BY: Malith Alier, RSS, NOV/02/2013, SSN;
Historically, this country called South Sudan had a shortage of education unlike other neighbouring African nations that attained independence much earlier leaving current South Sudan in the doldrums of subjugation of colonialism masterminded by the self-confessed Arabs further north to the Mediterranean Sea.
Nevertheless, South Sudan had no shortage of leaders on the other hand. Leaders, traditional and modern are described as good or bad depending on what they do once they were in authority. The former leader of the SPLM/SPLA, Dr. John Garang, was described as charismatic and visionary— characteristics for which he is still remembered.
Other leaders lack vision, uncharismatic, brutal, dictatorial, unpredictable, inconsistent, faint hearted, greedy or corrupt. Leaders identified with these negative attributes may not rise to the challenge that comes with leadership. Other leaders behave like fire but fire is a bad master and a good servant so goes the saying.
This article is going to examine the achievements and failures of the former Jonglei State Governor and the prospects of more failures or successes in his new assignment as Minister of Defence.
It was in the prevailing state of lawlessness. when General Kuol Manyang Juuk, the new Governor, was sworn in on the 17 December 2007 in Bor before Salva Kiir Mayardit as a security Governor.
Below are his major failures and achievements as security Governor of Jonglei State. This is the period from 2007 to 2013. Note that this is not his biography.
1. Waves of massacres from 2008-2013. Everyone in Jonglei, the whole country and even abroad can testify that the State security worsened from 2008 up to the time of departure of the security Governor.
These happened on the watch of the saviour Governor and the other organs concerned with security in the State Government. People became helpless.
The governor who has long been accused of behaving like he was in a metal engineering workshop was yet to execute the best of the jungle laws, some people in Equatoria referred to Jonglei State as Jungle State perhaps because of lawlessness there.
One question remained unanswered. How long will the de facto rulers (Kuol Manyang, Muonyaciek Deng) of Bor continue to punish their subjects albeit arbitrarily?
The State Security Council chaired by the Governor pressured the three Payams, Anyidi, Makuach and Kolnyang Civil Administrators, CAs and Chiefs to collect the 418 heads of cattle to be handed over to Murle owners. The governor was gratified because this was his usual way of doing things. He had no regard for the courts of law.
This issue was clearly a failure of parliament which should have intervened and pass a no confidence resolution on the governor for not implementing or upholding the State constitution particularly the separation of powers.
What is lacking is the leadership and planning necessary to solve the Jonglei crises once and for all. The former Governor was heard on many occasions crying for nonexistent security roads to fight the insecurity.
This was simplistic and hypocritical at most. There were lots of construction equipment and trucks left behind by AYAT Construction Company at his disposal. If he were serious about these claims he should have used them to construct those security roads for security personnel use.
There are also the main roads like Juba-Bor-Malakal Highway, many feeder roads joining the three Counties of Bor, Twic East and Duk and the Bor-Pibor-Ethiopia Highway. Why he did not make maximum use of these roads is a question answerable by him only.
Despite all these failures and blunders, the president maintains his confidence in Kuol Manyang Juuk Chaw.
There are two explanations for this. It might wrongly have been thought by the leadership of the SPLM that if the last hope has failed then nobody else was capable of unveiling a coherent strategy for solving the devastating crises in Jonglei.
Secondly, the former Governor was thought to be the power behind the throne. Therefore, whatever, weaknesses or failures he has could easily be overlooked. Otherwise his State was the worst in terms of inter-tribal killings, cattle theft, child abduction, revenge killings and active rebel activities capable of threatening national security and possible destabilisation of the whole country.
The double standard by the President not to act in case of Jonglei explains the sacking of Lakes and Unity States Governors who were less incompetent than Jonglei State Governor.
The SPLM government often accused Khartoum of instigating policy of “destabilization” but failed to do something about those perpetrators of destabilization.
The Governor, who had acquired big swathes of land and built a cattle pen on one of them in Bor town, was not happy with those survival reactions by the youth and the community. He blamed youth for running away from the countryside where they could farm and to be idle and play games in town.
The youth in turned blamed him instead for failure to provide security in villages as this was his responsibility to which he replaced the first Governor, Philip Thon Leek. His administration was therefore, marred in blame and counter blame in Jonglei at large and in Bor County in particular.
Failed peace accords. Hundreds of peace accords have been signed among the warring communities from the past. Most of them were not honoured. This was the also the case after CPA where hope for complete peace was high on the agenda in the country.
If one was looking for an axis of too many dishonoured agreements, then Jonglei State was that axis. Nobody could alter this fact though many peace-loving people still profess hope to call for those conferences of which as many lost hope. Some observers remarked that the sponsoring organisations are playing the devil’s advocates.
The second action was a voluntary or forceful disarmament of civilians initiated by the Federal Government in Juba. This was to be done by the SPLA, the country’s national army. It was not made clear prior to this exercise what methods the army will use to collect lethal illegal guns in possession of civilians. Later, it became clear the army resorted to its old tactics of forcing civilians by intimidation and torture to confess those with illegal arms and their whereabouts.
