BY: JOANA ADAMS, RSS, DEC/11/2012, SSN;
Today our beloved country is bleeding and weeping and we are asking questions as to why our people must die in the hands of our own government. How did we come to this? I am not a relative of Isaiah Abraham or indeed a Bor Dinka but I am outraged and aggrieved by the senseless murder of Isaiah a week ago.
To some of us Isaiah was a staunch government advocate to others a government critic and still to others a liberal advocate for good governance. Whatever he was, he will be remembered to be a prolific writer whose writings enriched our internet political discourses. I used to wonder whether Isaiah did anything else other than writing. He was not only good at reporting what were clearly insider information but would ferociously attack overnight any writing or writer whose views he disagreed with or which he thought might destabilize a government he loved. Isn’t it ironic that, if it is true, he has died in the hands of the very government he had, sometimes defended?
Whatever crimes Isaiah committed, if any, did not warrant his death. I call upon all peace loving people of this great world, to condemn in the strongest terms possible the cold blooded murder of a political commentator who thought to use his intellect and courage to bring about change in our beloved country.
The murder of Isaiah is not just disastrous for his family and relatives but disastrous for the whole country. Through this murder we have demonstrated yet again to the world at large that our leaders do not care about human lives. The bottom line brothers and sisters is that anyone who does not care about human lives does not deserve to be a leader. By definition leadership connotes the leading of a people out of a bad situation into a good one, not unleashing a reign of terror on your own citizens as being practiced by the government of Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Here we are not talking about the monumental failures of the most incompetent government in modern times. We are not talking about the lack of provision of services to a people that have never known peace or development in their entire lives. We are not talking about a government that within months of independence brought about national shame on its citizens and alienated the international community that helped it to gain independence in the first place. We are not talking about a government taking its ill-prepared and ill-equipped army to war with a country it had just broken away from with disastrous consequences to avoidable loss of lives.
We are not talking about a cruel heartless government that blocked the flow of oil and left thousands and millions starving or scrapping for a living when they themselves live in air conditioned villas; driving around in air-conditioned cutting-edge four wheel drives and comfortably sitting in air conditioned over-furnished offices.
And brothers and sisters we are not even talking about the 4 billion dollars or more which the President has admitted before the world that members of his government have looted. And we know according to the Auditor General what this money could have done for the people of South Sudan – the schools, hospitals roads, and services it could have provided.
To make things worse as though he is a King and not an elected president, Kiir pardons these criminals and vowed to protect their confidentiality and human rights! Was he actually pardoning these criminals or was he pardoning himself?
As if these disastrous failures are not more than sufficient for a long suffering people to bear, now President Salva Kiir is unleashing his state security to cleanse out his critics and opponents one by one. Is this the kind of government we have voted for? Did the people of South Sudan labour in blood and sweat for 50 years to rid themselves from the jellaba only to find themselves in the lion’s den?
Too many things have gone wrong in South Sudan since 2005. Conscientious people can barely recognise the South Sudan we once knew. Everything seems to be changing for the worst. As the nation mourns the loss of a dear son, may we use this time to reflect on why and how things have gone terribly wrong, where we have come from and where we are going.
I am of the opining that whereas it is important to have good leadership for a fully functioning government that can deliver on its promises, we cannot minimise the role of the ruled or electorates in protecting wrong leaders and keeping them in power. It is therefore important for us the electorates now to examine ourselves and our attitudes. This is critical because common sense should tell us that there can be no leaders without consenting electorates or subjects. Leaders need electorates and therefore electorates have the power to elect leaders or indeed to pull them down.
These people are leaders because we elected some of them. And the ones we elected like Salva took it upon himself to force ministers and lawyers to distort our Interim Constitution, 2005, and to distort the entire concept of democracy and good governance. Through this usurpation of national power, he has appointed un-elected people to parliament and cabinet positions. These losers now worship Salva and together they have brought ruin upon the nation.
Some of these people may be our kinsmen and women but let us call them what they truly are: they are a national disgrace. We elected Salva Kiir in good faith but no sooner had he assumed his new position as an elected president than he started to abuse his powers. Salva Kiir will remain in government as long as we want him to, we should not underestimate our powers as electorates to bring him, his cabinet and the entire Oyee Party down. The damage this man is doing is unjustifiable and may become irreparable and the voters must bring them down come the next national elections.
Leadership is not a static state; one can become a better leader if they choose to. But as long as someone thinks that they will always be elected because they come form a majority tribe, then there is no incentive for them to become good leaders or improve on their performances. The fact of coming from a majority tribe has given Salva and company a sense of security without vulnerability. Leaders need to feel vulnerable to perform better and be accountable. We therefore need to withdraw any blanket support to our leaders simply because they come from our tribes.
