamfo, 2012).
But despite the arbitrary manner with which the colonial powers created the African countries, the Organisation of Africa Unity and its successor, the African Union, did not seek to rectifying the problems created. Instead, the continental body took the position that not only preserves the territorial borders as were drawn by the colonial powers but also prevents secession of any entity from any of those created countries to form new ones (Bereketeab, 2014). Since the Organisation of the African Union is the brainchild of the African heads of state who took over the leadership of the respective African countries from the colonist, it is little wonder that the continental body should adopt such a position. Thus, the leaders would not like their respective territories to be reduced through secessions, although some people argue that the speed with which the colonial powers surrendered political authority to African leaders left little time for the new leaders to develop entirely new borders throughout the continent, (Knox, 2012).
Nevertheless, the AU institutionalised opposition to self-determination and secession has not, cannot and will not stop groups from seeking to secede. Indeed, African writers, like Professor Ali Mazrui, predicted that creation of many small states in Africa will be a continuing phenomenon as groups will continue to emerge to pursue self-determination. This is precisely why the continent has experienced emergence of numerous armed rebel groups seeking either to effect radical transformation in the whole state or to separate from it and create a new state, (Zikamabahari, 2014).
One of the territories which continue to suffer the consequences of arbitrary clustering and placement is Greater Equatoria region, in Republic of South Sudan.
Equatoria region in South Sudan is one of the territories that was born out of colonial act of arbitrary breaking up, clustering and putting unrelated territories together to constitute a country. Originally, Equatoria Region was part of an independent Lado Kingdom in the heart of Africa. The Kingdom covered vast geographical area from the region known as Greater Equatoria in South Sudan and extended all the way through West Nile of Uganda to Ituri regions of Democratic Republic of Congo. However, this Kingdom was dismantled during the Ottoman Empire by the Turko-Egyptian governor, following successful invasion of Sudan and the Lado Kingdom. The Ottoman Governor divided the kingdom into three different parts and shared them out amongst the colonial powers in Uganda, Congo and the Ottoman Empire ruler of Egypt, Khedive Ishmael (Eroti, 2014).
The Turko-Egyptian invasion of Sudan and by extension, Lado Kingdom, was motivated by Khedive Ismail’s desire to gain possession of the entire Nile basin in order to keep his irrigation systems for cotton plantations in Egypt fully supplied. As a result, the Khedive dispatched an invasion force under an English Major General, Sir Samuel White Baker, who had joined the Ottoman army, to conquer the territory. On successful conquest of Lado kingdom, Khedive Ismail appointed Major General Samuel White Baker as Governor of Lado as reward for his successful invasion and annexation of the territory in 1871 (Eroti, 2014).
Following his appointment as Governor, General Samuel White Baker embarked on actions that were to change the status of Lado Kingdom forever: He divided the kingdom into South, Central and North Lado. South Lado, comprising of North and South Ituri regions, where given to Belgium Congo – present day Democratic Republic of Congo, in appreciation for their acceptance to divide up the Lado Kingdom; Central Lado, comprising of present day West Nile and Ma’di district in Uganda, was annexed to British protectorate of Uganda, while North Lado was renamed Equatoria and made an independent province of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire (Eroti, 2014).
When General Samuel White Baker’s period as Governor of Equatoria ended, Khedive Ishmael appointed Charles Gordon as Governor General in replacement. The Khedive also appointed Ishmael Pasha Ayub as Governor General of Sudan. The appointment of separate Governor General to Equatoria and Sudan was a clear indication that the two territories were indeed two different dominions, given that a governor general was only appointed to an entity that was in fact a separate country. Furthermore, the two Governor Generals differed over where the border between their respective territories should be. For the Governor General of Sudan, the border between the two territories was to be at Gondokoro, while the governor General of Equatoria wanted it to be at junction of river Sobat with the White Nile (Harell, 2010).
The setting up of two separate administrations, each headed by a Governor General, and the dispute between them as to where the borderline between the two territories therefore confirms the reality that Equatoria was indisputably an independent entity, quite separate from Sudan from the very beginning.
When the Ottoman Empire disintegrated and become republic of Turkey following the Lausanne agreement of 1923, all the foreign territories that were under its rule, including Egypt, were to become independent. While Egypt did become independent in the same year, Sudan and Equatoria missed the opportunity to do so (Eroti, 2014).
During the time of Anglo Egyptian administration that replaced the Ottoman rule in Sudan and Equatoria, Equatoria region became once again the object of foreign competition. King Leopold II of Belgium, who had established colony over neighbouring Congo, was craving for this territory. For him, this land was his glory and was prepared to resort to violence to occupy it (Anstey, 1979). Britain, on the other hand, was determined not to allow any European power to occupy any territory along the Nile. The two powers however reached bilateral Anglo-Congolese treaty in 1894, which recognised King Leopold’s claim over Lado Enclave, another name the British used to refer to Equatoria, but in the form of life lease. So, when the King died, Britain forced the Belgians to cede what was up until then known as Lado Enclave to come under its administration in South Sudan in as recent as 1910. From then, the territory again began to be called Equatoria. The annexation of Equatoria to South Sudan and making it a province brought the total number of provinces in South Sudan then to three – Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal Province.
Despite this background, Equatorians were at first prepared to live with the reality of their being lumped with totally different territory and people. This can be seen in the type of leadership Equatorians projected during the Southern Sudan’s first armed struggle for independence, called, Anyanya. The consulted materials written on the Anyanya period do point to the type of leadership that Equatorians provided and the actions of Dinka personalities within the Anyanya armed struggle (Lagu, 2006).
