This briefing paper presents the findings of a historical case study on Kokora, a word associated with the decentralization policy enacted in southern Sudan in 1983. This analysis is linked to contemporary debates on decentralization in South Sudan. Willems and Deng find that an open dialogue about Kokora, and the lessons that can be learned from it, may contribute to discussions about how South Sudanese wish to govern themselves, and how a national identity can be promoted.
Such a debate could also benefit the discussion on the creation of 28 states out of the current 10. At the time of writing the President´s executive order creating the 28 states is not yet implemented, and it has received mixed reactions. A number of issues contributed to the negative effects caused by the implementation of Kokora in 1983. The government of Khartoum implemented the policy to divide the south and strengthen its control over it.
The implementation was also rushed and poorly prepared, causing chaos and further stimulating divisions within the south. Decentralization policies aimed at promoting the development of the country and distribution of the required resources should therefore be widely discussed and thoroughly planned before being implemented. This includes an open discussion on issues of legality and economic viability, as well as on the responsibilities and relationships of different levels of governance and the political benefits for South Sudanese citizens.