The opposition leaders and analysts join a loud chorus of international criticism that the plan contradicts the recently signed peace agreement and the country’s constitution.
The order, which was announced on National Television on October 2, will increase the country’s states to 28 in a bid to decentralise power and improve service delivery.
Alfred Sebit Lokuji, an Associate Professor at the University of Juba said he agrees with Kiir’s creation of more states but argued that the president did not follow the right procedure for the establishment of the states, calling the announcement “untimely”.
First of all let us get this agreement behind us.”
Lokuji said the government should instead prioritise the implementation of the peace agreement. “First of all let us get this agreement behind us, let us honour it, let’s do what it takes to make it successful, to remove violence away from the lives of the people of South Sudan then let us use our legislative processes, for the establishment of the additional States,” Lokuji said.
The United States, alongside Norway and the United Kingdom, its partners in the troika for South Sudan, this week expressed “serious concern” over the plan while, the European Union said President Kiir’s move “goes against the spirit and the letter of the peace agreement” that was inked by Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August this year.
Minister of Information, Michael Makuei Lueth, however, has argued that the new states responds to citizens’ demands for federalism, adding that all provisions in the peace agreement would remain untouched.
He said the announcement was made in good faith. “There is no provision in the agreement which ties down the hands of the president not to continue to render services and serve the interest of the people,” Makuei said. “The President is acting in accordance with the provision of the law and there is no time frame which has been set.”
Lokuji, however, said the move “frustrates the very strong growing demand for federalism of the ten States”, and added that it overrides the constitutional duties of institutions like the National Parliament and the Council of States. “By doing that you clearly demonstrate that there is nothing holy any more about governments and about the constitution,” Lokuji said.
Kiir’s order is expected to come into effect after 30 working days. According to the order, the states of Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria will be divided into eight States, the Upper Nile region will be divided into ten states and the Bar el-Ghazal region will be divided into ten states.
Rebel leader Riek Machar has opposed the order, calling it a violation of the peace agreement. Macher had previously suggested the establishment of 21 States.
The decision of the president is a complete violation of the constitution.”
Lawmaker and Leader of the Minority in South Sudan’s National Parliament Onyoti Adigo, criticised the plan, saying that some legal questions are unanswered and that Kiir’s amendment should have adhered to the normal procedures. “The President can initiate the amendment of the constitution and (it) has to be blessed by the parliament whatsoever can be and also the Council of States,” Adigo said. “In fact the decision of the president is a complete violation of the constitution because this thing needs a lot of consultation with the people according to the constitution.”
Isaac Natali Luis, Secretary General of the South Sudan People’s Liberal Party (PLP), argued that Kiir’s decree was announced at the wrong time but stressed that his party also supports the extension of more powers to the grass roots.
Luis said that Kiir’s government should first tackle the basic social and economic challenges most South Sudanese face after the 21-months of conflict, which has killed thousands and forced many more to flee their homes.
“With the situation that we are living with right now the budget of the country is not enough,” Luis said. “Now we have eighteen more states, so I am not sure exactly where the ruling party is going to create the budget to fund all these activities.”
Lokuji said the citizens should have been collectively involved in the decision on the states. He warned that it jeopardised the fledging moves for peace: “This sets back the agreement,” he added.