No matter where you stand on the changes, here are five things you really should now about the creation of 28 states in South Sudan. The country is polarised over the dissolution of the 10 states and their replacement with 28 more or less ethnically based states. Such a big change has major implications for the future direction of our country. Make sure you know the facts.
1. Losing the vote
The order represents a step backwards for democracy in our country.
The new legislation, rushed through parliament to give legal cover to the president’s decree, ends local democracy. Citizens will no longer be able to elect their own governors. Instead, the president will appoint governors and have a big say in who they select to run their ministries.
People tend to follow instruction from the person who can hire and fire them. For these governors, the boss definitely sits in J1 and not in the towns and villages of their state. So don’t be fooled with all this talk about “giving power to the people”.
The order is another attack on our country’s institutions and the rule of law.
Speaking of which, the Council of States ratified the constitutional changes in December even though it failed to reach a 2/3 majority for passing constitutional amendments in the legislative assembly. If the legislative assembly represents the ‘will of the people’ (as written in the constitution) then the will of the people has been ignored.
A sizable number of citizens had serious reservations that deserved further debate. But the government preferred to brush them, and all legality, aside in the rush to push this law through. So let’s not hear any more talk about “It’s what the people want”. Better to say, “It’s what some very connected people want”. The undemocratic trend continues …
3. Jobs for the boys
The order is a setback for women’s rights and gender equality.
The transitional constitution includes a legally binding obligation to ensure at least 25% female representation at all levels of government. Someone must have forgotten to remind the president, because all of the appointed governors are men.
Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time the constitution has been ignored by the very people who should be upholding it. The lack of female role models at the highest offices in our country sets a very bad precedence and looks to roll back the last decade’s achievements in women’s empowerment.
4. Smoke and mirrors
The order does NOT bring federalism.
This new legislation creates more states. Its aim is segregation and not federation. In the president’s own words “all state institutions, laws, regulations and orders shall conform to and operate in accordance with the provisions of the transitional constitution.” Talk of federalism just hides the truth that this is gerrymandering (look it up) on a national scale. Don’t be fooled.
Somehow, people have confused the creation of more states with federalism. This order doesn’t bring federalism. No attempt has been made to transfer powers and resources to state control and lock these powers in with constitutional changes. It’s just a continuation of the old system with a different number of states.
5. How much?
The order isn’t costed and no one has been told where the money to deliver services will come from.
28 states means 28 governors. Given an average of 7 ministers per state, you’re looking at 196 state ministries. Factor in deputy ministers, advisors, directors, deputy directors, administrators, drivers, cooks and other support staff, and we have a huge “job creating” machine that needs a steady flow of money as lubricant to keep functioning. With so much money likely to go into paying salaries, just how much will be left to invest in the infrastructure we so desperately need? How much will be left to pay for improvements in health provision and education services?
Rushed policy is usually bad policy, and the government has no answers except vague promises that the states will be more responsive to people’s needs. Don’t expect too much from your governors. They’ll likely be unable to raise the money needed for the kind of change you’ll want for your new state.