QUOTE: “Those who voted Mr. Mayardit to power in a 2010 election should now blame themselves for the mess they find themselves in. The disastrous situation prevailing in the countryside is most telling, as nothing has changed in the villages since independence, and it appears that there is a need for a protracted struggle to liberate the peasants.”
BY: John Juac, WINDSOR, CANADA, OCT/03/2013, SSN;
Rationalism is a belief that history has a purpose and not to mention a faith in one’s ability to discern where it is heading, but this belief has given way to acceptance of the irrational and even of madness itself. How, indeed, can it be denied that beneath the apparent orderliness of laws and codes, today’s as yesterday’s South Sudan we live in is cruel and murderous?
It is a country where people do not get enough to eat, while a fraction of the lucky ones is glutted with plenty; where for fifty years conflicts have constantly raged at the expense of dispossessed people, while the educated minority continues to be valued above the silent peasant majority; nor can we overlook the conflicts within South Sudan that refuses to grant any real autonomy to its ethnic minorities to deal with their own local affairs.
It is also a country in which the women who enjoy equality with the men of their own social milieu cannot even be counted in percentages; there are so few of them and everywhere people are still living in tribal universe under the obscure despotism.
The socio-political map of the world’s newest nation shows that it is a puzzle of ethnic and tribal groups, often with reciprocal feelings of mistrust and tendency to violence as the ultimate means of settling their interminable political problems.
The dilemmas faced by the leaders of the SPLM nationalist party after independence may have precipitated rush toward the obscure despotism. The old boundaries did not coincide with ethnic groupings, and therefore South Sudan does not constitute a nation state.
A nation is a social group that develops solidarity on the basis of shared customs and institutions, and a state is a political organization laying claim to power in a particular territory. Where nation and state are coterminous, ethnic loyalty–nationalism- fuses with state loyalty–patriotism. The state acquires legitimacy and internal cohesion, permitting it to override personal and sectional preoccupations with a vision of a greater good.
In the new nation, however, these conditions have rarely been met. The state is a multi national and a citizen’s loyalty does not extend beyond his own ethnic group, making state legitimacy very fragile.
Thus, a unifying leader is needed to provide that article of cohesion and thereby check resurgent ethnicism. But to be successful, he must rule with absolute impartiality, placing the interests of the state above his own and those of his ethnic group- a criteria that the southern nationalist leaders have failed to meet.
A series of U.S. Institute of Peace reports on state building in South Sudan was issued just three months after a declaration of independence, whose author was Jok Madut Jok, a Jennings Randolph senior fellow at USIP. This is what the author of the reports said: Some South Sudanese interviewed for this project assert that the most obvious impediment to national cohesion is exclusion from national platform, especially exclusion along ethnic lines, corruption, nepotism, and exclusion from access to government jobs were also raised as issues that the government will need to address directly for citizens to have pride in their new nation….there is widespread sense of worry about the viability of South Sudan as a nation due to insecurity, especially insecurity rooted in the current ethnic conflicts occurring in seven out of the ten states (Special Report 287, Oct.2011).
It is true that efforts should have been made to build the state that genuinely embodied the true interests of all citizens after the decolonization of the region. Such was not the case, since unfortunately the state machinery in post-independence South Sudan is above all the reflection of the permanence of the old Sudan’s structures.
Consequently, it is fitting that there is a great debate on the problem of the state. The Larousse Dictionary in its 1980 edition defines the state in the following manner: “a political entity composed of various institutions that preside over the collective destiny of a society, and in this respect, holds power.”
Despite this rather vague definition, it is obvious that a genuine state is one that uses its independence and sovereignty to defend the interests of its citizens, regardless of their ethnic and religious origins, and wherever they may be. It is difficult to admit that the southern state fulfils these conditions. The state does not shoulder the responsibilities of a true independence and sovereign state.
Far from being the expression of the will of the people that it claims to organize to live together, and far from presiding over destiny of the communities as a whole, it is a concretization of the defence of some obscure interests incapable of any vigorous upsurge, living of illusion and pious dreams; therefore, the state structures on the whole only seem to have fictitious existence.
It is time for South Sudanese to realize that their state can neither control the space on which its sovereignty rests nor can it ensure the protection of its citizens both inside and outside its frontiers. The South Sudanese state lives by the outside world: it is from the outside world that it receives its concept and ideas; it is from the outside world that it is given food aid, economic aid, financial aid and military aid.
