By: DANIEL JUOL NHOMNGEK, KAMPALA, APR/15/2014;
South Sudan is the country full of many beauties and different cultural groupings. It is the country which is full of beautiful people and plenty of resources. South Sudan beauty lies in its peoples, traditions and cultures; flora and fauna; minerals and other subterranean resources, such as goal and River Nile and such beauty would have been a blessing if properly utilized for the welfare of the citizens of South Sudan. Instead of these resources becoming the source of happiness, they become sources of miseries and disappointments.
In this article I want to the explain the causes of the problems affecting the people of South Sudan and how the story of South Sudan for the last three years of her independence is a sad one.
In the process of discussion, I will be pointing out what would be or is done to save the situation.
One of the things that are constantly blamed as one of the major the root-causes of South Sudan’s problems is tribalism. Tribalism to me comes when people use tribes as a means of accessing opportunities.
This is because resources are limited and because of this, opportunists have found it necessary to exploit the weakness in tribal lines and limited resources that cause discontent in the people, for their own advantage.
Those who blame tribes which are summed up in tribalism are wrong. Tribes are made up of the people of South Sudan and people are what’s making South Sudan South Sudan and beautiful.
Tribes represent South Sudanese identity. Instead of blaming tribes the government must be blamed.
The blame still comes back to the government and leadership because if the government was able to provide opportunities to everyone then everyone would have felt to be part of everyone and the issue of tribes would have ended.
However, the lack of flexibility on the side of leadership to make full use of limited resources for the benefit of the people is the cause of the division in South Sudan.
Different cultural groups within the country find themselves at the periphery of power and resources.
As a result, different tribes are led to think and believe that the only way to end their segregation is to get power. This is because the closer each tribe to power the closer they are to wealth.
In my understanding and experiences as having been closer to the leadership, tribes or what is wrongly called tribalism is not the cause of South Sudanese problems.
The source of South Sudanese problems has its origin in the leadership itself.
All leaders in South Sudan whether in the bushes of South Sudan fighting against the government or within the government itself are the problem of South Sudan.
Leadership has blocked the opportunities of the people because since independence, leadership has failed to acknowledge the realities of South Sudan before and after the independence.
The realities of South Sudan are that: there are many tribes, with many people of different categories, with different levels of education of which a largest number of the people has never got formal education and high levels of poverty.
The existence of the above-mentioned features would have informed the government on the approach it should have taken.
The approach of the system of the governance in South Sudan should have been through the approach based on cultural diversity the government being sensitive to the people’s needs.
Currently, the government is blinded, deaf and numbed to the people’s needs. For example, the government allows the people from different states to cry for help against some of material oriented governors but instead of helping them the central government punish the citizens by imposing on them someone worse than a robot; someone who survives on the blood of citizens.
Some of the governors the central government imposes on some states run those states like personal property.
This is due to the failure by the government to realize that South Sudan is not still under rebels but it is an independent country that needs some good administrators if it were to realize progress.
South Sudan is a country with diversity, which demands diverse approaches from the leadership.
The existence of tribes of South Sudan is not accidental as we know it. The independence of South Sudan owed its origin to the concerted efforts made by different tribes in the struggle.
As we loved tribes to fight the war for independence of South Sudan we should love everyone to participate in the government and this is the meaning of approach in diversity. The diversity would have been utilized for the benefit of the people.
The problems facing South Sudanese have never been diversity or tribes whether before independence or after independence but have been or are in leadership itself. This is because diversity has been one of the advantages in fighting Khartoum government since 1983.
Our government should have broken from Old Sudan policy of divide and rule. Before independence, tribes were used by Khartoum as a means of survival mechanism where the divide and rule method was the order of the day.
Although the government has not intended divide and rule policy in running the country, it appears that such policy is reflected in practice as tribes become the ladder of climbing the leadership post.
This as a result, different politicians struggle to divide people along tribal lines and at the same time work to divide the country as one tribe is pushed against another.
For example, when the crisis broke out in Juba in 2013, many people from Nuer or Dinka group wrote to the people of Equatoria questioning them of the tribe that they are supporting; forgetting that the people of Equatoria could act independently to lead all people of South Sudan if Dinka or Nuer has failed to lead South Sudan.
The behaviour of most Dinka or Nuer people who wrote some articles clearly indicated that most of South Sudanese have not broken with the policy of divide and rule.
There was high hopes that with independence of South Sudan, the government would have come up with national agenda that could have utilized tribes for the development of South Sudan.
The hope was that with the independence of South Sudan, the government would take concrete measures to transform different societies so that they felt as part of South Sudan and first class citizens as used to the slogan during the war.
