Monday, March 14, 2011

South Sudan and the Challenges of Modern Statehood

The year 2011 began with a remarkable developments for the people of Sudan (both North and South), and this marks an interesting development in Africa. For the North, they have seen the extent of their power and control extensively abrogated, while the Southerners believe they can now boast of ‘real first class citizenship’ in their own country. As a result of a 2005 peace deal Southern Sudanese have unanimously voted for independence, breaking them away from the Republic of Sudan. This development is likely to encourage secessionist movements across the continent and even the world to push forward. Moreover, other oppressed regions are likely to begin considering demands for independent states. But with a new state of South Sudan, expected to be declared in July 2011, what are the possible challenges in running a functional state in this 21st century - sustaining peace, promoting social development, advancing human security, rule of law and security?

Concept and Functions of a Modern State: Can South Sudan Live to the Task?A capable modern state is one that maintains local stability and provides for the human security needs of its people through the provision of effective justice and rule of regimes, social services in health education and sanitation. Critical also, to the stability and proper functioning of a modern state is broad-based participatory democratic governance. Two major characteristics of sovereignty are territory and population and South Sudan is reported to have a vast land area (territory) and a large population of over 4 million people. Beyond territory and population, the legitimate control on the use of violence as theorized by Max Weber, is a fundamental function of the state. This means the state is the sole institution with a monopoly and right to use violence, but with this right of the state being tempered with by non-state actors (mainly rebel movements), state sovereignty have increasingly come under threats, particularly in Africa. How prepared then is South Sudan to run a functional modern state?

With the huge turnout in the referendum of January 2011 and the overwhelming vote for an independent South Sudan state, there is no doubt of the resolve of the people of that region to be united in a single nation-state for their self advancement. The rise and ultimate success of the Sudanese People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) speak to the weakness of the original Sudanese Republic in its control of the legitimate use of violence. Other states in Africa have experienced civil wars during which the state authorities were challenged and the consequences were mass human tragedies and overall state failure. Some of these states, like Liberia, end up becoming pariahs and burdens on the international community. How then can a functional modern state remain in control of the use of violence? The use of violence in the context of state sovereignty is not limited to the use of force, but also that the state is the sole institution of law and order and the sole provider of security to which all of its citizens subscribe and depend on.

A modern state can therefore maintain its control over violence and strengthen the integrity of its sovereignty by instituting effective systems of democratic governance through the rule of law. The new state of South Sudan has a real opportunity to learn from the numerous cases of state-failures in Africa. Some of the lessons well taught can be found in the annals of the recent history of DR Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. But the challenges in South Sudan itself have evolved overtime with internal disputes among the local regions, ethnic groups, and a struggle for power. Analysts have suggested that the fulcrum of the superficial unity in South Sudan is formed around the collective desire for an independent state, but that there are more internal divisions capable of threatening the stability of the new republic. This transitional period must therefore be used to address the challenge of reconciliation, build a cohesive national identity, and unite the people into a Southern Sudanese nation without which a capable Southern Sudanese state is illusive.

With unity and strong national identity fostered among the different classes, regions and ethnicities in the South, the new South Sudan Republic can now perform its traditional functions as a modern state and participate in the international community. The primary functions of the contemporary 21st century state as suggested by Ashraf Ghani et al include, a legitimate monopoly on the use of violence, administrative control, sound management of public finances, investment in human capital, creation of citizenship rights and duties, provision of infrastructure, regulation of the market formation, management of the assets of the state, effective public borrowing and management of international relations, and maintenance of the rule of law. The attainment of all of these has been the real challenge facing the states in Africa, and had been underpinned by strongman politics, cronyism and weak state structures. South Sudan will have to start first by establishing a strong governance system that will guard against strongman dominance, and class or sectarian manipulations.

The Challenges and Prospects At hand
As a new country, South Sudan is faced with so many challenges first in setting up, and then in implementing state functions as outlined above. The challenges are conspicuous and can be traced to problems emanating from the years of neglect, civil war and geography and economy. A major challenge of the South currently is to reduce and stop the violence in the region and enforce internal security which entails disarming armed bandits, establishing a strong national police force and an army. There are reports of continuous hostilities and violence in the major towns in the region and its surrounding. Street attacks and public killings, like the broad day murder of a government official (reported by the BBC Feb. 9, 2009) are troubling for this new country. South Sudan needs to begin to build an economy that will support its people and provide jobs for its vulnerable youths. Violence in every society plays a role in determining the economic future of that society. Despite the fact that South Sudan is a land-locked area, it has numerous economic opportunities as can be seen in its geography. This region is blessed with vast grassland and forest, and has been the citadel of Sudan’s oil economy. Sound public management is therefore needed to maximize benefits from the natural resources so that they too, like in other countries, cannot be ‘natural curses’ on the people that own them.