Anyanya Movement was an armed struggle, initiated by members of the Equatoria Corps. The name, Anyanya, was adopted from local Ma’di language and it means snake poison. The Equatoria Corps, itself, was essentially an army that one member of the Condominium administration in Sudan, Britain, created to safeguard her own interests in Sudan. This plan was executed when they brought former Lado Enclave or Equatoria, as it later came to be called, from the Belgium Congo under them in 1910. The creation of the Equatoria Corps was influenced by British suspicion of the elements of the Egyptian army stationed in Southern Sudan whose loyalty to them was questionable, (Collins, 2005). However, the British administration took care not to include the Dinka tribe into the Equatoria Corps army as they considered them to be of no use as soldiers, but fearing too that generally, the tribes of Southern Sudan had been exposed to Arab outlook and could as well turn against them (Collins, 2005).
As Sudan moved closer to attaining independence, the members of Equatoria corps mutinied in August 1955 when Northern Sudanese army officers, who were replacing the British, ordered them to move to the Khartoum, ostensibly to participate in victory parade for celebration of independence of Sudan. But members of the Equatoria corps interpreted the move as a plan for enslaving them in the Muslim battalions in the north and therefore resolved to resist the move. They attacked northerners in Torit and the uprising soon spread throughout Equatoria. Corps members then disappeared into the bushes from where they were to engage in protracted civil war that lasted for 17 years (Ga'le, 2002).
The conduct of Equatorians in the leadership of the Anyanya movement shows that they were both democratic and nationalistic in outlook. They did not alienate people from the other provinces of Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile on ground of being the founders of the movement. They would also use democratic means to resolve problems that crop up from time to time. These rare traits can be illustrated by the following examples:
In order to come up with the name for the armed wing of the movement, the Provisional President, Joseph Oduho Aworu, an Equatorian, carried out consultations with Patron of the movement, Rev. Father Saturnino Ohure and members of the provincial council. This came after they had previously decided that the name of the political wing of the movement was to be Sudan African National Union, SANU. This provides sharp contrast to some leaders who would simply decide on a name and impose it unilaterally for all to live with.
During the consultative meeting, the Chairman informed delegates of the need for them to deliberate on what name they wish to adopt for their armed forces. While two names had earlier been proposed by the Patron, the President left it up to the delegates, drawn from the three provinces, to adopt either of them or come up with different name altogether. The floated names were: Southern Sudan Liberation Army, SSLA and Azania Liberation Army, ALA. The President also asked the delegates to explain to him what the word “Anyanya” meant, an indication of his personal proposal. After deliberation, all the delegates opted for the name Anyanya, empowering the president to declare that Anyanya was to be the name of the military wing of the Southern Sudanese Movement, (Ga'le, 2002).
Secondly, in order to formalise the leadership of the Movement and adopt important documents, the President convened a national convention in1964. Each of the three provinces of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal was requested to send seven delegates to the convention. In the convention, the President allowed for dissolution of the provisional administration of the movement which he headed to pave way for the delegates to elect a new leadership altogether, another example of democratic practice. The delegates elected Aggrey Jaden as President and Philip Padek, from Upper Nile, as the Vice President.
Third, when William Deng Nyal, a Dinka, broke away to return to Khartoum in protest against his non-election as the President, and things were beginning to fall apart, a need for second national convention was agreed. The convention took place in 1967, with 40 delegates from each of the three provinces. As was the case in the first convention, the convention was to elect new leadership for the government of the SANU, another measure of democracy and nationalism practiced by Equatoria leadership. The delegates again elected Aggrey Jaden Lado as President of the Southern Movement. The President elect formed a cabinet in such a way that the three provinces were evenly represented and included even such personalities as Gordon Mortat, a Dinka who campaigned against him.
Furthermore when Joseph Lagu, an Equatorian, was appointed as Chief of General Staff of the Anyanya armed struggle, he embarked on training of the forces without tribal consideration, nor imposition of himself on the people with an iron fist, (Lagu, 2006). Likewise, whatever military materials he could get, was distributed equally to the Anyanya fighters from all the three provinces, as for example, the first military equipment that were airdropped at Garamba National Game Park in Congo, where waves of Anyanya forces came in droves from all the three provinces of Southern Sudan to take their portion of the arms, given without discrimination, nor special consideration, (Lagu, 2006). He farther divided the Anyanya fighters into three brigades of equal strength composed of men from the respective province, despite the fact that majority of the Anyanya fighters on the ground were from Equatoria Province. This, the Chief of Staff asserted, was necessary for laying a balanced structure for establishment of national army for South Sudan and at the same time alleviate any fear by the other two provinces of domination by Equatoria. In addition, he structured the Army command, which he called the Anyanya High Command, with the objective of creating a rotating military leadership for the union of the three provinces as equals in an eventual free and independent South Sudan as well as establishing stability by creating a system that would render future assassination or coup plots unprofitable, (Lagu, 2006). Finally, when the draft peace agreement between the Sudan and the Anyanya Movement was initialed in Addis Ababa, the Commander in Chief, Colonel Joseph Lagu called the entire Anyanya unit Commanders from all the provinces to report to the General Headquarters to review the agreement. This was yet another measure of transparency, exhibited by Equatoria leadership.
