A Call For Southern Mass To Condemn The Digging of Jonglei Canal

South Sudan Democratic Forum, Nov. 23. 2006

The Democratic Forum is appealing to South Sudan mass to protest against the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in Cairo between the President of the Government of South Sudan, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir and the Egyptian government to resume the digging of Jonglei Canal.

The Democratic Forum is profoundly disturbed by the MOU which neglected the findings of the United Nations that the Sudds in the South are one of the remaining wetlands in the World that needs protection. It was not long ago that a meeting of non-governmental organizations in Juba rejected the digging of the canal for environmental reasons. The international community is concerned about Africa since global warming is now threatening cold countries such as Canada and Russia. The ice in Siberia and Green Land is melting as a result of global warming. This means that South Sudan will be getting waterless even if canal is not dug due to higher evaporation of water induced by the global warming. The resumption of Jonglei project would only compound to dryness of the South leading to environmental catastrophes. This also means that the South would witness rapid desertification.

What is more puzzling is the unwilling of the interim President of the government of the South to use consultation processes in order to gauge the opinion of the people of South Sudan for the digging of the canal which would consequentially lead to destruction of ecosystems in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. The current interim parliament in Juba has no democratic legitimacy to decide the fate of the canal since it is appointed assembly. All the powers invested on the current legislative assembly of the South are provisional subject to ratification by the future democratically elected government of the South.

In spite (of) the presence of legislative assembly to deal with such controversial matters, the interim president proceeded unilaterally to sign MOU making it difficult for the legislative assembly to question or undo what he has already signed. Lt. Gen. Kiir Mayardit should understand that he owes his current position to 1983 uprising against the digging of the Jonglei canal. People may wonder whether Lt. Gen. Kiir is aware of 22 Jamus battalion officers killed in 1983 to stop the digging. Besides, the fighters of Jamus disabled in the war to stop the project are still alive and the president should respect their feelings, grievances and sacrifices they made before signing any agreement with Egypt. The big question to be asked now is: What sparked off the 1983 uprising? Was it the Jonglei canal? Was it the abrogation of the Addis Ababa Agreement by the May regime? Was it border issues, i.e., Abyei? Was it the oil or combinations of all these factors? If the later is true, what is the positive change that encouraged Salva Kiir to sign MOU that may again instigate another 1983 uprising?

It should be crystal clear to President Kiir that he is not a democratically elected president of the South. He is an accidental president who climbed to power as a result of the tragic death of Dr. John Garang, who was not only fully aware of the issues pertaining to the canal but also an authority of Jonglei canal through research. As an interim president who has not yet been democratically legitimized through election, he shouldn’t unilaterally sign any agreement with Egypt pertaining to this controversial project.

In accordance with the interim constitution of the South, there is no any provision that allows the interim president to act unilaterally without consultation, let alone lack of legitimacy for his appointed interim parliament to give him approval to sign such a controversial deal. The issue of Jonglei project shall be handled by a democratically elected president and parliament after 2008 elections. Moreover, Kiir Mayardit should understand that all his powers are provisional as stipulated in the interim constitution of South Sudan and as such whatever he does by way of protocol should always be mindful that his period is an interim and must only make recommendations subject to ratifications by the future democratically elected government in the South. Whatever he does, he should always consult with the institutions established under the interim government of the South, i.e., the executive, legislative and the judiciary.

The issue of Jonglei canal should be left to the future democratically elected parliament and president who will, in the event of controversy, refer the digging of the canal to people to conduct a referendum throughout the South to determine the fate of the project.

Such a referendum would require 85 per cent approval from the inhabitants of Jonglie, Unity and Upper Nile states and 75 per cent of Greater Bhar el Ghazal and Greater Equatoria. The resumption of the project without a nationwide referendum in the South is recipe for disaster. There are so many Kerubino Kuanyin Bols and William Nyuons in the South who may be forced to take up arms to stop the project. South Sudan has so many John Garangs who could join Kerubinos and Nyuons to fight for environmental survival.

The politics behind the signing of MOU with Egypt is not only worrying but also very disturbing. According to the sources close to Kiir’s administration, the reason behind the signing of MOU is to get Egypt’s help to pressure the National Congress Party to implement the CPA. President Kiir’s assumption that resumption of the project would compel the NCP to disarm South Sudan Defense Force of Gen. Gordon Koang is strategically a serious miscalculation that could boomerang and damage the implementation of the CPA. Kiir should be aware that the NCP has already its own strategies of sabotaging the CPA. The simmering problems in the borders of Chad, Central Africa Republic, possibly Democratic Republic of Congo and LRA are clear indications of NCP’s covert activities that are aimed at crippling the CPA. Therefore, the digging of the canal would accelerate the strategic vision of the NCP to destabilize the South since it would involve the deployment of military personnel from Egypt turning the South into a danger sport zone.