It lives through the permanent support of the outside world, but we must draw lessons from the history of other peoples to corroborate what was said by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey: “The best way to loss one’s independence is to spend money one does not own.”
Further, the South Sudanese state is a dichotomous entity, where the countryside remains opposed to the republican city state, and yet it constitutes a main source of income and profits for the government treasury. The rural population lives in a state of frustration hardly different from that of pre-independence times.
The rural masses and large segments of urban dwellers consider the state as something far removed from them, so the notion of statehood indeed must be based on the concept of the public thing which rarely exists in Sudan as a whole.
Most southern nationalist leaders still appear to be prisoners to their tribes, clans, home regions and their behavior as well as their decisions affect only a segment of the national community. It must be admitted that the contemporary South Sudanese state is a combination of various elements that can be found in traditional institution and foreign institutions.
Since the old Sudan is a republic, its former colony after independence became a republican city state without the notion of “republic” having the same meaning for its leaders and its ordinary citizens as for the French people. In France, the republican regime is the result of the victory of a third party state over the nobility and clergy, and for French it represents equality before the law- the equality of rights and responsibilities.
In spite of all the powers vested in him by the constitution, the republican head of state or government is not above the law, since he is temporarily the first citizen in respect to other citizens.
This is not the case in South Sudan’s republican city state where Mr. Kirr Mayardit is a monarch of divine right and the excessives of his republican city state system could cause laughter, but they are not quite different from the blunders of the Arab Islamic state in Khartoum where state terrorism is pervasive.
The Gloomy Face of Obscure Despotism:
South Sudan, generally speaking, offers the painful spectacle of the obscure despotism to the outside world when it comes to the organization of political power. This system is characterized by the extreme concentration of powers in the hands of only one man, the non-existence of the basic freedoms and the absence of counterbalancing power, thus destroying moderating democratic machinery of power.
Mr. Mayardit has concentrated all the powers under his sole authority and parliamentary assemblies and a judicial system apparently are confined to the role of rubber-stamping verdicts and instructions that are handed down. Such power is thus far from being the will of South Sudanese since they are considered the subjects more than source of power.
With all authority in his hands, Mr. Mayardit deliberately violates the laws he himself promulgated, since his will is the source of law and his wish of the moment above the law. Civil autocracy is a gloomy face of obscure despotism; it basically marginalizes people’s rights; the people’s rights boil down to a corpus of rules that promotes the oppression of the isolated individual by the Leviathan state.
Civil autocracy also purports to ensure the development of the state to promote national unity. But after long eight years of obscure despotism in South Sudan, what is the balance sheet?
The despotic regime of Mr. Mayardit is meant to maintain non-viable city state and corrupted one party. The corrupted one party is essentially antidemocratic since it rejects the very principle of the free confrontation of ideas that is the basis of any progress; thus there has emerged a South Sudan where the ideals of the people are turned upside down.
Both the republican city state and the corrupted one party prevent the problem of national unity from being posed and debated within the framework of democratic system.
Such a system that brings about a climate of terror and insecurity inside the country rules out any creative work. To see the South Sudanese today, reduced to inactivity by fear, but yet compelled to sing the praises of his overlord, brings to mind the words of the German philosopher Johann Gottliib in his famous Speech to the German Nation: “Our flatteries seem to be forced out of us by fear and terror…. what is more ridiculous than a frightened man praising the grace and beauty of one he sees as a monster, but whom he tries to cajole lest he be devoured?”
The astonishing practices of the despotic regime inhibit the efforts of those who believe that South Sudan can rise through fruitful work. How can South Sudanese in such conditions, disoriented and at a loss, embark on development?
Indeed the obscure despotism is the very antonym of development. Thus far from galvanizing the people in a community of interests and developing the country’s economy, the obscure despotism has driven the entire nation into an implacable deadlock in several areas.
Without a state that is above any partisan interests, it is inconceivable for one to attain national cohesion. Presently, South Sudan is being swept by centrifugal currents generated by regionalist, tribalistic and sometimes clannish policies.
Regionalist and ethnic tensions have turned the nascent country into arenas, where in the absence of the state’s ability to mobilize and build, forces hostile to the real interests of the people prevail.
Instead of there being widespread attitudes reflective of a deep sense of the general interest, there is a process of division and confrontation that has destroyed any notion of solidarity between ethnic groups and political leaders, and this is caused by obscure despotism that organizes and runs a system of inequality.
It is therefore somewhat of an aberration to hear some fellow southerners refer to creation of a viable nation as one of the successes of Mr. Maynard’s despotic regime. This can only be said about North Sudan in which Islam plays a unifying role.
