Does Kiir deserve our thanks for abolishing 32 states?

Opinion, By Duop Chak Wuol

(Thessherald)—In October 2015, President Salva Kiir issued a decree, expanding the original ten states to 28. In January 2017, Kiir issued another presidential order creating an additional four states, making the young nation a mother of 32 states. The move was met with mixed reactions from South Sudanese worldwide. Kiir move was mainly influenced in part by 21 states first proposed in December 2014 by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader Dr. Riek Machar. In this opinion piece, I will argue that Kiir’s refusal to reduce the number of states has been one of the obstacles to the realization of lasting peace in the country and that the president probably deserves our thanks for finally abolishing the problematic states.

The politics of 21 and 32 states

When Dr. Machar created 21 states in December 2014, his key reasoning was that he wanted South Sudan to be a decentralized federal system. In a realistic sense, he wanted states to run their affairs without the involvement of the central government. The SPLM-IO leader also disclosed in his proposal that he created 21 states based on former British colonial districts. Machar’s plan was widely accepted by the armed opposition supporters, prompting President Kiir to closely examine the rationale behind the SPLM-IO’s new states. In a rather surprising move, Kiir followed in the footsteps of Machar by issuing his first decree, creating 28 states and later added four additional states. In his order, President Kiir claimed that he created more states merely because the people of South Sudan demanded them but there was a problem. The problem was that any idea to increase the number of states was blocked by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), saying any move to increase the number of the existing ten states violated the August 2015 power-sharing deal.

IGAD’s initial position on the number of states

In August 2015, the East African regional bloc, IGAD, asked Machar to drop his 21 states. In its position paper, IGAD told the SPLM-IO leader that 21 states are an impediment to peace and demanded a return to the original ten states. Dr. Machar agreed and decided to accept the IGAD’s proposal for the sake of peace. However, in October 2015—two months after the SPLM-IO leader accepted IGAD’s demand to abandon his 21 states for peace’s sake, Kiir shocked the people of South Sudan, IGAD, and the international community by creating 28 states. It is a known fact in South Sudan that the additional four states he decreed in January 2017 were proposed to appease some politicians and military commanders who were co-conspirators in the July 2016 Juba One (J1) fight. After Kiir formed more states, he then consistently refused any suggestion to return to the ten states despite the fact that the move was a direct violation of the August 2015 agreement.

The problems of 32 states and why Kiir deserves ‘thank you’

There are many problems associated with the 32 states’ policy. Politics is not dirty. Leaders or politicians are the ones who should be labeled dirty since they are the ones who make decisions. For years, the issue of 32 states has been at the center of debate in the country. There is no doubt Salva Kiir’s continuous refusal to accept IGAD’s mediation to return to ten states has contributed to the suffering of South Sudanese. Nevertheless, I believe Kiir deserves credits for his recent decision to remove the problematic 22 states. There are known facts that also contributed to the obstruction of peace in the country. One of these facts is that the notorious tribal group, the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), has been working against peace behind the scene. JCE’s main goal is all about annexing other tribes’ resource-rich lands to Dinka-dominated areas. This strategy is not a secret in South Sudan, and it is widely documented. As a leader, Kiir failed to distance himself from this rather destructive tribal group, making him complicit in their actions. For example, the JCE has on many occasions issued numerous divisive statements that outraged other tribes in the country and president Kiir never condemned them. This is purely a leadership failure. Kiir must know that he is a president for all, not the other way around. The recent abolishment of 32 states is an act of real leadership. Kiir demonstrates this by throwing away the needless and problematic 22 states, leaving the nation with the beauty of diversity, the 10 states. Thank you, Mr. President. However, Salva Kiir’s abolishment of 32 states still left some non-Dinka skeptical. One of the reasons why some people still do not believe Kiir’s decision to return to the ten states is the fact that some areas belonging to non-Dinka are still in the hands of Dinka. For instance, in his October 2015 decree, Kiir created Ruweng state deep inside the Nuer territory in Unity state. He first did this by creating Abeimnom county. In a logical sense, Kiir created this county as a Dinka county in a move to take over an oil field located in the northern part of Bentiu. If Kiir is truly for the elimination of his 32 states, then he should also abolish the so-called Ruweng administrative district since the decision is widely seen as a plan to keep the oil-rich land of Jikany Nuer, Leek Nuer, and Bul Nuer who are the real inhabitants of Northern part of the historical Bentiu town in the hands Ruweng Dinka. As you can see, Kiir still needs more convincing to do. Pibor’s administrative district is also another problem that needs to be clarified. One wonders why Pibor should be an administrative district when many places that are bigger than Pibor are not categorized as administrative districts. Something is fishy here.