But despite all the above leadership attributes exhibited by the Equatorians, the following instances tend to support the perception that the Dinkas were not prepared to accept any leadership that does not have them in charge, right from the very beginning. The first action in this direction came when, William Deng Nyal, engineered breakaway of a faction of the Anyanya movement immediately after losing the support of Southern Sudanese to become president. He returned to Khartoum, taking with him whatever number of Dinka he could mobilise and on arrival declared that he was the leader of the Anyanya movement and that with his return, there was no longer existence of political movement in exile, (Ga’le, 2002).
Another example of defiance to the Anyanya under the Equatoria leadership came from Gordon Mortat, another Dinka in the Movement. This was despite the fact that the President, Aggrey Jaden, still appointed him as the Minister for foreign Affairs even when he campaigned against him. Despite this gesture, Gordon Mortat staged a coup against his President, Aggrey Jaden Lado. The Minister wrote to the President, who was pursuing some contacts in Nairobi, giving him an ultimatum to report to the headquarters urgently. As the President could not comply with the ultimatum issued by his minister, the Minister declared himself as the President of the Movement, with Camillo Dhol Kwac, another Dinka from Bahr El Ghazal as his Vice President. At the same time, he changed the name of the country unilaterally from Southern Sudan to Nile State, (Ga’le, 2002).
Equatorians were later to wake to the reality that their annexation by the British to be part of Southern Sudan, rather than letting them to be independent or pursue independence at the end of various colonial powers was like cutting out something and pasting it in the wrong place. The Equatorians now find out that they are perfect strangers with the people they had been cluster together and continue to feel a sense of annihilation by South Sudan successive governments, often dominated by the Dinka tribe, (Cozic, 1994). This perception has then been one of the innumerable sources of ethnic tensions between the Equatorians and the dominant Dinka tribe whose members, the British Administrators used to refer to derogatively as ‘warlike, treacherous, pigheaded brutes, difficult to detribalise and would need a very long time to improve’, if at all possible, (Mawut 1995). It was for this reality that the British administration took care not to include the Dinka tribe into the Equatoria Corps army that they formed to provide a counterweight against any Islamic eruption in north Sudan, fearing that the tribes of Southern Sudan, of which Dinka was one, had been exposed to Arab outlook and could as well turn against them.
Apart from the colonial act of lumping totally unrelated territories to be part of one entity, another factor that reinforces the aspiration of Equatorians to secede is marginalisation and domination by Dinka tribe. The Dinkas practice crude and aggressive tribalism throughout the regions history. Some of the Dinka elites, like Dr. Justin Yac, do not hide their plans to rule over others. He exposed such plans when addressing Equatoria members of parliament in the Southern Sudan Regional Assembly stating that, while the British ruled them for 50 years and the Arabs for 17 years, “We shall rule (you) for 100 years, whether you like it or not, we are the majority tribe”, (Lagu, 2006). This assertion dovetails with the Dinka proclamation that they are a born to rule tribe. Such posturing made prominent Equatorians, like General Joseph Lagu, to charge that the Dinkas do not seem to consider that their tribalism is like forcing a cat into the corner from where it would have no option, but to scratch and bite in self-defense. Nevertheless, such reminders do to seem to deter the Dinkas from their plans as they continue to deepen and broaden their domination by adopting strategies that would guarantee them the opportunity to rule South Sudan for at least 200 years, if not for ever, (“The Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) 2015). Indeed tribalism in South Sudan, perfected through years of practice, is aggressively pursued that even non-South Sudanese as published in Sidint.Net (Juba: Fears of Dinka Domination Drive Rebel Action and Threaten Long-Term Stability n.d.) affirm that:
In South, the very strong sense among the people is that the SPLM government represents Dinka hegemony, dominated by a tribe with a sense of entitlement and equipped with the guns to enforce their domination.
In public institutions, Dinka language is used, a practice that is well articulated by Dr. Charles Saki Bakhiet (2015), a distinguished personality from Western Equatoria in his presentation to Equatorians, (“Awake Equatoria: A Clarion Call by ESWSCA-USA,” n.d.)when he pointed out that:
Many government institutions which project South Sudan to the outside world, such as immigration, embassies and customs have been so tribalized so much so that as an Equatorian, you feel a complete foreigner in your own embassy or institution.
Furthermore, there is increasing agitation against Equatorians working with Non-Governmental Organisations in Dinka areas. In the Dinka regions, international NGOs and UN agencies are placed under increasing pressure not to employ Equatorians or to terminate their contracts and evacuate them back to Equatoria if they had already been employed, (“Bor Youth in Bor Have Asked Equatorians to Leave Jonglei State in 72 Hours” 2017.).Letters threatening violence against Equatorians were displayed at the gates of all humanitarian organisations. The Equatorians were warned to either leave or be eliminated. Following such threats, the humanitarian agencies started to comply with the demand of the tribalists and started to repatriate Equatorians back to their region. In one instance, 92 Equatorians were evacuated from Northern Bahr El Ghazal and 12 others from Jonglei state respectively. These developments made the Equatorians to react in kind. Equatoria youth started to issue similar threats against Dinkas in Equatoria, warning them to leave Equatoria land, (“Equatorian Youth Warning: ‘It Is Time for Dinka to Leave Equatoria and Now’ – Nyamilepedia” 2016).