No sooner had the orders been given than the army started torturing women, children and younger people to concoct evidence of gun ownership in the State. This approach however, did not work throughout the Counties.
The failure to carry out effective disarmament campaign in the State later evolved to something of a national threat, the rebellion of David Yau-Yau. He recruited the youth who churned disarmament and became a ready-made fodder for his ends.
The question here is should a failed disarmament campaign be blamed on the Governor? The answer is absolutely yes. This is because he did not provide adequate leadership-guidance to the troops and the Commander-in-Chief.
He was sitting in Bor and most of the time commuting between the Bor Town and Juba without touring the Counties to see for himself how the campaign is progressing.
He further, failed as Governor to request Murle leaders to condemn violence as mentioned earlier around and help persuade their people to surrender all lethal guns and munitions to the SPLA and other security forces.
This time as always, the president turned a blind eye against this chaos. Some people were of the view that the failed Governor should have been removed before commencement of disarmament. How can you be part of the solution if you are part of the problem? The exercise would have been done successfully had the President taken this approach.
2. Nepotism. It has been alleged that the former SPLA strong man was less corrupt compared to his peers in the Movement and that he was more of a selfless nationalist.
This is far from the truth. During the olden days of the Movement, there was nothing anyone could lay their hands on except priceless weapons and munitions.
The fact that he appointed his son’s brother-in-law to head the Ministry of land talks a lot about him.
It has been argued that even if one is a close relative to the one appointing authority but is qualified she/he deserves that position like everyone else. After all you are all citizens of the same County/State/country.
This argument in South Sudan has been abused and will continue to be abused if action is not taken now.
Appointing close relations is what is termed as nepotism. It later breeds conflict of interest. For example if the wife of the former Governor is a land dealer, she will go right to her son-in-law and request for any piece of land anywhere in the State and you know that the request will be granted.
Consequently, in case of issues arising because of that land, the Governor will be there to defend the indefensible leading to a cover-up and kleptocracy.
The predecessor to the son-in-law was accused and dislodged from the Land Ministry simply because he did not enjoy any nepotistic relationship with the Governor of the day. This act of appointing a relative attracts criticisms justifiably because the links are apparent there.
May be because of this, the former Governor was accused of owning large swathes of land in Bor. True leaders or those in charge of government institutions must avoid appointment of close relatives to head strategic government institutions because of unintended outcomes.
His wife is also rumored to own two markets in the City apart from numerous real estates in the same City.
Ironically, the Governor was not happy with some communities because they resisted his land schemes. He in particular singled out the three Payams of Bor County i.e. Anyidi, Makuach and Kolnyang Counties that hosts the State Government.
People of Anyidi Payam insisted that land must be distributed on first-come-first-serve basis. That is to say if you are found on a piece of land then that piece should be allotted to you but not someone from elsewhere.
This argument is logical on all occasions considering the urban settlement after the CPA and more importantly the movement to towns because of displacement in rural Jonglei. This argument further curtails massive displacement of poor residents who can hardly afford simple construction materials leave alone modern construction materials.
Due to these developments, the former Governor unleashed a “cold war” on the residents in Machuor suburb (Hai Machuor) because of resistance to force land acquisitions. They have been denied clean piped water channelled to other parts of the City. Second, the suburb was not surveyed. Thirdly, they have been denied power available to all in town. In short, the land became a Governor’s family issue.
3. Expulsion of MSF and Moldovans running Bor Civil Hospital and Dr. John Garang University respectively. One of the appalling things is the chasing away of a friend in deed. This was allowed to happen in Jonglei under the watchful eye of the former military Governor of that State.
Both the MSF and ASCOM were doing a job no one was able to do effectively.
MSF, as many know is a humanitarian organisation dealing with health matters around the globe. It was instrumental in Bor Civil Hospital where its Doctors performed surgeries and treatment of other diseases not taken care of by the State government hospital. The hospital has two sections one for MSF and the other for State Government.
Some Doctors with conflict of interest were believed to have orchestrated the expulsion of this vital organisation. They operated private clinics thought to be in competition with MSF.
As for ASCOM, some people from education side with self-gratification motive agitated the takeover by the ministry of higher education. This was a kind of early indigenization albeit haphazardly executed.
Many independent watchers thought that this kind of takeovers were too early particularly for those institutions founded and fully funded by foreign investors. This is one method of scaring away investors in a country as young as South Sudan among others.
4. Disorganized and stalled land distribution programme. The land distribution process was well before his time as second Governor after CPA. It only became apparent that this distribution was carried out without law in place (2007-2011) because land law was only passed in 2012. Nevertheless, the distribution stalled for political reasons during his term.
The Minister of Physical Infrastructure, John Amuor Kuol was dismissed because of some quarters were not satisfied with land distribution programme.
Land allotment was now a clandestine business after the first land Minister vacation of office. At this juncture, those who wanted land had to use unconventional means to acquire it. The former Governor further allowed the scramble over land jurisdiction and ownership among the State, County and Payams to flourish.
