QUOTE: “Patriotism…..must be aided by a prospective interest or some reward. For a time, it may of itself push men into action, to bear much, to encounter difficulties. But it will not endure unassisted by interest.” George Washington, 1st U.S President
BY: Fanwell L. Edward, ACCRA, GHANA, DEC/08/2012, SSN;
This article was inspired by the one authored by Jacob K. Lupai and published on this esteemed website on 28 November 2012, titled “A Radical Approach Needed In the Interest of South Sudan.” That article is by far one of the better articles Brother Jacob Lupai has written in quite a while. It is refreshingly bold, incisive, void of fictitious propaganda, and above petty politics. He should be commended for the piece.
The author did a superb job of highlighting some of the problems that plague the young republic and its over eight million citizens. The author even suggested commendable radical approaches to myriad problems, including lack of delivery of basic services, rampant land-grabbing, ubiquitous corruption and empty rhetoric concerning national unity, among other issues. Unfortunately, these commendable radical approaches are not likely to see the light of the day because they are essentially steps that need to be un-taken by the government.
While indeed, social justice, delivery of basic services, and freedom from fear are some of the main peace dividends which people rightfully expect the new country to afford them after long years of deprivation, judging from the current state of governance in South Sudan, it is vividly evident that it will not be the approaches taken by either the government or the SPLM Party that will stop this new country from turning into just another failed African state where citizens remain destitute and ruthlessly dogged by abject poverty and rampant disease despite the country’s enormous financial and human resources.
The mindset of the people in power in South Sudan today is not dissimilar to that of the so-called ‘verandah boys’ –The die-hard supporters of the Ghanaian first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, — whose favorite mantra during the early days of the country independence was, “look, Osegyefo (the savior) has killed a great elephant, there will be plenty for all to eat, so pass the carving knife to the next person.” God helps us all whenever visionless individuals masquerading as leaders see a newly independent country as nothing but a fallen giant elephant on which the powerful and their tribesmen should feast with wanton abandonment.
The SPLM-led government is completely and firmly shackled by the formidable twin forces of irrational complacency and debilitating incompetency. While ignorance is the main cause of both the ubiquitous complacency and arrogance in the corridors of power in Juba and in the ten states, the insidious sense of entitlement and tribalism that permeates the thinking of those who never miss a chance to remind us that they ‘liberated us’ are now the main causes of the debilitating incompetency that ravages our workforce.
The ‘liberators’ are hell-bent on liberating community lands from the hands of their rightful owners (zanga, zanga, as Gadhafi would say) in the same manner they have entrenched their barely literate clansmen and relatives in high government and military positions. It is an open secret that land grabbing is either executed by high government and military officials or with their active complicity.
The ubiquitous ‘we are starting from the scratch’ phrase has done its share of engendering complacency in the minds of incompetent government officials who use the phrase to mask their ineptitude and to justify the exclusion of qualified individuals from holding office on the account of their ethnicity or political affiliation.
South Sudan did not start from the scratch, neither from financial perspective nor from the standpoint of manpower as the SPLM would like us to believe. On the contrary, the government of southern Sudan (GOSS) had billions of dollars, qualified workforce and time (six years) enough to have laid the ground for the independent country in terms of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings and river transport facilities. Instead, the money was squandered with mind-numbing recklessness.
Not only did we grossly mismanage the funds that poured in from the international community and our own oil revenues, we also managed to mismanage our chances of negotiating a financial settlement for our divorce with the Republic of the Sudan vis-a-vis our share of the assets of the Sudan. In spite of that, South Sudan was in a better position at its independence than many African countries were at their own independence in terms of financial and human resources.
No one old enough needs to be reminded of the squalid conditions under which the regional government operated gallantly at its inception after the signing of the 1972 Addis Ababa Accord. That was starting from the scratch. The only things most of the officials of the present government are starting from the scratch relate to riding in huge land-cruisers, running a government office, and learning how to think on their own. Otherwise these officials seem to be adept and dexterous in trotting the globe in business class at the expense of the public and at siphoning public funds to their families in Australia, America, the UK, Kenya and Uganda.
In addition to the challenges of poverty, disease, lack of development in all spheres, corruption and bad governance, our government faces the monumental task of uniting South Sudan’s various ethnic groups into a national mosaic that could truly be called a nation. Fostering national unity needs almost no additional financial resources beyond the resources needed to effect basic services delivery to our people. Yet the government is not keen to achieve national unity. Indeed, our government does not seem to be consumed with engendering national unity because it obviously believes in imposing the hegemony of certain ethnic groups on the country, a project doomed to fail before it takes root.
