Let’s begin with a saying: ‘If you get angry when you hear the truth about yourself then don’t ask why things happened and you did not know’! let’s also examine these facts through a lens of sociological imagination in order to maintain objectivity. Sociological imagination is “vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.” C. Wright Mills, 1959.
On the very day, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was inked (at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi January, 2005), in his speech; Dr. John Garang de Mabior asserted the policy of ‘taking the town to the people.’ The idea (policy) of taking town to people mapped out a road to improving the wellbeing and the future of the disadvantaged people of South Sudan. In essence, it marked the beginning of the journey to relegate the affliction of abject poverty.
When President Kiir reiterated the same policy, after Dr. Garang’s tragic demise, the public was consoled and welcomed the concept with jubilation. Some of us who heard it at the time were encouraged and may attest that it sounded like haven-sent confirmation. The citizens celebrated the concept because the government was going to get closer to them. Perhaps this was why South Sudanese of all walks of life cherished the policy of taking town to the people. Nevertheless, after seven years of the policy existence one would wonder if towns have really reached the people of and in a real sense.
Let’s define and briefly examine a decentralized system of governance or decentralization under which policy of taking town to the people sprung. Decentralization is a system of Governance in which a central government lawfully relinquishes powers to actors or institutions or/and political-administrative at lower levels. It does not mean making a central government weak, but empowering (socio-economical, and political) Boma, Payam, and State levels to make decision independently. For instance, local levels would need various supports from the central government such as research, human resources, technical, and supplementary support. When authorities relating to education, transport, water supply, health, housing, etc. are devolved then the system is actually decentralized or call it federal. However, meaningful decentralization or empowerment comes through ensuring equitable distribution of resources and enhancing financial capability of individual states in a given country.
The idea of taking the town to the people sprung from the concept of decentralized system of governance combined together with experiences of long oppression of South Sudanese by monolithic Khartoum based regimes. The question is: has this policy been translated into action? In my opinion it is far from affirming its existence. In actual sense, inadequate national funding is silencing it. On the same note, the federal (center) government did not implement the policy to the spirit it was articulated and intended. Juba chose to keep huge sum of funds at the federal level, starving the States financially. Since 2005 the amount of money (transferred) designated for conditional grant and block, represents a small portion compared to what remained in Juba. For example, in the budget of 2011-2012, the sum allocated to certain ministry, respectively, was tripling the amount allocated to Jonglei State, which comprises of over a million persons.
In the same budget, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, received allocation of equivalent to the budget of seven States.
This illustrates that the central government is not taking into consideration principles of equitability and equality. This therefore, insinuates that justice becomes so elusive and is slipping through our fingers even as decisions of national importance are made.
States transfer of period ranging from 2008 to 2010; tallying both the budgets and conditional transfers across the ten states reveals that each state received on average about 95 million South Sudanese pounds annually. Interestingly, the State Administration is expected to finance construction of Schools, Hospitals, inter-County roads and pay state’s employees, including teachers, health workers, state executives Parliamentarians, administrators, in addition to purchasing of teaching facilities, health equipment and security related facilities, etc. Isn’t this budget allocation to states a drop in an ocean? 2014/2015 budget seem to have followed the same tradition to continue following on like River Nile. Although there is a little improvement it is improbable to make any impact.
I wonder if anyone still expects towns to reach villages on these settings; especially when Juba allocated hundred of millions of South Sudanese pounds to individual institutions, which do not ever transfer a penny to any State! Juba continues to nod for injustice, inequality and lack of equitability.
The overwhelming insecurity in States is due to inadequate funding. It is not the governors who are not charismatic leaders or lack planning. Basically the States can’t afford to build prisons to keep or lock away criminals. The criminals in most states are out there to cause more havoc within perimeters of their respective communities as the states lack finances to build reasonable prisons. On the other hand best lawyers are in the capital. The few lawyers in the states do not have proper accommodation or a conducive environment to enable efficiency. States don’t have enough finances to afford or build and run boarding primary or high schools. They have no money to build health clinics with doctors’ quarters in State Capitals, Counties or Payams. The list is countless. But who has the money? The central Government in Juba has it and is not spending on those priorities! What a pity!!
As from 2005 when Southern Sudan government received the 50% share of oil revenues, the sky became the limit stopping the government’s officials’ expenditures. Although any expenditure of public fund without approval of the Parliament is illegal, overspending of the budget allocations became a norm. Regulations and laws governing National Reserves became casualties of overspending by the Ministers. But did the then Parliament make any enquiry? No! How can Parliament enquire since the executive diverted its attention away from public expenditures? Assembly was being reminded now and then about threats against the forthcoming Referendum. Jalaba was the focus not the internal injustice or inequality or even money disappearing from public accounts. The same ‘wit’ may be continuing even today!! With the hindsight one would understand the policy of zero tolerance to corruption couldn’t take effect due to the challenge arising from a possible rebellion that we finally saw in December.
The variations in the levels of poverty and size of population across the ten states of, call for equality, and equitable distribution of national resources. You might have observed from earlier discussions that the central government allocates to itself more money and applies uniformity as a means of distributing the remaining national resource. This practice inflicts much injustice to the other parts of the nation. It disregards population specific-phenomena (allocation according to size of population), which ensures equitable distribution of national resources.
According to studies by Experts hired by Government in a document titled “The Case of South Sudan”, In Eastern Equatoria, for example, 50% of the population lives below the poverty line; while in Central Equatoria 44% live bellow poverty; Upper Nile has 26% percent. The highest is Northern Bahr El Ghazal, which is 76%; Western Equatoria 42%; Lakes 49%; Jonglei 48%; Western Bahr el Ghazal 42%; Warrap 64%; and Unity 68%”. These variations in poverty lines need to be addressed when allocating the national cake.
It is my appeal to the central government to cut its expenditures and increase budgetary allocations to the States so that the citizens enjoy dividends of ownership of an independent nation. The government should consider this before the next budgetary allocations especially its supplementary budget.
The children, women and vulnerable people of this nation need security, a conducive environment, enough food production, education and roads, electricity, etc. from their finances. It is my wish and on behalf of the poor that our national government makes efforts to reverse the way of which distribution of national cake is carried out.