South Sudanese Bishop Supports Post-Election Referendum to Resolve States’ Controversy

A section of South Sudanese during the 2011 referendum when they overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan.

Weeks after a South Sudanese Bishop recommended that the controversy around boundaries and the number of states in his country be resolved through engaging citizens in a poll, the Government of the world’s youngest nation announced Friday, December 6 that the divisive issue of states will require a referendum, a move the Bishop has once again welcomed.

“I think the question of going for referendum to solve the question of states is a good solution. Let our people decide,” Bishop Stephen Ameyu of South Sudan’s Torit diocese told ACI Africa in an interview Monday, December 9. 

Bishop Ameyu added in reference to the proposed referendum, “For me I would stand for that; let us go for a referendum.”

South Sudan’s minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomoro has been quoted as telling journalists in Juba on Friday that while the vice-president designate Riek Machar favors reverting to a 10-state government structure, President Salva Kiir “and one group of the opposition umbrella support the 32 states on the ground that dissolving them will cause crises or insecurity that will dismantle the stability of the country and implementation of the peace process.”

Considering this lack of consensus about the number of states and their respective boundaries and being one of the critical outstanding issues that caused the second extension of the formation of a unity government alongside security arrangements, Lomoro said a referendum vote would be used to resolve the stalemate.


Bishop Ameyu’s latest support for the referendum is consistent with his earlier proposal made in an exclusive interview with ACI Africa.

“This question of 10 states, 28 states or 32 states (can) be resolved by the people, by a referendum, so that we can settle it once and for all – that people need 32, they need 28 or they need 10, that is the only solution for us  in this country,” Bishop Ameyu told ACI Africa in the November interview.

During the December 9 interview, the South Sudanese Prelate proposed that the parties agree on resolving all other contentious issues including security arrangements and then form the unity government and that “the question of states’ number be done before the general election.”

In April 2015, South Sudan parliament voted to amend the 2011 transitional constitution extending the presidential and parliamentary term to July 9, 2018. The term for the country’s executive and legislature was, in July 2018, extended to 2021.

In Bishop Ameyu’s opinion, “The options of the referendum should be 3 options: 10 states, 32 states or British district system.”

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He expressed preference for the district government structure, which he sees as a consolidation of the country’s major regions of Bhar el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria.

“Let us go for the Districts, even our neighbour Uganda is (governed) in districts,” the South Sudanese Bishop said and added, “I think that may bring back the hearts of the people.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Stephen Nyodho of South Sudan’s Malakal Diocese has expressed reservations over a proposed referendum considering the state of things in his vast Church jurisdiction.

“By calling for referendum, who are going to vote for referendum? People of Juba?” Bishop Nyodho probed and explained, “When the half of the people of South Sudan are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons), some are refugees outside, how are we going to bring these people? Are they going to vote in refugee camps?”

Bishop Nyodho expressed preference for an amicable solution between the parties in conflict saying, “The situation has already been created, many people may like 32 states to stay and others don’t recognize 32 states, it is the responsibility of the government to take courage and decide what could be really good for the people of South Sudan.”


Bishop Nyodho emphasized in reference to the controversy around the number of states and their boundaries, “The two parties should sit down and come to an agreement as citizens of one country.”