S. Sudan governor downplays federalism fears

JUBA – Central Equatoria Governor Clement Wani Konga on Thursday downplayed fears that his proposal for the creation of a federal system in South Sudan would ignite conflict in the fledgling country.

"Issues of federalism should not divide us; it is yet a debate and it should come from the will of the people," Konga said.

"There are rumors that the people of Equatoria are mobilizing forces to fight, but this is not true. Equatorians do not have any problem with other communities," he said at a member-registration event organized by the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement in capital Juba.

Quiet but highly esteemed by the people of his state, Konga stirred up a hornet's nest across the country when he started a debate on the issue of federalism.

He has called for the creation of three regions of South Sudan under a federal system of government: a Greater Equatoria region, a Greater Upper Nile region and a Greater Bahr el Ghazal region.

There had been rumors earlier this week that Konga's proposal had sown the seeds of conflict with President Salva Kiir.

This was, however, denied by Kiir spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny at a Tuesday press briefing.

On Thursday, Konga said he would not be intimidated because of his stance on federalism.

"I will not allow anyone to sit on my head; nor will I allow anyone to sit on the head of Equatorians," he asserted. "My word to all people in the country is: respect yourselves and the elected president."

Konga refused to equate the position of the people of his state toward federalism in South Sudan with that of South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar.

Machar opened the door to civil war in South Sudan by staging a failed coup against Kiir's government in December of last year.

Subsequent fighting between Machar loyalists and the South Sudan army has taken a huge human toll and left hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

Konga said the people of his state only lobbied for the progress of South Sudan and the equal distribution of its resources.

He also called on the public to give Kiir his time in office.

"Kiir is left with one year for his term to finish," Konga said. "So let us leave him to complete his term."

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