As a known critic of South Sudan’s government, I would like to publicly admit that there is a time when those whom you disagree with deserve credits. Salva Kiir’s leadership has been an embodiment of destruction in the country but his recent decision to return to the founding ten states has compelled me to thank him but he clearly needs more work beyond the states’ issue.

Security arrangements should be Kiir’s next target

President Kiir has gained some respect from millions of South Sudanese after he decided to abandon his 32 states policy. But his new-found leadership courage should not stop here. I urge him to embrace peace by fully implementing the security arrangements so that the people of South Sudan can live in peace.

SPLM-IO is the real architect behind states reduction

South Sudan’s main opposition party, the SPLM-IO, also deserves high marks for its relentless fight for political reform in the country. Without the SPLM-IO, the voiceless South Sudanese would have simply hidden in the background. It is true that the decision by Kiir to return the country to the original ten states was mainly influenced by the SPLM-IO’s political doctrine.

The people of South Sudan have enough of the civil war which ended the lives of nearly 400,000 people. We should thank Kiir for making the right decision. The President should use this opportunity to show real leadership by disassociating himself from destructive and divisive politicians. Kiir should also reject belly-politicians and work with leaders who only care for the unity of South Sudanese and the future of the country. Political immaturity should not be allowed to destroy the young nation—enough blood has already been spilled and no single ordinary South Sudanese is interested in seeing the country going down the drain. The increase of states is not a good leadership quality and it is certainly not what the people of South Sudan want. Ten states are enough, at least for now, and I call on all South Sudanese leaders to embrace political, military, economic, and social reforms for the betterment of the country. Peace must be the number one priority.

Duop Chak Wuol is the editor-in-chief of the independent South Sudan News Agency ( He can be reached at Note: The views expressed in this article are his and should not be attributed to the South Sudan News Agency.

South Sudan: Revert strictly to 10 states

Therefore, my personal humble observations about how unnecessary and problematic the creation of the three administrative areas—namely, Abyei, Boma and Ruweng—-within the territory of the Republic of South Sudan, as I briefly touch on them case by case, are as follows:


Truly, I do sympathize with the current status or situation of Abyei. It has not yet come to South Sudan, or remain in the Sudan. Its status is yet to be resolved between Sudan and South Sudan. It is called Abyei Administrative Area (AAA), which operates autonomously and is currently being contested by the two neighboring countries.

I love the people and land of Abyei; they are my people, and I hope that their final status will one day be determined and they will, hopefully, rejoin their brothers and sisters in South Sudan—-since their annexation to (north) Sudan in 1905, and confirmed on January 1, 1956.

And therefore, Abyei is not yet technically one of the 10 states or administrative area, within the territory of South Sudan proper. It should not therefore be declared as an administrative area wthin the Republic of South Sudan, in direct connection to the 10 states.

The citizens of Abyei should, however, continue to enjoy their current temporary dual citizenship arrangements between Sudan and South Sudan, as their final status is being determined.

If Abyei comes back to South Sudan one day in the near future, Allellujah, it will return to Warrap state, from where it left, as history suggests.


It first became a Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) recently per an agreement between a Cobra Faction led by former competitor who lost in the 2010 Jonglei state gubernatorial contest, General David Yau Yau, and the government in Juba.

David, a member of the Murle community, and his community-based armed faction, founded the Cobra Faction after losing the election, then complained that the Murle community was being marginalized in Jonglei state administration by the Greater Bor and Greater Nuer communities in the state.

The deal David signed resolved the temporary creation of the GPAA. Since the conflict by then was confined to Murle areas of former Pibor District, it was locally addressed as such.

It is also important to be cognizant of the fact that an “administrative area” is always a temporary arrangement, as a delegation of specific powers to the administration of that area in order to temporarily address some specific concerns in that particular area. It can therefore be dissolved at any time, if the situation that justified its creation in the first place has changed, or is overtaken by a different overall resolution which encompasses it, or which generally addresses similar concerns throughout the country.

In this case, I would say, Murle community concerns of marginalization are not different from those of some other ‘minority communities’ across South Sudan, such as the Bongo community in Warrap state, Jurbel community in Lakes state, Jie or Kachipo communities within the very GPAA, etc.

All these sorts of marginalizations, be it political or economic marginalization, are addressed in the overall governance and economic systems agreed in the 12 September 2018, R-ARCISS. The Murle community and its allies within the GPAA, should instead support the implementation of the R-ARCISS, within their mother state of Jonglei.

GPAA’s time has expired, and now irrelevant, and hopefully, it has already solved economic problems in the area, and has stopped abduction of kids and cattle from the other communities in Jonglei state and beyond.

Interestingly, I was not aware if the Murle political leadership, or its community leadership, supported creation of 23 states in South Sudan, on the basis of former colonial districts, of which Pibor is one. That would have made their dream of becoming a full blown state with clear boundaries, instead of a lower status administrative area, come true. They missed it, I guess.