It was precisely for such practices that Equatorians began to agitate for Kokoraisation (decentralization) of the Southern Region in 1982. The sought decentralisation would allow each of the former three Provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatorial and Upper Nile to become an autonomous region. This was more so because the Equatorians, in their classic pride, were against domination and exploitation and nothing short of complete autonomy would stop them from seeking to free themselves from any domination by anybody. Equatorians pushed relentlessly for an end to unitary system of government and for conversion of the former three provinces of Southern Sudan into separate regions. When Sudan’s President, Jaafar Mohamed Nimeri granted the demand of Equatorians by upgrading each of the three Southern Sudan provinces into separate regions, the Dinka elite, whose strategy of dominating the Southern government depended on a single and centralized administration in Southern Sudan, strongly opposed the move. This opposition was anticipated as no one so privileged, would be prepared to abandon his golden spoon without struggle, (Lagu 2006). Proponents of decentralisation pointed out that the strong opposition posed by the Dinkas to decentralisation was motivated by their selfish and hegemonic design to perpetually dominate the governance of South Sudan. As result, Dinka elite withdraw to the bush and started an armed rebellion in 1983.
Furthermore, Dinkas openly disregard the contributions of Equatorians in the struggle for liberation of South Sudan. For the Dinkas, they are the ones who fought and liberated South Sudan, an assertion that the President of the Republic seems to support, judging by his statement as restated by Nhial Thiwat, (“The Traumatic Past and Uncertain Future of South Sudan E Book by Nhial Thiwat Ruach - 9781504953931 | Rakuten Kobo” 2015) that:
The Dinka tribe, particularly those from Bahr El Ghazal, had gone through much suffering; therefore, to be allocated numerous government positions as rewards for their contributions and sufferings during the struggle against the north-dominated government.
Such statement, coming from the head of the state, infuriates the Equatorians and further contributes to the tension amongst the Equatorians and other tribes on the one side, and the Dinkas on the other. Equatorians point out that the war that brought independence of the country, whose leadership the Dinkas enjoy, was won in Equatoria, fought by men and women of Equatoria and with resources of Equatoria. For when the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime in Ethiopian, the main backer of the movement was overthrown and the SPLA soldiers became demoralised, with some of the fighters leaving the struggle to seek refuge in the neighbouring countries, Equatoria elders took it upon themselves to mobilise the people of Equatoria to join the movement to prevent an outright crushing defeat by the Sudan Government. This was despite the fact that the people of Equatoria had largely stayed away from joining the movement from the beginning as its formation was motivated by Dinka opposition to the decentralisation of Southern Sudan that Equatorians stood for. The people of Equatoria responded to the call of their elders, and their role soon started to tilt the balance of the war against the Sudan government. The civil population of Equatoria supplied food and carried logistics for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the SPLA soldiers, since the rebels did not have vehicles. Towns in Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria began to fall to the rejuvenated SPLA, one after the other, forcing the Sudan government to the negotiating table which culminated with the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement. Above all, all Southern Sudanese participated in the referendum that finally brought the independence of South Sudan and therefore the claim that one particular tribe fought for and brought independence is misplaced.
In the ongoing search for peace in South Sudan, the stand taken by the Equatorians through their chiefs do underline their growing feeling of marginalisation. In their letter to the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General in South Sudan, (“Position of Chiefs from Equatoria Region on the On-Going Peace Talks in Khartoum, Sudan” 2018), the Chiefs point out that Equatorians have suffered a lot since the successive wars of liberation till date. “We offered our own sons, daughters, men, women, lands, resources and more for peace for all in south Sudan” and that it is their desire that any inclusive peace agreement to be signed should include adoption of the federal system of governance. They further drew the attention of the Special Representative of the Secretary General to their collective position that they would not accept any peace agreement signed by President Salva Kiir from Bahr el Ghazal and Riek Machar from Upper Nile that does not consider the views of Equatorians and would thus be ready to defend their region at all cost.
Given all the above factors, the turbulent relationship between the Equatorians and the Dinkas may as well lead to emergency of another liberation struggle by the Equatorians to become independent. This is particularly so as the people of Equatoria, who are usually peaceful by nature, respectful of others and law abiding, but considered by some as cowards, cannot continue to tolerate imposition of tribal hegemony upon them and in their own territory for ever.
The information generated from cross section of Equatorian society to obtain their perception on the issues at the centre of the difficult relationships between the Equatorians and the Dinkas confirm the expert opinion on the causes of the uneasy relationship between the two peoples.
First and foremost, tribalism and the accompanying corruption, stood out as major cause of the disharmonious relationships, which at times, threatens to escalate to conflict. Tribalism manifests itself in all sectors and different levels of the government to the extent that it is common to find use of Dinka language in government offices. The Dinkas do feel a sense of ownership of the government as well as the country and do not seem to care or be awake to the fact that the country is not their private property that they can exclusively run and manage the way they want.
Equally prominent, was illegal land grabbing and occupation of Equatoria lands and territories by the Dinkas. Many civilian residential areas and officially allocated Plots to individual Equatorians within Juba, the Capital City of South Sudan, are susceptible to grabbing by the Dinkas, who also occupy community lands, with no recourse to justice. Often when such cases were taken to the Court, little or nothing would be done to the grabbers because most of the Lawyers and judges are Dinkas themselves and would not judge the cases fairly.
