8 December 2012

Sudan: South Sudan Governors' Forum - a Real Platform for Nation Building


There were seven governors' forums conducted since establishment of the former interim government in Juba from 2005 to the backdoor of the post-secession period in June 2011. From July 9, 2011 up to now, only two of such forums were done and I had the honor to have attended the second governors' forum that started from October 26 to October 30, 2012, under the theme "Agriculture for sustainable food security and economic growth".

The theme is a good attempt to realise the statement of the President Gen. Salva Kiir Mayradit, in one of the occasions when he said "a nation that cannot feed its people and rely on relief food will not live to the aspirations of its people". However, this theme is self-explanatory and a clear evident that the government at all levels is implementing one of the vital strategy amongst strategies of material and human resource development toward economic stability, food and physical security.

As I said earlier in other writings, the state of Israel for instance, attained their food security by more than 90 percent in only 10 years from independency in 1948, by allocating 40 percent of its national fiscal budget to agriculture. It is not like 10 percent or even lower percentages staggering with African countries in what is regionally and unproductively known as Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security adopted at its second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003. Unfortunately, only six African countries of Niger, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Malawi have so far allocated more than 10 percent of their national budget to the agriculture, but nevertheless, about 50 % of the populations there are living below poverty line.

In South Sudan quite promisingly, the five days deliberations opened by President Mayardit, and left to continue under the leadership of Vice President Dr. Riak Machar, was seen a remarkable event and greatest movement of solidarity to achieve an intended goal of nation building. The forum is a biannual activity organised by Office of the President in support of the United Nations Development Program UNDP country office, with summary objective as platform for discussion on governance issues at all levels including civil society organisations.

To the secondary objectives of the governors' forum, the good intention is to share SWOT analysis and forge a new way to foster surmounting challenges of nation building. The presentation of State Governors clearly identified some key achievements in governance and other sectors. But major challenges in almost all states remains the same except Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, where there is no cattle rustling and intersectional fights, which its report was unique. Congratulations to the Aweil community and urge other communities across South Sudan to do the same in order to reconstruct our nation in peace and harmony.

In South Sudan, chief amongst challenges facing states and local governments and which have been shared at the governors' forums are insecurity caused by intersectional feuds; cattle rustling; poor infrastructural development such as lack of road network and building of institutions hampered by lack of finance as the State budget allocated by the national government is less than expectation of the state government priority needs; outbreak of diseases; food insecurity or poverty.

Although the President describe poverty in his opening speech as mighty, complicated but manageable enemy, yet it will not be eradicated easily unless and until when the government develop food security policy to fight it. One of my recommendation is for the government to support our local farmers, who are real creators of wealth but currently remain poor to help upgrades from ignorant subsistence farming to large scale production by providing agricultural tools and seedlings.

Another good frontline to fight poverty is to join six other African countries and beyond to allocate reasonable percentage of our national budget to agriculture and food security. A full stomached person will never think of robbery and killing as a case in point in poor countries, but healthy mind produces healthy ideas and indeed fears commission or omission of any wrongdoing that may claim his or her valuable life, while a miserable life companion has nothing to respect, but to rob and kill or be killed. Alternatively, we must work to have food in abundance and even export it to foreign countries in order to boost our economic development. In other word, food security is other side of physical security and the two constitute viable state.

The third recommendation as important component of governors' forum is to translate the resolutions adopted into real action because they resolutions represent the views of the government and people of South Sudan. The State government should also establish communication units at the relevant institutions as public domain in form of electronic mail and suggestions boxes where citizens and stakeholders alike send their opinions on current issues affecting live in order to help state government analyse, implement and carry forward any impossible needs to the subsequent governors' forum for dialoguing at the national level for a just solution.

I must also thank UNDP Resident Coordinator Mr. Toby Lanzer and his team for such institutional support. Without further ado, let me return to the country second high ranking official who was a moderator throughout the event. The Vice President is seen a quiet and organised leader of the people who listens carefully and accommodate all feelings. Anyway, I am not flattering anybody, but I am specifically impressed by how the Vice President handle the controversial agenda of land grabbing in Juba, which I correctly underline to be called "trespass to land" in a legal form and content that suit international definition of wrongly interfering with possession of land whether privately owned or under custody of public body.

The brainstorming on trespass to land was found as leading element of corruption in Juba. For instance, a person who acquires land or landlord put on sale the same piece of land to more than two people to make huge money overnight. Surprisingly, our President and the vice President were victims of this land double selling according to the statement of the Vice President.

Indeed, I am afraid that this is very serious phenomena and must be discarded. It is very sad news that the land policy which shall govern the so-called land grabbing in Juba and south Sudan remain in a limbo between the national Ministry of Justice and the Council of Ministers. However, a notable resolution was passed during second governors' forum calling upon relevant institutions to expedite the land policy legislative process. Last but not least, I applause the national and state government under President Mayardit and all Governors for tireless efforts exerted to make second governors' forum a reality.

Beny Gideon Mabor is an independent commentator on governance and human rights and be reached at benygmabor@gmail.com or by calling +211955812788

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