In the recently concluded IGAD brokered High Level Revitalization Forum peace talks, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance insisted that the transitional government that will be tasked with the implementation of the peace agreement that will result from the talks be lean as opposed to Juba’s highly bloated government. Why?
For a start, the current revitalization process is an attempt to revive the Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) which was violated and abrogated by President Salva Kiir and his acolytes resulting in a new round of civil war. The war turned out to be more vicious than previously (2013-2015) resulting in huge loss of lives, massive displacement of civilians and commitment of egregious crimes and atrocities including extra-judicial killings and rape of girls and women. The number of South Sudanese that sought refuge in the neighbouring countries is estimated to be close to 2.47 million, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) at about 1.74 million excluding about quarter of a million in the UNMISS run Protection of Civilians sites (POCs). Other immediate consequences of the war include: an exponential rise in the number of people in dire need for humanitarian assistance (food, medicine, shelter, etc.) to about four million souls some of whom are facing famine; rocketing inflation rate; rising commodity prices; collapsing economy; high unemployment especially among the youth; absence of service delivery and destruction of property. Furthermore, the war has caused untold damage of social fabric.
The cost of feeding our IDPs, refugees, those in need of humanitarian assistance as well as providing the modicum of services in education and health are being met by the international community while the government spends the billions of dollars accruing from the sale of people’s oil to buy arms to fight its war against its people as well as to buy patronage among the elites in Juba. At a time when the economy was shrinking, Salva Kiir had the audacity to increase the number of States from ten (10) as stipulated in ARCSS to twenty-eight (28) in October 2015 and now to thirty-two (32). Apart from its sinister objective of grabbing the lands of some tribes to give them to his own, the exercise was to expand patronage and have an army of loyalists all over the country. The regime in Juba has always been and still is insensitive to the suffering of its own people.
If and when a peace agreement is concluded billions of dollars will be needed, in the first year alone, to resettle all these refugees and internally displaced, to continue delivering humanitarian assistance albeit to a lesser extent, to rehabilitate infrastructure destroyed by the war, take care of the war victims, pay for DDR projects, etc. These are huge sums far beyond the ability of South Sudan resources to meet. True, the international community will come to the rescue of the country in these pressing humanitarian needs. But, should it expend its tax-payers money on paying an army of unnecessary politicians stacking the transitional government who are being kept solely to buy political allegiance?
The following table gives a glimpse on how the regime in Juba would want to squander the money of the international community on paying politicians who have nothing to offer during the transitional period.
|No||Government position||Government Proposal||SSOA
|1||Presidency/Presidential Council||4 (President +VPs)||5 (Council)||-1|
|2||Assistants to the President||3||nil||3|
|4||Transitional Legislative Assembly||440||170||270|
|6||National Council of Ministers (Ministers)||42||18||24|
|7||National Council of Ministers (D/Ministers)||15||nil||15|
|9||States’ Council of Ministers||224||60||164|
|10||States’ Legislative Assemblies||672||480||192|
It is clear from this table that our proposal for a lean government can save up to 942 constitutional positions with all the perks that go with that. Put it differently, if you used the 5th Sudan Population and Housing Census, 2008, that put the population of South Sudan at 8,260,490, Government’s proposal equals 1 constitutional post holder for every 4000 people.
To put this in perspective, according to the draft budget estimates 2013/2014, a minister’s take-home monthly income was SSP 41, 580 while a Member of Parliament was earning SSP 7900. Thus, 57 ministers and deputies will be earning a whooping 28,440.720 at 2013’s value, per year. if you added the MPs’ 41,712,000 salary per year, minus the salaries of the legislative officials, according to this proposal you will get 70,152,720 SSP on salary alone on ministers and MPs at the national level. In the 2013/2014 estimated budget of SSP 17. 3 billion, education and health sectors received 3.8 and 2.4 percentages respectively translating to about SSP 70 million only. if you added the other constitutional positions at national and across 32 states, the staggering amount will be able to deliver vital services to all our people. The money that would have been used to pay them will be freed to meet the dire needs of our suffering people.
The Juba government argues that its proposal for a bloated government is to take care of inclusivity of all Stakeholders. This argument does not hold water because inclusivity can also be met in a lean government. In fact, what the government is offering is mere fringe accommodation by offering a few positions while it retains its huge majority in government. This cannot be accepted.
In addition to its economic infeasibility, there is the malignant, disparaging and demeaning assumption underlying this proposal by the regime – that the peoples’ grievances are transactional and as such exchangeable for political positions. It is high time the regime knew that South Sudanese’s revolution is motivated by deep seated grievances and not greed for power and that the people will not stop until these grievances are addressed and power returned to its rightful owners – the people of South Sudan.
Dr. Lam Akol is the Chairman, National Democratic Movement and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan 2005-2007.