Born out of a long armed struggle, the southern state has not been able to serve as the territorial framework for the formation of a modern nation at independence. Behind the slogans of national unity, the reality is quite otherwise, characterized by confrontation in which tribes are pitted one against the other, and this also is a result of obscure despotism.
Such a system creates psychological, moral and intellectual barriers detrimental to any process of development. Almost ten years have gone and obscure despotism has in no way helped the economic and social development.
The social and economic balance sheet of obscure despotism is a millstone. With a stagnant agricultural production, insignificant industrial activity, average income low and negative balances of payments, the newly independent South Sudan has ceased to be its own master.
Under such conditions, it is understandable that poverty as a social phenomenon should be expected in South Sudan; the country is blessed with vast mineral deposits and rich agricultural lands in the fertile Nile basin, but errant misrule and plunder have reduced it to tatters.
Those who voted Mr. Mayardit to power in a 2010 election should now blame themselves for the mess they find themselves in. The disastrous situation prevailing in the countryside is most telling, as nothing has changed in the villages since independence, and it appears that there is a need for a protracted struggle to liberate the peasants.
A high-ranking government official, who himself could not miss an opportunity for a pessimistic comment, asserted that the new nation is confronted with serious difficulties, and that long-term prospect appears to be gloomy.
There is fairly widespread agreement among the leaders of government business here that eight years cannot afford sufficient hindsight to draw up the balance sheet of independence, the official said.
However, these people pretend to forget that it took the despots of eighteenth-century Ethiopia about the same time to lay down the foundations of the power of their country.
Even more recently, it took the same time for southern African nationalists to transform colonial structures into a formidable economic and political power in their respective countries on the morrow of independence.
The negative balance sheet of the despotic regime reveals the risks it has thrust upon South Sudan and its people. Far from organizing the general population to create powerful economy and modern society, it has left the new nation dormant and made its citizens into people with destiny uncertain.
It explains the weakness of independent South Sudan that is characterized by the non-existent adequate social structures.
Behind the façade of the regime of obscure despotism, it is easy to see the eruption of different antagonisms, social tensions and ethnic frictions that Mr. Mayardit cannot contain because of his inability to come up with a national direction, as well as the lack of a vision among his corrupt cabinet ministers who can hardly translate their book knowledge into the problem solving.
Mr. Mayadit is incapable of ensuring the political and economic development insofar as he ignores the country’s best brains in exile.
On the final note, South Sudan’s nationalists have chosen a method of rule that is domineering; the republican city state is their private domain; there is no distinction between private ambitions and public goods; any opposition to their political power has been eliminated; repression and violence has replaced entreaties.
Mr. Mayardit, who enjoys strongman image, came from army; he shot his way to power after the death of late John Garang in a plane crash in 2005.
He possesses little formal education, but he has read several speeches written by a speech writer while gripping on power, enabling him to improve his English.
Mr. Mayardit and his finance minister cannot distinguish between a budget deficit and a budget surplus as well. Mr Mayardit and most of his comrades rose through the ranks in the guerilla army known as the SPLA during the former civil war .
He surrounds himself with followers who constantly reaffirm their faith in his exceptional generosity, but he cannot know whom to trust or whether his advisers tell him the truth.
As such, Mr. Mayardit renders himself vulnerable to sycophantic and opportunistic adventurers who sing praises even when his tail is on fire.
One is justified in wondering why the system of obscure despotism is supported by the democratic American regime? Should one take it that for American friends every people has the regime it deserves?
Should one also subscribe to the absurd notion that Western-type democracy is neither possible nor workable in South Sudan that is alleged to be living in its Middle Ages?
Perhaps, it is true that South Sudan is in the Middle Ages, but it is participating in the twenty-first century.
Trying to work out an accommodation to the despotic regime is to run the risk of making subtle distinction between what is good here and what is not good there. Democracy is a paradoxical regime in which those who want to abolish it are offered the unique possibility of lawfully doing so. Indeed to go further, one is tempted to believe that it helps to build and consolidate obscure despotism.
It is time for South Sudanese men and women to realize that intellectual freedom and democracy must be defended. The wind of the freedom must blow everywhere in South Sudan; it has already started blowing in the northern side of the border. Freedom is an indivisible word, and if we want to enjoy it, we must stand up to protect it.
John Juac Deng
Sudanese journalist/writer, Juacd@yahoo.ca