Plots and community land aside, the country sides of Equatoria region are themselves occupied by the Dinka pastoralists who turn them to be grazing lands for thousands of their cattle. As a consequence, Equatoria farm lands are often devastated. Equatorians no longer see the need to complain as nothing would be done to the land invaders and occupiers. At times when the local inhabitants in a particular location begin to put up some resistance, the cattle people would move to another area within Equatoria for a while. They would keep on moving around until resurfacing again at the same place they had been made to move away from. The actions of the Dinka pastoralists give the impression that they are either more powerful than the government, or the government is abating their activities because it and the pastoralists are all but one thing. This is more so as the cattle keepers would not obey government directives or other times give conditions to the government to be fulfilled if they were to leave Equatoria. For example, they would demand for provision of vehicles to transport them and all their animals to their home state, as if somebody transported them from there when they were moving to Equatoria in the first place.
As a consequence, famine and hunger would ensue in Equatoria, partly due to destruction of crops, destruction of the fertile land itself by the cattle as well as risk aversion by the farmers when they begin to realise that there are no incentives to engage in farming since the crop would be destroyed by the animals any way.
Another interesting cause of conflict, some respondents point out, is the arrogance of the Dinka people who pride themselves as superior mankind, a perception that makes them to belittle other people and often taking them as their subordinates. Equally, their bragging that they are people born and ordained to rule over others does not help matters. On this basis, the Dinkas think that they are free and have the right to settle any way in South Sudan and other parts of the neighbouring countries, an orientation that makes them to consider and treat any other group of people in these places as foreigners. In fact, Dinkas do not consider Equatorians as South Sudanese.
Discounting of the contribution by the other people in the liberation of the country also featured amongst the causes of difficult relationships. The Dinkas do not believe in the contribution of any other tribe in the struggle that ended Arab colonialism in South Sudan. For them, they were the only people who liberated the entire South Sudan, a claim that only serves to drive a wage between them and annihilate other people from the running and management of the affairs of the country.
Some respondents also point out that, the influx of Dinka of all walks of life into Equatoria has led to emergence of unprecedented social problems. These people use their ill-gotten wealth to lure Equatoria women to have children with them as an indirect way of acquiring Equatoria lands. This is because the children born in such machination would claim citizenship of Equatoria, giving them the key to move from their home states to settle in Equatoria on the account of maternal relationships.
Furthermore, the legal and judicial systems are dominated by the Dinkas, which then denies Equatorians, and indeed any other non-Dinka person, fair hearing in the event of disputes they find themselves in which involve Dinka.
Lastly, but not the least, the Dinkas are portrayed to be conservatively a cultural people and quite different from the Equatorians in every respect. Their ideology, cultural norms and ways of life make it impossible to live together. They are utterly tribal people to the meaning, intolerant and with no sense of ethnocentrism. These people have no vocabulary of concession, apology, and are driven by their strong believe in the use of violence and physical power. These traits are not compatible with the Equatorians way of life and civility.
With regards to how the above multitude of problems can be solved, the respondents prescribe a range of solution. First, that all non-essential Dinkas should leave Equatoria and return to their homeland. In this regard, the government and all stakeholders would need to ensure peaceful exit of all the Dinka livestock from Equatoria. After that, rules and regulation have to be established to control the movement of Dinkas with their cattle into Equatoria. Secondly, all individual and community lands grabbed and illegally occupied are to be restored to the rightful owners and respective communities. Thirdly, that there has to be a reversion to the former three regions and bring them together in federal union to be governed on the basis of federal system. It is hoped that establishment of Federal System of government in South Sudan will address the anarchic state of affairs raging in the country. Introduction of federal system of government, where power is distributed across various levels of the government, some respondents pointed out, would return South Sudan to state of peace and tranquillity. This will then enable the people to engage in economic development and competition among the Federal states in provision of services. This way, Equatorians will have peace of mind as it will be relieved of the unnecessary disturbances by the Dinkas, who are adamant and always sticky after some negative things that cannot work in Equatoria society. Furthermore, some respondents propose dissolution of the country and establishment of three new countries of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal. Finally, in the event that all the proposed solutions are not acceptable or do not work, some respondents point out, then the last resort is for Equatoria to secede from South Sudan and become a new sovereign state. This way, Equatorians will have peace of mind as it will be relieved of the unnecessary disturbances by the Dinkas, who are adamant and always sticky after some negative things that cannot work in Equatoria society.
The responses from the population of study show that, while there is potential threat by Equatorians to seek to secede, there may still be a chance to avert such scenario if an acceptable system of government can be agreed and implemented in South Sudan.
Most of the respondents point to the direction that the problems inherent in South Sudan may be addressed by adopting the most appropriate system of government, in the first instance and only resort to secession as the last option. This then necessitates examination of the main types of government in use worldwide in order to identify the most suitable type that would be appropriate for South Sudan.
The main systems of government in the world are the unitary, confederal and federal system.
Unitary system of government
Unitary system of government is a form of state structure characterized by centralisation of power and indivisibility of sovereignty. In such system, there is only one source of authority – the central government. The other units are only subordinate, serving as agencies of the central government, established for its convenience and local administration, (Tsegaw, 2009). Thus, in a unitary system of government, the Central authority controls all powers, with the lower levels existing only to implement the policies designed by the national government. In the unitary system of government, the same set of laws are uniformly applied throughout the country without regard to peculiarity of different local situation. Therefore, the central government exercises complete control over the lower levels with full might, (Farooq, 2013). The lower levels of government are only subordinates and work under the supervision and direction of the central government. This type of government is useful only in states with no strong nationalities or those that are small in size.
