China in Sudan…

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(work in progress…)
A critical look at why China could play a leading role in mediating peace between the two Sudans even as it pursues its own economic interests.

Premise: That China has arguably the biggest economic leverage over the two states..

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Nationbuilding in South Sudan: Lessons from Somaliland

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Of all the numerous congratulatory messages that poured in from world capitals, one stood out. This was from Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland ; that ‘republic’ that the world just refuses to recognize. It might have been an opportune moment for the Somalilanders to remind the world of their unique situation and continuing consternation at the international community’s apathy to their cause despite making major strides at statehood, peace and democratic governance.

Somaliland Pres Ahmed Mohamed

As President SalvaKiir and his government get down to business, it would be very important for South Sudan to pay attention to Hargeysa, the only African government  that offers practical lessons for the nascent government’s most arduous task; nation- and state-building in the 21st century.

LESSON 1: Security is the foundation. Providing and guaranteeing security to all citizens and in particular businesses is paramount if any economic growth is to take place. And once businesses are making money, it automatically unlocks avenues for taxation. Somaliland realized a lucrative transit business by traders to and from Ethiopia through the Port of Berbera. The only problem with this cash cow was rampant insecurity from banditry. As long as the port and the road to it were secure, transporters could keep plying their trade and the government would collect the much-needed money to extend its control through service delivery throughout its territory. When government provides security, this acts as a compensation for civilians to give up arms. According to a 2007 Small Arms estimate, two in three civilians have a gun. As things stand, civilian disarmament is facing major challenges.


LESSON 2: Foreign aid (for development or reconstruction) is not necessarily an asset.
In fact, the lack of foreign aid for Somaliland led the authorities there to form open and accountable systems of government. The government of Somaliland knows very well that unless they account for the revenues they collect from use or Port Berbera and taxes they impose on the citizens who, through their clan leaders (the Guurti) in turn agree to maintain security in their domains, they do not have any recourse. Government would consequently go bankrupt. It is common knowledge that where governments know they can survive through means other than the taxation of citizenry as seen in countries perceived to be in good donor books (like Ethiopia), there is little or no incentive for state accountability and transparency. Such authorities also tend to be autocratic. South Sudan should focus on creating an enabling environment for local manufacturing to take root and thrive. These will offer an attractive source of revenue and also provide jobs. Relying largely on oil, in my view, will be the real ‘Resource Curse’, as Paul Collier demonstrates.

LESSON 3: Do not destroy traditional governance structures.Building on the existing traditional structures of authority is much more cost-effective and less time consuming than trying to adopt totally euro-centric models from the grassroots to the top. South Sudan can learn a lot from Somaliland’s bicameral parliament where both elected representatives and national council of elders (Guurti) share power. The Guurti has played a key role in extending security within and amongst clans; something the central government lacks the capacity to. In South Sudan, traditional chiefs played a vital role in more or less the same way as in South Sudan. However, it seems like there is a deliberate effort to do away with them and adopt a modern Eurocentric governance structure. What Salva Kiir and his government needs to understand that while this is good in the long term, the new state lacks the required human

Pres Salva Kiir, ROSS

resource to run such a system in the short term. The most critical state organs bearing the brunt of this inadequacy is the judiciary and rule of law. If the traditional role of chiefs and elders is revitalized, they can play a key stop gap role to enforce law and order and mete out justice. South Sudan has to be creative in actualizing this hybrid system that is already informally in place in several areas I personally visited.

LESSON 4: Resource redistribution. Equal redistribution of benefits accrued from state resources as well as from cooperation between the citizens and the government. There is need to set up a political system that ensures freedom and accountability. In Somaliland, the central government has to ensure that revenue from taxation of traders is equally shared throughout the country especially to education institutions. South Sudan will have to ensure the same when it comes to oil revenues. A form of ‘equalization fund’ should be put in place to bring development in adversely underdeveloped places like east of the new country (Pibor, Akobo, Pochalla counties in Jonglei State) so that they are not left behind. Decentralization of resources will be critical in stemming public discord.

LESSON 5: Do not marginalize the Diaspora. If there is a constituency that has provided invaluable support to Somaliland, it is its huge diaspora spread out in Europe and North America. They have also helped to push for their motherland’s agenda in the international scene through lobbying. As South Sudan begins its task of state-building, they will need bright people with a flair for thinking global and acting local. Australia, US and UK boast large numbers of South Sudanese communities, most of them in colleges and private sectors of their adopted countries. As I noted in my earlier blog, the current composition of government officials is heavily skewed in favor of former war generals and ex-SPLA top brass. The thinking is that those in the diaspora ‘abandoned’ their people during the war and therefore shouldn’t return to claim leadership positions now that there is peace. A radical paradigm shift is required. Pres Kiir and his government must view the South Sudanese Diaspora as a huge asset and partner in reconstruction of the new country and as such, put in place to enhance this cooperation.

In conclusion, it is my personal observation that the AU needs to seriously put in place a procedure to allow Somaliland sovereignty. After all, theirs is a cause with reasonable historical justification for sovereignty.