Mercilessly lacking in ingenuity and foresight, our government resembles a deer mortified and disoriented by the headlights of a slowly-moving hunter’s truck. Unable to think, move or summon help from other parties, it shuffles and shifts its right front leg feebly, moves momentarily toward the right only to lift the left front leg, turns left without moving its hind legs. It timidly wipes its nose with its front left leg perhaps in a futile attempt to try to smell the on-coming danger.
With its Macarena-like jerky steps, it sustains the fleeting curiosity of the approaching hunter (a foreigner or unscrupulous home-grown native) just long enough for the high-powered rifle to deliver the coup de grace. The deer falls with a thud, and before the echo of the sound of the gun dissipates into the dense forest, South Sudan will be no more because South Sudanese and carpetbaggers alike would have already descended on the meat of the fallen animal with the ferocity of hungry wild beasts.
It is, therefore, both an underestimation and overestimation of the SPLM-led government to suggest that ‘for the SPLM to sustain it popularity, it must come out and declare openly the catastrophic failure of basic services delivery as peace dividends to the people.’
In the first instance, SPLM’s callous obliviousness to the basic needs of the average South Sudanese must not be underestimated or wished away. After all, the families and the relatives of those who are supposed to dedicate themselves to uplifting their fellow country men and women from poverty reside comfortably abroad.
Secondly, to assume that the SPLM is interested in sustaining it popularity by providing basic services to the people is to overestimate the party’s supposedly symbiotic relations with the polity. This is a democratic idealism that is as much removed from reality as the heavens are from the corners of the earth. The reality seems to suggest that the sum of the selfish interests of individual members of the SPLM party is far greater than the whole party. The party has not only turned into an empty shell, but it has unwittingly become a Trojan Horse of sort to be used by the SPLM’s own ‘verandah boys,’ former members of the National Congress Party (NCP), political opportunists, and foreign entities to realize their own selfish ends.
While many in the party regard the SPLM as a large spaceship that will uplift them from poverty and carry them to Eldorado and the land of milk and honey via the milky way, only a tiny minority labors dutifully to uplift the party from the quagmire of apathy and empty rhetoric in which it has been deeply marooned for far too long.
How then will the party survive the peoples’ wrath at the ballot box in a couple of years’ time? One may ask, “Who told you that there will be ballot boxes in the near future?” The man pacing restlessly at the Juba University roundabout with big muscles protruding from the short sleeves of his meticulously ironed military-police uniform would roar and bark at you menacingly like a pit-bull. He may even bite you for thinking ‘in the box’ about the ballot box.
Although you haven’t sought his opinion in the first place, the I-know-it-all military man will authoritatively and obnoxiously remind you that there will, indeed, be elections in 2015 or 2025 or whenever, but there will not be ballot boxes or foreign observers, and that the SPLM, the party that ‘liberated you, good-for-nothing’ will win by a landslide over all the ‘enemies of the people.’
“Yes, all enemies of the people who don’t like SPLM will be defeated the way we defeated the Arabs,” our gallant fighter-turned-politician will shout repeatedly at the top of his lungs until he shouts himself hoarse.
It is, therefore, charitable at best and wishful thinking at least to think that the SPLM will declare the ‘catastrophic failure’ associated with the delivery of basic services to the people. The party is too complacent and too intoxicated with power and arrogance to countenance such a course of action which it deems to be beneath its inflated dignity.
The ‘we-liberated-you brigade’ will continue to breath fire at the mere mention of people’s right to hold government to account for the lack of basic services and other essential services. The brigade will threaten to bring the house down on our heads as long as it believes that we mortals will not risk our lives for the sake of our ideals and liberty in a country which the ‘brigade’ wrongly assumes it has just bequeathed unto us magnanimously.
For all the reasons outlined above, and perhaps due to my belief that there already exists a critical mass of opinion in and outside this country that suggests that the country is craning dangerously toward the abyss, a radical approach to safeguarding the national interest and welfare of South Sudan and its citizenry must not be left in the hands of a non-benevolent government that seems to be stuck in overdrive gear, and like a drunken driver, the only time it drives straight ahead is only when the road curves at the dangerous point overlooking the great abyss.
This being the stark reality, the government will have to be made to bend to strong winds in order for it to implement the radical approaches suggested by Brother Lupai. As nothing shakes the leaves of a stubborn giant oak tree like strong winds do, nothing shakes the complacency and arrogance of a recalcitrant government the way people’s power does.
The people of South Sudan have been too polite so far to use their collective power to prod the government and peoples’ representatives in both the central Parliament and regional parliaments to deliver peace dividends to the people.
Looking on from the sidelines in bewilderment, the people seemed genuinely disarmed or confused by the contradictory positions of the government which, on one hand, employs scare tactics by calling on the public to refrain from engaging in independent acts of self-expression that are not sanctioned by the government under the pretext that the ‘enemy’ could use such activities to sabotage our national security, while, on the other hand, it lures the people into falsely believing that their government having ‘liberated’ them from the yoke of 2nd and 3rd class citizenship was working day and night to provide basic services to them.