Confederation is voluntary association of independent states. It is governed by a common agreement of its members. Confederation is often formed for common objective and does not affect internal freedom, structure, law making and enforcing processes, external relations of the confederating states. As a union of sovereign states, members states are often united for purposes of other actions, usually against other states. Confederation is always created by a treaty. Each member state in a confederation retains its sovereignty and has the right to opt out of the federation at any time it wants, unlike in federal system of government where secession is not permitted. Any member in a confederation remains a separate international entity, with powers to head its own foreign policies. However, a confederal government is characterised by a weak central authority, since each member state retains all the powers of an independent state such as the right to maintain a military force, print money, as well as the power to make treaties with other countries (“Differences in Unitary, Confederate and Federal Forms of Government.
Federal system of government
Federal system of government is a type of government characterised by multiple levels of government, with each assuming different sets of responsibilities and managing the affairs of the respective entity. Mr. Endawke Tsegaw, an expert in the field of federalism, describes federalism as:
A form of state structure in which the basic elements of state: territory, population, government and sovereignty are divided vertically to form independent political entities that enables each to make final decision independently of the others.
The federal union, and its component units, enjoys considerable degree of shared rule and self-rule within its constitutionally defined powers and responsibilities. Federalism is a system designed to attain ‘both union and non-centralization at the same time. In the African context, federalism is indeed important (á¸¤abÄ«b and Mohammed, 2010) in that it relates to:
The idea of having a workable political arrangement that necessarily requires the perpetual existence of different levels of authority sanctioned by a supreme constitution which has to serve as a broader national framework for building consensus accepting the principle of unity-in-diversity as a basis for nation building.
This system of government is based on the formal agreement or covenant. It distributes power of the government across different levels– national, state and local levels, in such a way that allows each level some degree of independence and autonomy. Under federal system or federalism, each level of government has sovereignty in some areas, while in others, it shares power. This system of government is a middle ground that safeguards against a too strong national government or too weak state, or local government. It is a compromise system that distributes authority between the National government and its constituent units at the state and local levels in a way that specifies which powers are exercised by a particular unit and those that can be shared.
Federal states share some important essential qualities, which include: rule of law and constitutionalism, local autonomy and representative federal government institutions that bring benefits, enjoys the loyalty of all the component units of the federation on a sustainable basis, despite variations that may arise due to the different local realities in different countries.
Under Federal system of government, there is a constitution that specifies what areas of public life will be under the jurisdiction of the national government and which ones will be under the control of state government. In the United States, for example, unless the constitution gives specific powers to the federal government, all other powers belong to the state governments, (“What Is a Confederal System of Government?” n.d.). Unlike unitary system of government, the Federal type is best suited in big countries with diverse ethnicities with different needs, but a common identity that unites them all. Those different needs would require different local governments to address them. The system accords the different groups of people the opportunity to retain their pride, tradition and power, while allowing the Central government to handle overarching problems.
For effective provision of service under federal system, expenditure responsibilities are devolved to the level of the government where the service is provided and to be listed in the constitution accordingly. Subnational governments must have a significant degree of control over their sources of revenue. This can be achieved by assigning specified revenue sources to the subnational governments as to closely relate to the assigned expenditure responsibilities to the local level of the government. In doing so, some economist propose that consideration is to be based on general behaviour of the taxpayers with regards to tax compliance, rather than on simply assigning tax responsibilities to particular levels of government.
Broadly, those taxes that can help the federal government to redistribute income and stabilise the economy are given to the central government, while those immovable taxes that primarily provide benefit to the local government are left for the particular level.
However, some federal constitutions assign exclusive authority to collect revenue to the states. In this case, provision is made for sharing revenue with the central federal government, a process referred to by some as upward-revenue sharing or reverse revenue sharing, (Tsegaw 2009). But this system makes the central level of the government to be dependent on the states and can impede its principle responsibility of income distribution and economic stabilisation. Conversely, if the whole revenue sources are managed by the central federal government, the state governments would be rendered to depend on revenue transfer mechanism from the central government. This goes against the basic principle of federalism for devolution of power and functions across the federating units sub-level of the government.
Given the preceding three main systems of government, it is then necessary to examine what system of government has been in operation in South.
There are those who say that the type of system of the government in South Sudan since independence is federal presidential system, with the President heading both the government and the state. They are right to the extent that the country bears all the hallmarks of federal system of government given that it has all the institutions that are found in a federal system of government – National government, Bicameral parliament, states as the constituent units of the national government with their respective executive and legislature structures, down to county and payam levels.
The African Union Commission of inquiry on the crisis in South Sudan indicated that the system of government in South Sudan has both unitary and federal elements, and that it is essentially a ‘hybrid system’, in part because states lack competence in judicial power where the President is empowered to remove elected governors, and to dissolve both national and state legislative assemblies at will, (Kodjo, 2015).