Prior to this sad event, there were people who defended the leadership simply because they hail from the same ethnicity. Others attack government critics for being bigots or tribalistic simply for expressing their opinions. This makes it very difficult for non-Dinka to freely express their opinions for fear of being labelled anti-Dinka anti-Nuer or anti-Nilotics. Sometimes this situation is compounded by explosive regional dynamics.
The problem then is how do you categorize people like late Isaiah when they speak out against the government? He cannot be accused of being a tribalist because he hailed from the same tribe as the head of government Salva Kiir Mayardit. If a large section of the society is willfully denied political participation, even as political commentators, where does that leave them? We therefore need to address the issue of tribalism more objectively.
This means we also have to address the question of to whom does South Sudan belong? Does it belong to all the 77 or so tribes or does it belong to the two main ethnic groups of Nuers and the Dinka? Does it belong to the SPLM/A party or army or do other political parties and civil societies also have fair dispensation in the new political order? From the looks of it, the new republic has quickly become a one man’s kingdom and this is utterly unacceptable.
If it is a republic then it must obey the basic tenets of being a modern republics including: the balance of powers between the organs of governments and in the case of a federal republic, the separation of powers between central and state governments. What is the central government doing meddling with security issues in Juba which should strictly be the jurisdiction of Central Equatoria government, when they cannot even protect our borders?
In addition to separation of powers, each organ and level of government must ensure good governance, freedom of speech and the rule of law to international norms and not drug people back into the dark medieval ages where tyrannical kings and queens reigned supreme.
One cannot help but see the burning desire of Salva Kiir and his ministers behaving like they are medieval kings and lords; the burning desire for excessive flaunting of power and wealth are all reminiscent of medieval culture. These people need to stop living in the past, whether you like it or loathe it, we are in the 21st century and there is nothing you can do without consequences to turn the clock back. You are not kings or lords. In fact you are not even of noble births but children of peasants or cattle keepers. Nobody should be deceived because up until 2005 there were no ruling class or families in South Sudan.
For good or bad, until recently South Sudan has been an egalitarian society. Any attempt to inject the venom of an artificial class society should be rejected and any social stratification should be allowed to develop naturally over time. Individuals elected to position of leadership are elected as individuals and should be accountable to electorates as individuals not members of this or that group or tribe.
This will introduce another dynamics which the society may be ill prepared to handle. We need not distort the noble concept and principles of western democracy inherited from the Greeks to satisfy our own twisted egoistical and often self-motivated political agenda of taking advantage of illiterate electorates. Such fraudulent manipulation of voters will not stand the test of time. Tribal allegiances should not be confused with popular democratic principles.
If South Sudan belongs to all, then there must be tolerance to opinions from all section of the society. Coming from a so-called minority tribe should not become a disability or a barrier for effective participation in national affairs including being elected president of the republic – the top position in the land. A leader must be chosen for what he can deliver and not which tribe he or she comes from. These anomalies and distortions simmering in the territory of South Sudan should be eradicated sooner than later.
Changing of mentality will not happen overnight but happen it must. We have reached a point where we must call a spade a spade. One of the greatest enemies of South Sudan is covering up wrong doing. As late as yesterday, someone was trying to convince me that Salva Kiir is actually a good guy who is surrounded by bad people!
Brothers and sisters, let us just ask ourselves one question. How many presidents does a republic have? If we elected one president then we expect that person to be in charge of our nation’s affairs. In today’s world, leaders are elected to provide services, equal opportunities to all citizens and finally provision of security to all persons and their properties. It is therefore paradoxical to claim that our elected president cannot discharge his duties because he is being misled by people who are not elected to preside over our national affairs.
Salva Kiir should learn from the humility of the US President Barrack Obama when he said (during the elections November 2012 in response to the murder of the US ambassador to Libya that), “I am the president of the United States of America and I am ultimately responsible for what happens in my government.”
Can Salva Kiir stand up and admit that he is the president and ultimately responsible for what happens in South Sudan, including the murder of Isaiah Diing Abraham?
The president has gone on the record for protecting his ministers and others in his government for their wrong doings. He gives a catalogue of excuses to justify their crimes and incompetence. Yet his young government has monumental capacities to defraud a young country of valuable resources! How can you be young in one thing and an accomplished criminal in another?
As electorates we cannot and should not be defending a person who has failed to deliver on his pledges. To those who claim Salva is a good person, although the issue of moral integrity is important constituent of good leadership, Salva Kiir is not being judged as a person but as a president and I am afraid he is not just a failure but an absolute disaster as a president.
Lamenting about the past will not help us but we can change the future. South Sudan is not looking for good people, there are a lots of very good people out there. South Sudan is bleeding and it needs not just a good person but a good and competent president. If Salva Kiir is really as good as people claim, then perhaps he needs to change his career and seek training as a priest or a pastor. Then perhaps God Almighty may forgive him of his personal and national crimes!