During the SPLM/A’s war, one of the uniting factors for all South Sudanese against the North was the desire to achieve independence so that every South Sudanese would become first class citizen within their country- South Sudan.
Nevertheless during the Interim Period and even after the independence, those entrusted with the mandate to manage tribes and diversity of South Sudan for the welfare of South Sudanese failed to meet this expectation.
The leaders of South Sudan failed to meet the expectation of all South Sudanese to create inclusive state where everyone feels part of everyone in one nation.
The concept of the national unity is one of the most important concepts that every state which needs to realize progress must undertake through robust approach.
The problem of South Sudan has been rooted in the fact that leaders of South Sudan often neglect some vital things for the survival of any nation.
The slogan of One Nation One People which is being preached today would have been the first thing immediately after the signing of the Peace Agreement (the CPA) with the North.
However, our leaders took it to be a simple matter and concentrated on minor things until it is almost too late.
I have said that it is almost too late because it has given some politicians and opportunists an opportunity to exploit such weaknesses to their advantages and almost destroying the whole country in December 2013.
What would have been done first was not to buy expensive cars such as hammers and bullet proof but building human capacity with that huge amount of money that was misappropriated.
If I can ask, why do our leaders buy cars with bullet proof? What scares them if they just use normal cars?
In relation to the above we cannot blame tribes but we can blame our leaders for failing to see the glaring truth that people of South Sudan need the improvement in their lives after struggling for several years against the North.
The whole goes back to my contention that the problems of South Sudan have nothing to do with tribes but with the leadership. The leadership has failed to come up with priorities that would have saved the nation.
For instance, we are today sailing the whole world singing the slogan “One People One Nation.” After what? Where was this vital theme for the national building?
I think “One People One Nation” slogan has come as a realization by our leaders of the fact that a country is a country only when all the people are united.
Article 9 of the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 recognizes the existence of tribes and the diversity of South Sudan.
This is why it provides that the Bill of Rights is a covenant among the people of South Sudan and between them and their government at every level and a commitment to respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in this Constitution; it is the cornerstone of social justice, equality and democracy.
In fact, it appears that our Late Leader, Dr Garang, had Article 9 in mind when he used to stress the importance of improving welfare of South Sudanese and transforming them to into strong nation.
This was revealed in one of his causal speeches in the bush when he pointed out strongly by warning the SPLM officers that they had to treat civilians with respect otherwise because if they failed to respect them, the civilians would drive them out into the sea and if there was no sea, they would find one for them.
Garang, in other words, was meaning that the progress of the nation depends on how her people are developed.
If the people are well transformed, they would love the country and strong nation would develop but if they are made victims for their own liberation, then they would hate the country and work for its downfall; hence building a weak nation on shaky ground.
Indeed, people of South Sudan are victims of their own liberation struggle.
They had struggled to achieve unthinkable because getting independence without opposition from any country even the mother country where they broke away from, is unthinkable.
Moreover, South Sudanese have killed two birds with one stone. They dislodged Sudan’s cruelty and oppression and also got their freedom.
But the freedom they gained is being challenged today by many problems due to bad governance.
Bad governance is shown through oppression, dictatorship, state cruelty and the use of state security apparatus to silence the discontented voices, which are the order of the day in different parts of the country.
As things stand now, citizens have reached the stage where they cannot criticize the government openly.
This trend is a bad sign for all South Sudanese and it is an indication that we are going back to pre-Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
What is happening in South Sudan in relation to leadership today is the reflection of Old Sudan where motivation of self-entrenchment and perpetuation in power by those who possess state power used to be the trend of politics.
There is no any sign of fostering national cohesion and national building.
Moreover, there appears to be an overwhelming desire to build personal empire by the leaders who are struggling to amass as much wealth as possible.
The implication of such desire is that it results into failure to see value in any other human beings around us because we become capitalists who see nothing valuable in human being but profit maximization.
Offices have become business ventures where leaders struggle to channel resources to private or personal accounts with the aim of accumulating personal wealth.
The desire of getting more wealth is that it has resulted into everyone not only politicians desiring political posts, which they perceive as a source of wealth.
This by implication means that the purpose of political representation becomes thing of the past in the political history of South Sudan. Instead, the politics of corruption and anarchies rule.
The politics of corruption and amassing of wealth has been one of the causes of South Sudanese problems, which is one of the causes of the current conflict in the Country.
As it has been noted by Professor Anyittey from Ghana, power in Africa is in the grip of a never-ending cycle of wanton chaos, horrific carnage, senseless civil wars and collapsing economies.
