Initial Impressions: the Khartoum proposal on governance

These are my initial thoughts and conclusions on the Khartoum proposal on how South Sudan should be  be governed: The Executive and the system of governance.


Dr Remember Miamingi


I must start by saying, from a power-sharing paradigm, the Khartoum mediators’ latest proposal on power sharing is a decent attempt by a mediation, so far, to try and be in the middle. However, even from a power-sharing paradigm, a closer look at the rationale, the percentages and the distribution of power points reveals serious structural defects that might very likely instigate the demise of the proposed governance arrangements. I proceed to substantiate these claims.

1. The preamble – some minor observations.

The third paragraph of the preamble speaks of ‘compensating’ the people. Apart from the disparaging and degrading nature of this word in the context of unprecedented death, destruction and despair, this choice of word is revealing of the philosophy of the process as it is misleading. This compensatory approach fundamentally rewards the hangmen for a job well done.

In addition, this paragraph talks of ‘constitutionalism’. There is nothing constitutional, not to talk, of constitutionalism in a process outside the constitution itself. The Transitional Constitution of 2011 which “derives its authority from the will of the people” states that “sovereignty is vested in the people”. Where are the people in this process? This may look trivial in the scheme of things, but when words are used carelessly, you must wonder if the author cares enough.

Furthermore, having committed to the Khartoum Declaration which undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of South Sudan, it is meaningless to speak of “preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country” as stated in the fourth paragraph of the Preamble.

Finally, the enumeration of the parties in the last paragraph of the Preamble is problematic. The Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) is not a party but a short name for all the parties that constituted the Government established by the 2015 Agreement.

Thus, allocating the “TGoNU” name to an entity without revising the entire allocative and initiating powers of TGoNU per 2015 Agreement, means that these powers automatically devolves to this entity. The right parties on the table are Government of South Sudan, SPLA/SPLM-IO, SSOA, FDs and OPPs.

I still wonder though if FDs are part of SSOA, why treat them separately. The argument that because they were parties to the 2015 Agreement does not hold. It is just because if you could add parties, parties could be deleted too.

2. Power sharing

In the main, the power-sharing formula, within the Presidency, remains that of the 2015 Agreement. President Kiir and Dr Riek retain their positions as of status quo July 2016 ante.

There are of course the already stated challenges with this proposal – that, the relationship between these two gentlemen has broken down at personal and professional levels, irretrievably. It was so before July 2013, even worse before July 2016 and now shoddier after causing the deaths of thousands of South Sudanese and the unlawful detention of Dr Riek in South Africa.

Even if the two leaders were bold and courageous leaders, and there is no evidence to suggest they are, who can rise above their broken relationship and suppress their egos for the sake of the country, many of their aggrieved followers will not follow them into this unholy marriage. So, returning these two gentlemen who don’t see eye to eye to power in Juba, under circumstances that are worse than in July 2016, will at best paralyze the business of governance and at worse, and God forbid, could lead to the physical elimination of one or both of these gentlemen and of the destruction of a South Sudan as we know it today.

There is a new problem introduced by the Khartoum proposal. According to the proposal, SSOA, FDs and other political parties shall nominate one of the vice presidents. Structurally, this proposal introduces some form of balance of powers in the Presidency – the GoSS nominates the President, and one of the Vice presidents and the opposition in the broader sense of the word nominate the 1st vice president and one of the other vice presidents.

However, there is the problem of hierarchies within the Presidency’s three vices. For example, is the 1st vice president more important than the 3rd? This question is to be understood in the sense that each of these vice presidents presides over a cluster. There is another problem. The other opposition parties who are supposed to nominate a vice president are composed of over 30 political parties that are not united by ideas, form or structure. Even if they were to agree on a nomination, how is representativity and accountability between the nominee and the immediate constituency expected to work in a transitional period that will be dominated by an electoral engineering politics?

The other issue I want to mention here is about the clusters. The proposal places each vice president in charge of governance, economic and service delivery clusters. While this might look enticing, there are few challenges. First, these clusters even in a state run by a government with a cohesive political party and requisite state capacity, how to delineate what is governance, economic and service delivery will be problematic. In South Sudan, you have a failed state, with a government that will be composed of political parties many of which do not have structures and have been fighting each other, in some cases, for power. How these spheres of powers are to be carved out without severe difficulties, requires no stretch of the imagination. I only sympathise with the vice president responsible for service delivery, whom I can imagine would be a woman.

The final issue I want to mention here is the percentages. The Khartoum proposal creates 30 ministries. It allocates 17 (i.e. about 57%) ministries to GoSS; 8 ministries (i.e. about 26%) to SPLA/SPLM-IO; 2 ministries (i.e. about 7%) to the SSOA; 2 ministries (i.e. about 7%) to FDs and 1 ministry (i.e. 3%) to other political parties.

There is an attempt to reasonable balance the power within the executive – the ratio of 17 – 13 of ministries between the government and the opposition respectively. However, these ministries are grouped into clusters, and each cluster is put under a vice president. So, for instance, there are chances that an IO vice president will preside over a cluster with ministers who come from parties fundamentally opposed to IO. Under normal circumstances, this should not be a problem. But in South Sudan and with so much blood among the parties, this will be problematic.

3. The number of states

The Khartoum proposal suggests a return to the 21 colonial districts as a basis for determining the number of states. There are good reasons in favour of this proposal. For, instance, the boundaries of the colonial districts are reasonably known. However, there are many challenges. First, this is the position of IO and abandoning the position of GoSS which is 32 states to that of its main enemy, irrespective of its merit, is problematic in the context of South Sudan. Second, the question of the system of governance is not about the number of states. It is a question of devolution of political and fiscal powers to sub-national levels; it is a question about segmented autonomy too. The proposal is silent on this vital questions.

Firstly, this proposal is made with GoSS and the SPLA/SPLM-IO mainly in mind. It explains why it concedes substantive positions to these two parties while ignoring the substantive asks of the other parties and only conceding positions to the other actors. Secondly, this proposal is driven by garbage in- garbage out mindset.

If you added water to acid yesterday and it produces fire, expecting to add water to acid together and get a different result is outside the limit of a sound mind. Thirdly, the proposal limits inclusivity to numbers – so long as the parties are numerically included in government. It sacrifices substantive inclusivity – inclusivity of issues that addresses the root causes of the conflict.

Finally, in its preoccupation with numerical inclusivity, the proposal creates a governmental entity that is structurally designed to fail. Thus, even from a power-sharing model, this proposal is fraught with serious challenges and destined to fail.