Lt. Gen. Kiir is sleepwalking into a dangerous territory by giving Field Marshal Omar El Bahir an opportunity to declare the state of emergency exploiting the current volatile state of affairs in the country. We begin to wonder how Kiir would bail out the South from such a mess if it happens.

It is rationally troubling whether President Kiir Mayardit is fully aware of the state of insecurity that currently prevails in the South especially with South Sudan Defense Force under the leadership of Gen. Gordon Koang. Although SSDF is part of Sudanese army, they still have their bases in the South which have not yet been fully resolved under the JIU arrangements as to whether they would join SAF or SPLA or will retain their bases independently as they are now. Salva Kiir should not delude himself in believing that the Egyptians would bring pressure to bear on the NCP to disarm or demobilize their own allies whom they have now fully confirmed into their own military establishment.

Because of lack of experience in governance, it is obvious that the SPLM’s leadership does not know the law of unintended consequences. The law of unintended consequences is that actions of people—especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it. President Kiir is obsessed with disarming South Sudan Defense Force without strategically realizing that the resumption of Jonglei project may ignite popular uprising in the South against his government.

In his address to the citizens of Jonglei state in Nairobi in June, Governor Thon Leek—a former researcher of Jonglei Canal—stated that “there is not such a thing as digging of Jonglei canal." The governor said, "I am capable of mobilizing people with sticks to stop the digging" if the rumor is real. It is not any longer a rumor since President Kiir has formally signed the resumption of Jonglei project without asking for the consent of states that would be primarily affected. Based upon the words of Thon Leek, a constitutional challenge to the digging of the canal should be expected since the livelihoods of the inhabitants of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states are at stake. There is no legal doubt that President Kiir has violated South Sudan Constitution by signing MOU with Egypt without the consent of South Sudan assembly as well as the governments of three states that would be environmentally affected.

We therefore call upon Southern intellectuals, particularly the university and college students, to hold rallies and debates to discuss the merits and demerits of Jonglei canal project and give their findings and recommendations to the interim government of the South with copies to UN, IGAD, AU, the Arab League, states’ assemblies, GONU, national parliament and South Sudan assembly. South Sudan civil society must not render their future to politicians who do not care about the unintended consequences of their actions. The citizens of the South must be the guardians of South Sudan resources. Environmental scientists who warned the World about global warming see the MOU signed by Kiir as a suicide. Egypt will benefit because it would get more water; however, there will be no rain in most parts of South Sudan for a century if the sudds are drained.

During the digging of the canal in the 1980s, people who now inhabit three states were not informed about the passing of canal. They were just driven out of their homes by bulldozers irrespective of property rights. Land ownership is an inalienable right of any human being and no one can take it away by force. It is bizarre for a government that is not democratically elected to sign the digging of the Canal that would pass through the heartland of Bor, Nyarweng, Twic, Nuer, and Shilluk.

The right to express concern is a constitutionally protected right of every citizen who feels aggrieved. This includes the right of those South Sudanese who will fall victim as the result of the digging of the canal through loss of their properties and livelihoods. Article 28 (1) of South Sudan Constitution states, “every citizen shall have unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to order, safety or public morals as determined by law”. University and college students should not fear the SPLM’s cadres who torture innocent civilians daily in the South. They have to organize peaceful demonstrations to express their disapproval of the resumption of the digging of Jonglei canal as prescribed in the constitution.

We urge SANU, USAP, SSUDA, UDF, Labor Party, UMMA, DUP, religious groups, women and youth organizations, students’ unions to support the peaceful demonstrations against the SPLM’s administration which is selling out resources of the country without consent of the people. Digging of Jonglei canal will cause environmental catastrophes and refugees threatening stability of neighboring African countries. It is pertinent that progressive parties join South Sudan Democratic Forum in condemning the actions of Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir and his visionless advisors.

For Contact

Gordon Buoy

Chairman of South Sudan Democratic Forum-Canada

Tel. (613)260-9307

Email: southsudandemocraticparty@hotmail.com

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