The cardinal point to be addressed in a new South Sudan is the issue of tribalism. If we don’t watch out, tribalism will kill South Sudan. Tribalism is rife but people would rather give it different names. Others prefer to call it nepotism, cronyism, favoritism or indeed corruption. If someone favours his relatives logically, his relatives must be of the same tribe as he is, so how is such nepotism not tribalism?
True, when a leader is a tribalist it doesn’t mean that people from that tribe are all benefiting from the loot or that people from that particular tribe are all tribalists. But it does mean in no uncertain term that he is from the particular tribe. If however you want to disown that person that is entirely internal matter for the tribe in question.
There are practical measures that can be taken to ensure that one person does not bring shame and disrepute on an entire tribe. And this doesn’t mean that people from other tribes cannot or do not make mistakes, they can and do, but that is beside the point. These other people will be judged when their time comes. At the moment we have one president who has ruled us for 8 years and we are all duty bound to judge his performance especially when things are getting from bad to worse.
When people are bewildered by how a person is behaving the way they do, naturally they will seek to understand why and may dig out his background as a result. In advance countries it may involve analysing their socio-economic backgrounds; their levels of education; their marital status; their gender etc., but in the case of contemporary South Sudan we must add the variables of culture and tribalism. Otherwise such an analysis will be incomplete.
From time immemorial human beings made sense of the world around them by classification of things or objects. This gave rise to philosophy, mathematics, physical and natural sciences and social and behavioral sciences. Classification is an important tool in the effort to understand the world, the animals, objects and peoples that live in it.
The recent and current history of African nations is littered with issues of tribalism. So in contemporary South Sudan there is no way we can avoid having serious political discourses without ever addressing the issues of tribalism and culture. Tribalism is rife we may deny it in public but deep down inside us we know it exists and may be culprits in perpetuating it. The more we talk about it the more we will accept the need for change.
It doesn’t mean that tribalism is the only concern that may negatively impact on for good governance. There are a whole range of other factors which come to bear with regards to good governance including the capacity, vision of the leader, structures and resources put in place for effective implementation of a leader’s vision and programs.
No matter what happens, Salva Kiir is a Dinka and without stigmatizing the whole tribe, unfortunately or fortunately being a Dinka is a part of his identity and therefore sense of belonging. At the community level the president may be an embarrassment to some of his tribesmen and women but to others he is certainly an idol they will seek to preserve. But as a nation he is an embarrassment to us all.
I cannot stop regretting as to why I voted for him. But like many others I voted for the SPLM because I wanted political stability. I wanted them to complete implementing the comprehensive peace agreement through to independence referendum. I wanted them to finish the process of liberating South Sudan which could not be secured through the barrel of the guns, without its being derailed. And therefore I share the blame because my vote was one vote too many and it give the president a 93% majority which has elevated him above all presidents to the position of a merciless tyrannical medieval monarch.
But unlike others I would not advocate for him to step down. There is just so much at stake. We need an orderly transition from liberation to democracy. We cannot continue to have a class of so-called liberators willfully mismanaging the country on the pretext that they liberated us. Liberation is not a licence to misrule.
We do not need a military coup either. No military coups on the African continent ever brought about good tidings but state terrorism. A transition to desired democratic governance can only be brought about using democratic principles including periodic elections and multi-media public education. If we persevered suffering in different ways for over 50 years, we can surely persevere Salva Kiir’s misrule for the next two years after which we should all examine our consciences and vote him and his mafia cliques out. There are capable people in this great country who may not hail from the majority tribes but could wisely gear this great country out of troubled waters and restore our sense of common belongings and destiny.
Just because a few SPLM people have brought disasters on our nation, it doesn’t mean that all SPLM people are bad. But if they don’t speak out then people will condemn the whole Oyee Party. Passionate members of this party should stand up and redeem the party from the wolves among them parading in sheep’s clothes. People voted Salva as an individual but we also voted for the SPLM party so it is the responsibility of the entire party to promote good governance or change their chairman.
There is also a collective responsibility on the part of all those in government as ministers or members of parliament at all levels especially the ministers who drafted the constitution that gave Salva Kiir too much power and made him the most powerful president in the world. It doesn’t matter whether it is reviewed or not. That is just a formality to endorse a dictatorial regime. Kiir is more powerful than even the most conservative monarchs in the Middle East who are now waking up to the wind of change sweeping across their region.
But unlike Kiir whose government is willfully squandering our national resources, these Arab monarchs have transformed the desert that was their countries, not so long ago, into oases of modernity.
Like a typical tyrant, Salva without seeking the mandate of the people sought to give himself more powers including the power to dismantle our Interim Constitution 2005, and to appoint hundreds of pensioners into constitutional positions. These people, and all those who were appointed after they failed elections to buy their silence, should all examine their consciences, and desist from supporting a murderous dictator.