However, for all practical purposes, the country is governed on the model of unitary system of government. The present system condemns people to perpetual insecurity and underdevelopment. The unitary government is obsessed with power and economic control, without regard to delivery of even the very basic services. The relationship between the central government and the states can best be described as that of Principle-agent relationships in that there is no significant devolution of power and resources to the states. The states are dependent on goodwill and resources transfer from the national government where power is concentrated on one person, the President, essentially to cover recurrent costs, leave alone development. The President can dismiss elected state governors at will. In perfect federal system, elected head of state government can be removed legally only by the legislative body of the state concerned. Even more, the South Sudan President does not limit his actions of appointing or removing individuals to constitutional posts only. He goes to as low as appointment and dismissal of civil servants, like Directors and Director Generals of parastatal bodies and independent institutions who are supposed to be recruited or separated through normal civils service process of advertising, shortlisting, interviewing and appointing. Furthermore, the people of Equatoria, often referred to as Equatorians, have seen the name ‘Equatoria’ erased completely from the map of South Sudan. They consider this to be a deliberate move by the President to do away with a name that the President and his constituency perceive to be unifying the people of the region against the Dinkas.
It then follows that the current system of governance in South Sudan is not suitable for the country, not only because it concentrates power to the person of the President and his networks, but also because South Sudan is a very big country in size and has many strong nationalities.
Equally, the confederal system of government may not be suitable for South Sudan. This is due to the fact that confederation applies in situation where there are several sovereign countries who wish to come together for a common purpose. This is not yet the case in South Sudan, as the states there, are not necessarily independent.
Therefore, the only system of government suitable for South Sudan is the federal system of government. But there are some people who are determined to resist introduction of such system of government on the pretext that it would fragment the country into tribal homelands, with resulting insecurity, as well as high cost of managing the system. However, such fears are essentially expression of anxiety by some section of the population with vested interest as they would not know how to advance their welfare in a Federated South Sudan. Jacob K. Lupai, an Educationist at Juba university confirms this when he pointed out, (“Federal System of Government Appropriate for South Sudan - Sudan Tribune: Plural News and Views on Sudan” 2018)that:
People may be paranoid of a federal system probably because of perceived deprivation of power and privileges, and perceived insecurity. The fear is also that of being uprooted from where one calls home.
But such fears cannot be sustained indefinitely, judging by the Sudan experience when it was so rigid on the call by the then Southern Sudanese for a federal system of governance that would be acceptable by all. Sudan governments’ persistence in resisting any calls for a federal system of government, or mere mention of federalism, only served to make the Southerners to be equally rigid and opt instead for complete secession, rather than federation, and they succeeded. By extension therefore, if an effective federal system of government cannot be agreed to and applied in South Sudan, the respondents were not ambiguous about what they see as the last resort – secession. Indeed, as many respondents state and other analysts point out, (“Federal System of Government Appropriate for South Sudan - Sudan Tribune: Plural News and Views on Sudan” 2018).
The ethnic dimension in South Sudan and the accompanying conflicts have rendered the perception of those who imagine that South Sudanese are one people to be nothing, but merely wishful thinkers and that South Sudanese will never be one people, even if the Son of Mary comes for the second time
So, in the absence of adoption of the right modal of federal system of government in South Sudan, secession of Equatoria is an inevitability. Secession itself, is an act of withdrawal by a group from a larger entity for any reason, including domination and marginalisation, amongst others. The question then, is how the secession of Equatoria will be achieved?
Secession from an original country is a process that involves different strategies, including violence. It occurs as a result of decision by a representative body or referendum. While there is usually no clear legal provision in the national constitutions of most countries that allow for secession, most secessionists movements in Africa, use the African charter on human and peoples’ rights and the right to self-determination that most national countries have ratified as a legal basis to push for secession.
In the case of Kenya, proponents of secession drafted a bill to be presented to the country’s Independent Election and Boundaries Commission for review. They will then be required to collect a minimum of one million signatures from eligible voters to trigger a referendum, (“How NASA Wants Kenya to Be Divided” 2018). The draft bill seeks to amend an article in the country’s constitution to redefine the country’s territory to allow for creation of two new countries. The secession promoters in Kenya assert that “Breaking away will cure the evils of exclusion, tribalism, corruption inequities, impunity and general bad governance perpetrated by the Jubilee administration”. In the same country, another group of people from the coastal region of Kenya are also pushing for secession of the Coastal region to be independent.
However, secession is not often an easy path to take. There can be tremendous hurdles that secessionist movements will have to face. First, the steps that any secessionist movement needs to take can themselves pose formidable challenges to any drive to secede.
To begin with, there has to be sufficient grounds to warrant the need to separate. And then, there has to be massive, if not critical support for the secession move. Of critical importance too, is the question of leadership- whether there is a leadership that is ready to take up the issue of secession. In addition, there has to be a flag to act as symbol of a new state. Another consideration of equal importance is the question of tactics to be used to achieve secession.
From experience, there is no single tactic, or strategy that has delivered secession, but multiple strategies. These could include diplomacy, mass action and military campaign. This then will entail setting up a military wing to recruit, train and arm the followers to fight the government.
Secondly, the parent country from which secession is sought will mobilise all resources and efforts to scuttle any move for secession. Moreover, African governments have often taken and maintained anti secessionist stance, fearing that it could be a source of instability across the continent if allowed.