The management of the body-polity of South Sudan will also be a serious challenge after July 2011. Determining and upholding to constitutional processes of leadership and governance will be critical in predicting the future of the country. Will the SPLM, like other liberating guerrilla organizations, cling onto power with an iron fist; or will it open the process for broad based participation, open space for the press and the civil society? These are all issues need to be looked into as this state emerges.

The issue of citizenship will be a recurring problem in this new country. People that have once lived together as one and became divided only over political issues are highly inseparable. There are many people from both the north and south born to the same families and tribes. Many successful southerners that invested in the north will find it difficult to return home, and will also find it difficult to live as foreigners in a place they once considered their country. This question of citizenship will feature highly during political processes, land ownership and land rights, and wealth distribution; and are most likely to lead to conflicts and violent crises. One way to deal with this is for the political leaders of both the North and South to reach an agreement in which the people in each area that were originally Sudanese be left to determine their nationality before July 2011.

A grand prospect for a progressive and stable South Sudan republic lies in the euphoria surrounding the victory from the referendum for independence. Despite internal divisions, the collective campaign and victory from the independence vote can be seen as opportunities for unity, and this needs to be adequately utilized and built upon. The numerous international aids and the plethora of regional and intergovernmental organizations open for the participation of this new country are grand opportunities for speedy economic growth, international cooperation and peace.

Many local developments, like the acceptance of the referendum results by the North and positive declarations by Southern leaders speak of a brighter future for this new African state. The growing hostile diplomacy between the North and the South in the aftermath of the vote constitute a serious challenge to peace and security in the regions of central and eastern Africa. The AU must now consider a durable peace mechanism between the North and South as a priority; and must also lead the front in supporting statebuilding and peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan as a new member state. But how does the secession of the South impact political activities on the continent and what are the implications for peace and stability in Africa?

Implications of the Secession on African States
The formation of a new country in Africa by July 2011 will significantly impact the discourses of international politics in Africa. First the number of countries at the African Union and the United Nations will increase by one; consequently, there will be new strategic alliances.

A significant lesson from the guerrilla success of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) is that other active and dormant secessionist organizations around Africa will gain courage and inspirations to press on with their separatist agendas. While it is the rights of people everywhere to fight for their self-determination, the re-ignition of violent secessionist struggles in Africa will destabilize the continent. In cases where the secessionists are fighting for an exclusive ethno-national state, the challenge might be much difficult as compared to regions where people of multi-ethnicities mobilize against marginalization and advance a common political and eco-social agenda in initiating causes of self-liberation. There are secessionist’s movements in nearly all of the regions of Africa, and the forging of alliances with these movements by already existing sovereign states, are potentials for regional-wide conflicts that will threaten even the stability of sovereign states. In Sudan alone, where the recent secessionist victory is recorded, there are also separatist movements in both the west and east fighting for independence. In the terribly failed state of Somalia alone, there are more than two autonomous regions fighting for self-determination, this is further deepening the crisis in that country. Despite, the failure of the Biafrans to gain independence from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there are still triggers in that country that are capable of dividing it or keeping it in perpetual instability. Militancy in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, and demands by some ethnic groups for self-actualization continue to threaten Nigeria’s stability. The Casamance region of Senegal and Cabinda region of Angola are regions that have active organizations, and there are needs for immediate settlements in those places to avoid prolong fighting. A number of organizations in Africa representing ‘marginalized and oppressed’ peoples and regions are also part of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), a Netherlands-based organization of separatist movements and activists around the world.

The SPLM/A had gained a remarkable victory in leading a guerrilla struggle for the independence of the people of South Sudan. The weakness of the state in Sudan contributed to this division. South Sudan must be nurtured and supported to live up to the expectations of its people. The AU must lead an effort of negotiating peace in the South before the state is declared in July 2011. Other African states must now begin to initiate internal reform processes that will positively transform the lives of their peoples in all regions, ethnicities and communities. A critical point to note from the emergence of separatists movements across Africa is that the centralized state system has failed markedly. Most African governments do not have efficient state security and social services accessible to majority of their peoples, particularly rural regions and areas far from political headquarters. Africans must now begin to experiment with decentralization, a system that will entrust power to the local people in every given area, and through which the people will manage their own politics, resources and institutions. With effective systems of decentralization working in African states, significant progress will be made at poverty reduction, and the strengthening of democratic governance. With the involvement of the majority of the people in the decision making processes (the politics), and the distribution of resources (the economy), violent conflicts from greed and grievances will reduce in African states, and ultimately there might be no need for the rise of secessionist/separatist movements.