Some of these retirees deserve to be rewarded because they contributed to laying the foundation for our liberation but they could have been given financial pensions without giving them political positions which should be occupied by elected people or at least able bodied and able minded people.
There is no hiding place for all who are complicit in perpetuating this catastrophic misrule. We know who you are; the world knows who you are. You do not want to be on the wrong side of history. You may think that you are too old and may die soon but are you going to die with your children together. Think of the legacy you will leave behind and the mess you will leave for your children to clear. Every one of us should aim to leave the world a better place than we have found it not just for our loved ones but for all of humanity and not worst. That would be an honorable legacy. And remember it is always better late than never.
The last but not least point I would like to address today is the disclosure by someone on the net that the murder of Isaiah Diing was a planned and coordinated affair. What’s more he said Isaiah wasn’t the only one on the list and that there are several others but mentioned a few. We have to believe as the adage goes that there is no smoke without fire. Isaiah himself must have known that his writings will eventually make him a target. Perhaps he thought the government may threaten him but not go thus far. But he should have known that his colleagues in this bush government have not changed.
We have to believe that a student learns from his master. If Salva Kiir in 2004 in Rumbek admitted that, “if you opposed John Garang you were a dead man,” what makes him to be different? The only reason he survived for ten years he was in disagreement with Dr. John Garang was when he took refuge in Yei.
For all those being targeted, I have this to say, throughout history of the world, good people have died in the hands of blood thirsty tyrants. SPLA/M itself would never have survived for 21 years in the wilderness if it did not often employ the survival instinct of tactical withdrawal. They withdrew from battle grounds more often than they won battles. And their charismatic late leader was often boastful of his tactical moves. They often withdrew because unlike other genuine liberators who sacrificed their lives for the love of their countries, some of our so-called liberators were liberators who wanted to be alive at the end of the war.
I remembered in the late 80’s and 90’s commanders were cautioning for their boys (relatives and clans men) not to be sent to the front line, meaning their boys/people must be alive to rule when the war is over. This means a lot of foot soldiers who had no protection from the top perished in this long war of liberation and these must be remembered as the unsung heroes and heroines of this great liberation struggle. Hidden self or group interests were often camouflaged as national interests.
That is why it is high time to dissociate the legacy of “we liberated you and therefore we have the right to rule or more appropriately to misrule you,” from the people’s right to have a responsible and accountable government.
Although we have lost Isaiah Abraham and I will personally miss his writings on the net, he has died for a noble cause, the cause for good governance. I might not have agreed with all he wrote but nonetheless, he massively contributed to and sometimes provoked responses which have all enriched our debates.
However, if we lose all the brave intelligentsia, the struggle for change may be delayed. We need our thinking men and women to live so they can continue to raise awareness about citizens’ rights and demand for good governance irrespective of ethnicities. As far as it depends on us, let’s use our individual survival instincts to protect and guide us where no one else can. For this road may be long and bloody.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for cowardice quite the contrary. But I will not also advocate for senseless loss of lives. Every human life is precious and must be protected and celebrated. The villains must know that for every government critic they jail, intimidate and especially murder, one thousand will be born.
If the death of Isaiah Abraham can lead to the creation of one thousand government critics who can like Isaiah bravely say, “I would rather write and die than stop writing and live,” then the purpose for the death of Isaiah would have been achieved. In time, these thousand people will multiply to 10 thousands who will all carry in them the passion and flame for freedom of speech, good governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights. No current is too strong to stop the passion of a people.
Although our country is bleeding and weeping at the moment, time will come when the very passion that led to a simple poorly armed soldier to rise up against a northern government machinery in Torit in 1955, will also set the country free from the murderous regime of the wolf in sheep’s cloth: Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Notice I am not calling for prompt or thorough investigation because I do not have the stomach for it. Even if I had, I still have to live to see how investigations can bring back a deceased to life. Or how it can bring justice to the family or whatever people want to call it. Investigations are just political exercises intended to calm the family and the nation. We must plead for the family not to accept any form of compensation from this murderous regime.
If the young family left behind are in financial need as they will no doubt be, then the friends and relatives of Isaiah could set up a charitable foundation to help generate funds for their upkeep until they are able to stand on their own feet or until a new people’s government rises to power to compensate them and others who have all suffered under Dr. Cowboy or should we christened him Dr. Butcher II. This death is one death too many and this brutal regime must not be allowed to rid itself from the guilt of killing Isaiah and others.
It will be more appropriate or gentlemen-like to own up and say, “I am the president and I am responsible for anything that happens in my government including the murder of Isaiah.” Will he or will he not? Time will tell.
Rest in eternal peace, Isaiah Diing Abraham.
Joana Adams, Juba, South Sudan.