Some unscrupulous opinion writers from South Sudan and some European expatriates with ulterior motives swallowed and have continue to perpetuate the myth that suggests that the newborn South Sudanese state is too fragile for the people to exercise their constitutional rights. Staging pro-government demonstrations, according to this myth, is highly encouraged any time.
The people are waking up slowly now and discovering that the myth of the fragility of the state and the fear of foreign threats conceal the sinister motive of entrenching a state of permanent autocratic rule that would effectively exterminate any notion of participatory democracy in the new state in the foreseeable future.
Adolf Hitler used these very tactics to disastrous effect, establishing and entrenching the most rapacious dictatorship in the recent history of mankind. The rest is, literally speaking, history that must not allowed to repeat itself.
The SPLM-led government has unwittingly pushed people against a rough wall full of spikes that the people have no choices but to invoke their constitutional right to judiciously and peacefully use the universally recognized nonviolent approaches of nonviolent protests and persuasion; noncooperation in matters that violate citizen’s welfare; and nonviolent intervention to impede the progress of policies and actions that impact negatively on the state and on its citizens.
These nonviolent approaches could be used invariably and incrementally to effectively catalyze government’s lackadaisical approaches to the implementation of the crucial tasks of basic delivery of services, fighting land grabbing and corruption, and fostering national unity, among other issues.
Nonviolent protests and persuasion, the mildest form of nonviolent method, involves symbolic gestures and vigils to highlight unjust occurrences such as land grabbing, for instance. People could also hold vigil at the National Parliament for its failure to actively fight corruption, nepotism, land grabbing and other vices.
The process of fostering national unity among young people, for instance, could benefit a great deal if citizens and civil society organizations conduct peaceful marches and vigils at the Ministry of Education to demand the return of student dormitories to schools. It goes without saying that boarding schools were once upon a time the incubators that provided students as young as eight years of age with the basic nutrients and vital ingredients of South Sudanese national unity and solidarity as these young people study, live, play and learn with their fellow South Sudanese from various parts of this culturally and ethnically diverse region.
Non-cooperation approach involve the right of the citizens to refuse to cooperate vis-a-vis social, economical or political activities that the people deem detrimental to their own welfare or that of their region or that of the state as a whole. The right to down tools is a form of noncooperation approach to protest low wages or unsuitable work environment.
Nonviolent intervention is the most advanced form of nonviolent approach. Its purpose is to frustrate ongoing activity, policy, or process. It includes sit-ins in businesses or offices or blockage of bridges and roads. This approach also includes ‘psychological intervention’ such as self-imposed fasting by individuals or churches and other places of worship.
Our communities, especially the ones that are greatly affected by land grabbing could effectively use sit-in tactics by staging sit-ins on grabbed lands as soon as the owners of land inform the community of the incident.
The Parliament and the Council of Ministers are legitimate targets for nonviolent intervention activities aimed at stopping the first from simply rubber-stamping legislation passed by the executive branch of our government and stopping the latter from wasting time and money on pedestrian deliberations such as bestowing accolades on Miss South Sudan.
Juba Airport, the busy revolving door through which our president, government ministers, SPLM officials, governors, chairmen of commissions and other Very Important Personnel (VIP) who troop in and out of the country to foreign lands at these tough times of biting austerity measures, should also be a prime target of nonviolent intervention aimed at drawing attention to the wasteful travel by our government officials and their commuting families.
Of course, the use of nonviolent demonstrations is not exclusively limited to protest against actions or policies. In fact, the people could also use their nonviolent self-expression to show pleasure with positive actions taken by the government and other entities.
Indeed, the use of nonviolent approaches by the people to aid the processes of uplifting them from the jaws of poverty, on one hand, and to prod a recalcitrant government to discharge its responsibilities, on the other hand, is a long and arduous road that must be traveled without fail for it leads inevitably to liberty. The brutal forces of the ‘we-liberated-you’ brigade will definitely attempt to use violent means to make the cost of people’s participation in nonviolent activities exorbitant.
But like democracy, nation building by the people and for the people is a work in progress that should have started yesterday, and to postpone any of its vital components under any pretense is to increase the cost of the fight for democracy in the future for by then dictatorship would have spread like a cancer in the body of the nation and in all of its vital organs.
The people are prudent enough to use nonviolent methods of change judiciously and in combination with the radical advocacy approaches which Brother Lupai suggested in his excellent article.
In conclusion, it is only fitting to reiterate the wise counsel offered by John Adams, 2nd U.S. President, to the people who yearn for liberty and whom he urged not to, “….suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretenses of politeness, delicacy or decency. These as they are used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”
The author is a South Sudanese working and living in Accra, Ghana, West Africa, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org