Many may argue that the emotional land issue is not only confined to Jonglei or Bor County. It’s all over South Sudan. The inhabitants or indigenous people believed that they should have more say over land particularly where Capital Cities are located.
This argument seems logical because they should be compensated in the event of displacement. Their holy sites must be respected like other citizens whose lands are not accessible to the government.
In case the above land related issues are not adhered to or ignored, the local inhabitants may turn violent and reject expropriation of their land without consultation.
This was true during the tenure of the first State Governor who was told to relocate the State Capital to Gediang by Bor County communities. The State government was rumoured to be support of the relocation idea but there were many reasons why it was left in suspense till today.
Gediang is a remote area unlike Bor which is well served by river Nile and main roads from Juba and Malakal. Hence, the relocation was shelved indefinitely.
5. Lacking coherent political philosophy. The current SPLM leaders are by any measure default leaders. Everyone knows and understands perfectly what happened on “The Long and Painful Road to Freedom” as captured by Arop Madut in a book with the same title.
The past Southern leaders during the twenty or so years did not go to the bush for various reasons; the potential misunderstanding in the bush, lack of guaranteed victory over the enemy, education imbalance, generational gap and many more. These scared off the intelligentsia and after Addis Ababa accord leaders like, Gen. Lagu, Alier Kwai, Aru Bol etc. who ruled the South until the second rebellion.
It has been rumoured that some shrewd professors and doctors argued rightly that the most ignorant rebel officers will likely eliminate them once they join the legion in the bush. The few who went to the bush along with the rebels were not accorded leadership chances because of fear. They were also considered bourgeoisie.
In the middle of the war, it was apparent that it was led by crazy guys who grew dictatorial and fragile in mind so that some returned to the enemy back in Khartoum and vice versa.
These events of acrimonious divisions and defections to the enemy further exposed the movement to be run by a very few with scanty leadership qualities.
The former Governor is among this bunch. He is a no nonsense man with poor political and philosophical sophistication. The guy is addicted to commanding methodology to the point of neglecting other skills in other professions…. say politics.
This phenomenon was confirmed during his time as Governor by a lady who was quoted by the media that she blamed herself for voting for a Governor who failed to deliver. She blamed insecurity, unemployment, poor roads, disorganized land distribution among other campaign promises on the Governor.
Because of his forceful nature and lack of political sophistication, the former Governor, Kuol Manyang, became more and more unpopular with his Bor Dinka communities.
He was perceived as great liability particularly for failing to tackle the destabilizing insecurity in the whole State. After all he was a security Governor by all accounts of his appointment and subsequent backing by the SPLM during 2010 election.
6. Cleaning the State payroll from ghost workforce. The former Governor took it upon himself to clean the State payroll that was full of ghost names as one of his objectives.
The government of his predecessor was barely two years since peace accord. It inherited a payroll that looked like a charitable affair. It contained all sorts of names of those not in a position to perform their duties together with non-existent personnel. This crippled the State government activities.
It was a war on corruption though in a small scale. He received a presidential award for it.
7. Keeping Bor City cleaner relative to other States Capitals. Juba, both an administrative and a commercial Capital of South Sudan have been variously described as a big village. Juba City was thought to be standard bearer of cleanliness in the whole country however, it failed that test. In the case of Bor City, the former Governor descended on plastic bottles and bags to keep Bor Town clean. He banned their importation and sale in Jonglei in general and Bor Town in particular. Many people around the country were impressed about Bor Town cleanliness relative to other similar towns.
He is not the only one who deserved praise here. The Bor County Commissioner was actually the implementer of this policy hence deserved the accolade. This is a typical local government area of jurisdiction and was below the functions of the State Governor.
7. Encouraging Youth to join government and development efforts. This was seen in the way the Governor tried to lure the returnees from abroad in to his government. Notable, is the appointment of Bor Mayor in 2013 who is a Youth returning from Australia to take part in development efforts. However, this appointment has serious shortcomings constitutionally.
A Mayor according to the National and State constitutions should be directly elected by the city residents. This constitutional requirement had never been fulfilled in the whole country.
It also been alleged that a serious lobbying took place at a political level to appoint him with such little experience useful for the work of a mayor.
8. Conclusion. Leaders come and go but government and the area of administration remain. History however, is the one to judge past leaders either favourably or unfavourably.
It is okay to lobby for leaders to be brought to certain situations but it is something different altogether whether those leaders will live to the challenge. What people have not realized is that, leaders cannot be solely judged by their past highly rated performance.
The former Jonglei Governor keeps on riding on past performance without regard to present and/or future.
The former Governor was tasked to bring solutions to an already volatile situation but his past achievements were hardly replicated there. The security situation in Jonglei morphed from bad to worse contrary to expectation. No one at that stage was able to do something differently perhaps many thought that the end of the road was reached.
The rafts of fundamental failures of the former governor dwarfed his small achievements. His achievements were too thin to do good for dear Jonglei. This is the likely scenario even with new assignments in future. The guys are too old to learn new tricks.