  1. RUWENG:

This is the most bizarre attempt to create an administrative area purely based on a combination of tribally-motivated, resources-motivated, political action on the part of President Salva Kiir, and whoever from the Parieng and Abiemnhom political leaders who might have ill-advised him.

First of all, these minority Dinka communities, which President Kiir wants to disassociate from their majority Nuer cousins in Unity state, have been living peacefully side by side as communities from time immemorial.

These very minority Dinka communities in the oil-rich Unity state have been fairly treated, given position of deputy governor and some state ministerial positions, benefited from the states’ services delivery projects, etc. Majority of them speak Nuer language as well, and are culturally harmonious with the Nuer!

Second, these Dinka communities of Parieng, Abiemnhom of the newly proposed Ruweng administrative area, don’t have clear boundaries with their neighbouring Nuer communities, such as the Bul Nuer, Leek Nuer and Jikany Nuer. Actually, Abiemnhom is cut off by Bul Nuer from Parieng. How can they form a single territory, let alone their problematic boundaries with the three Nuer major sections?

Third, the ill-motive behind the strange selective proposal or decision by President Kiir to create Ruweng as an administrative area, separates it from the rest of Unity state, or from the Nuer, for that matter, is based on the delusion that majority of oil wells would be located within the geographical territory of the would-be newly curbed Dinka special administrative area. And therefore, it would deny the Nuer of Bentiu (Unity state), an economic base. But where are the boundaries which would determine where many of these oil fields lie, with the exception of some, such as in Higlig ( Panthou) area, etc?

Fourth, the scheme is to presumably deny Dr. Riek Machar, an always feared political challenger, an economic base, or money to finance politics, or to help him finance the upcoming elections in 2022, hopefully.

President Kiir knows very well that Unity state’s governorship will most likely be taken by the SPLM/SPLA (IO), according to the power sharing agreement once a transitional government of national unity is formed hopefully in this month of February, 2020.

But why would President Kiir, who has done very well by listening to the popular voice and demand of the people, and accepted to revert the country to the 10 constitutional states, would want to add a problematic administrative area, which would cause insecurity and inter-communal conflicts during the transitional period?

SPLM/SPLA (IO), other Parties to R-ARCISS, people of South Sudan and IGAD leaders, etc., recommended 10+1 or 23+1 states, from which the government should have strictly chosen one.

And note that when we say 10+1 or 23+1, that ‘1’ is Abyei. It is written +1 simply because it is not yet formally a territory within the boundaries of the Republic of South Sudan. So, instead of saying 11 or 24 states, it is 10+1 or 23+1 states. If it rejoins South Sudan, it becomes part of mother Warrap state, from where it was geographically and administratively taken to (north) Sudan over a century ago.

President Kiir should mean 10 states without diluting it with politically motivated so-called administrative areas, either for his numerical advantage, economic advantage or for forging or buying an alliance with hostile allies to their neighbours.

We, in the country, should not be creating more problems when we should be solving the current problems! And we should not be deferring conflicts to the transitional period, which is instead supposed to consolidate peace, achieve stability: security-wise, political-wise, and economic-wise, etc.

Drop the three administrative areas, Mr. President, and be strict to the 10 states for the sake of peace—of course—-as you correctly said it at J1 State House on Saturday, 15 February, 2020.

We need peace, Mr. President!

The author is a concerned South Sudanese citizen who loves his country and people. He is former Press Secretary in the Office of the President (Vice President ‘s office). He is also a former Official Spokesperson for the leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (IO). He is the author of a memoir booklet, ‘My Painful Story: Abducted from Kenya, Imprisoned in South Sudan.’ His email address is:


SPLM-IO welcomes recommendation of the IGAD Council of Ministers


Opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar Teny

February 10, 2020 (SSNN)—The main opposition party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-IO has welcomed the recent recommendation of the IGAD Council of Ministers on the number of states and their boundaries and called on the government to demonstrate political will in the interests of peace in the country.

“We welcome the recommendation of the IGAD Council of Ministers and the government has to demonstrate political will for the sake of peace in our country,” said Puok Both Baluang, the SPLM-IO ’s Director for Information.

He also confirmed that the two leaders, President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar are locked in a closed-door meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“President Kiir and Dr Machar are still deliberating on the number of states and security arrangements. We don’t know what is going on because it is a closed-door meeting,” he stated.

On Saturday, the IGAD Council of Ministers held its 70th Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers on the situation of South Sudan and discussed the status of the implementation peace accord.

The Council of Ministers recommended that the number of states would be reduced from the existing 32 states to 23 states, however, the government opposed the move and accused the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development of being biased.