On these basis, the governments would stand in solidarity with the country threatened with secession and would dismiss any drive by any group to secede. For these countries, the issue of secession is non-negotiable, or redline, as some of them would assert. The strong position taken by the African governments on the issue of secession has meant that any given groups of people are not allowed to exercise their right to pursue self-determination. And the Africa Union, as a matter of principle, would always side with the country threatened with secession. The Union will, in such case, send regional force to prevent any push for secession from succeeding, as is the case in the Sudan region of Darfur, amongst others, (“Lessons, Comfort, for Kenya’s Budding Secessionists - The East African” n.d.). In addition, the international community has developed a strong opposition to secessionist movements as well. Moreover, unless the territory seeking to secede is of some strategic significance to major powers, there will be no international interest to participate in resolving secession conflict. In such scenario, the conflict is most likely to drag on for decades without resolution as is the case with the Western Sahara conflict. Furthermore, even when an entity secedes by whatever means, recognition of that entity by the international community will not be easy to achieve, as exemplified by the case of Somaliland whose unilateral declaration of independence since 1991 has remained unrecognised by any single country to date.
Nevertheless, the continental body, African Union, has so far demonstrated some form of flexibility with regards to recognition of territories seeking to secede after decolonisation of the African countries. Such flexibility has left some people to consider the AU policy on secession to be like a matter of selective application, or double standard. But this implies that there is a window to pursue secession and be recognised as an independent country. The best examples to illustrate shifting stance by the African Union on the issue of recognition or none recognition of countries seceding after decolonisation of African include the case of Somaliland, Eritrea and South Sudan.
In the case of Somaliland, no country has ever formally recognised its independence since it declared itself to be independent from Somalia in 1991, with the African Union being the main stumbling block, (“Why Somaliland Is Not a Recognised State - The Economist Explains” n.d.). This is despite the fact that Somaliland has over the years build relative viable state institutions singly without external support. Indeed, Somaliland is more functional than the larger state of Somalia, which is unable to govern itself, even with the international recognition and external support it receives.
With Eritrea, the story is different. When various rebel groups united to topple the Ethiopian government, headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, Eritreans pushed for inclusion of a right for them to determine their future in a referendum. The constitution provided that right and in the referendum that followed, they voted to secede from Ethiopia and proclaimed their independent in 1993. Here, the African Union organisation went ahead to confer recognition to Eritrea as an independent country, on the ground that Ethiopia, from which Eritrea seceded, had given its consent for the country’s independence. Following the recognition by the African Union, other countries followed suit and conferred recognition to Eritrean’s independence.
Similarly, South Sudan was granted express recognition as an independent country by the international community when it fought and voted for independence, despite the fear by some members of the international community that recognition of independence of South Sudan could have some signalling effect on other separatist movements elsewhere in the Africa continent. Some countries based their recognition of independence of South Sudan on the suffering that the civil war caused and on the consent by the parent country, Sudan, that came under international pressure to concede, (Dugard, 2013).
Despite all the obstacles to secession, there will be no time that groups of people, particularly on the African continent, will not emerge to purse secession. Self-determination and secession is an inalienable right that international law entitles group of people to exercise to freely determine their own destiny. The problem here is that, given the practice of the African Union to grant recognition to entities on the grounds of consent by the mother country or prolonged suffering, often following fierce fighting, the cost of secession will be pushed very high. This is because groups pursuing such objectives would have to put up a rigorous fight to inflict suffering and force the mother entity to consent to secession.
Necessary condition to prevent secession of Equatoria
Given the historical background and the struggle between the Equatorians for survival and equality; and the Dinkas for supremacy, emergency of calls for secession of Equatoria is only a question of time for it to be openly pursued on all fronts, including armed struggle. But while waging an armed struggle for a just course is a right of people enshrined in the bill of rights to exercise, achievement of secession can only be attained at very high cost. First, for the outcome of any secession struggle to be recognised by the African Union as a precondition for the rest of the world to follow suit, the concerned groups would have to fight hard to remove the country’s government and set up one that would allow for secession of any entity desiring to do so through a UN supervised referendum, as was the case with Eritrea, (“Secessionism in Africa: Where Will the Map Change Next?” 2012). Second, the party seeking to secede would have to engaged in vigorous fighting as to inflict serious human suffering and force the parent country to consent to recognise independency of the entity as a prerequisite for other countries to recognise the new country as exemplified by the case of South Sudan, (McNamee, 2012). As a result, use of military means to achieve secession cannot be an easy undertaking particularly as most of the African governments would stand with and protect the government in power from being removed.
Therefore to avoid any need for secession, accentuated by domination and tribal avalanche, it is important to tackle the pandemic problem effectively.
Such a scenario can only be averted by adoption of a system of governance that can remove exercise of domination by the big tribes. And in order to be successful in arresting the anarchic state of affairs raging in the country as perpetuated by tribal domination, there has to be a political will by the government first and foremost. Then adopt a functioning federal system of government, where power is distributed across various levels of the government to enable each region the opportunity of governing itself. To this end, the author recommends reversion to the three former provinces or regions of South Sudan, namely: Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal and make them to be the constituent units of Federal Union of South Sudan. Each region or state is to have its own government and parliament, guaranteed in the federal constitution. Governance at the federal level should be based on the Comoros modal where the constitution provides for a rotatory Presidency, with three Vice Presidents, one from each of the Islands constituting the federation. In the Comoran system, the procedure for electing the President involves two rounds of voting. In the first round, the island whose turn it is to provide the President, will vote contenders from that island, an equivalence of the US primaries, but limited to voters of the concerned island. In the second round of election, the first three best performing candidates in the first round of the election would be subjected to nationwide election for all voters to elect the president, (“Comoros Country Review”, 2017). This ensures that none of the constituting units of the federation feels excluded at the national level. Similarly, members of the Federal Assembly as well as that of Supreme Court are drawn from each of the constituting units of the federal union in equal proportion.