To him, the struggle for power, its monopolization by one individual or group, and the subsequent refusal to relinquish or share it and those who win power, capture the state and proceed to transform it into their own personal property are the root-causes of conflicts in Africa.
The description by the Learned Professor above fits exactly in what is happening in South Sudan.
In South Sudan, state institutions, such as military no longer defend the country but presidents and some of his wealth oriented officials.
Moreover, funding institutions, the media, the civil service, police and the banking system are taken over and debauched.
Key positions in those institutions are handed over to the president’s tribesmen, cronies and loyal supporters, sycophants, to serve their interest and not those of the nation.
The case in point here is the retention of General Matur Chut in the Office despite the fact that people do not want him.
Matur Chut would not have been the governor of Lakes State if the President of the Republic of South Sudan were not having interest to achieve personal gain in that State.
The people of Lakes State are bleeding every hour but the president seems not to be moved simply because Matur is able to control people through the use of force.
To the president, it does not matter how failed and corrupted is Matur, provided people of Lakes State are cowed into silence and no longer disturb him.
This is perfectly the kind of an ostrich politics, which puts its head into sand, imagining that the danger is gone yet it will eventually kill it.
Therefore, I wanted to stress that if the President does not take seriously the issue of Lakes State, it will eventually kill him.
As I have stated somewhere in this Article that tribes are not the problem of South Sudan but the use of tribe by individuals selfishly is the problem and one of the major causes of South Sudan’s problems.
Tribal affiliations are used by individuals to get what they want.
As a result, meritocracy, rule of law, property rights, transparency, accountability and administrative capacity vanish.
As they vanish, the exclusion of one group by the other eventuates. Those excluded from the spoils of political power become discontented and lose respect for the leadership.
This is because leadership is seen as foreign power working for its own exclusive interest and not that of the people.
Hence, some within the excluded rise up in rebel insurgency. This was seen with Yau Yau, Late George Athor and the current rebellions under Riek Machar.
The discontent of the people is seen with the way conflict erupts in South Sudan because as it has been noted ‘it takes only a small band of determined rag-tag malcontents to plunge the country into mayhem’.
The failure to meet the needs of the people owes its genesis in the way South Sudan Constitutionalism was established in 2011.
The establishment of South Sudan Constitution in 2011 indirectly contributed to the current crisis, which was an indication that South Sudan was bound to collapse under its own weight.
South Sudanese State has been established on unclear system of government. South Sudan was founded on no clear political ideology which would have guided the central government on the process of transformation and the national building.
South Sudan has been operating between ambivalent systems of governance. For instance, the ways different states operate show that they are typical federal system.
This is because states operate like independent countries with the governors having unchecked powers who violate the constitutional principles of the rule of law, human rights and democracy.
Under this system, corruption is the order of the day where governors steal national funds with impunity.
In addition, the President operates between a democrat and dictator.
The Parliament of South Sudan gave him absolute powers thinking that he would utilize them for the benefit and the improvement of the welfare of South Sudanese but those powers are now being used as a means of silencing the political opponents.
For instance, the President, instead of using them to unite the country through political dialogue uses his powers to destroy political opponents.
If I can ask, what was the reason of dismissing the whole cabinet in 2013?
The reason, which appears not to be the main reason to me that was given was a need for establishing a lean government; however, recently the same large government was re-established with the appointment of the additional cabinet ministers.
Does this not give support to the point that I made above that there is no political ideology in South Sudan but the state survives on confused ideology coupled with some form of democracy mixed with dictatorship?
In real sense, there is democracy in theory but in practice there is absolute dictatorship.
However, before I go on with this article, there is a need for clearing certain misconceptions associated with dictatorship.
Dictatorship in actual sense does not mean that the president or the heads of institutions must be dictator or morally corrupt in order to conclude that there is dictatorship.
For someone to be termed a dictator stems from the way he or she responds to the need of the people from intervention when there is leadership crisis at lower level.
For instance, if the head does not control his or her subordinates where citizens are robbed, suppressed, repressed and oppressed with cruelty and impunity then the head is an absolute dictator.
In the case of South Sudan, President Kiir may not be a dictator himself but if he allows governors to steal national resources without accountability and oppress people with impunity, then he himself is an absolute dictator because he is in command where he could easily intervene to remove or discipline the uncouth public officer.
He is liable for every action of his subordinates based on the principle command responsibility.
The point I have just made above is proved by the fact that there is a prevailing militarism and militarization of state institutions and machinery where the president is given absolute power to decide anything without seeking public opinion even what affects the public themselves.
The origin of the problems that subsequently befalls South Sudan since independence is in dictatorial behaviour that some of our leaders copied from North Sudan government officials and the failure of our government to study the past in order to know the root-causes of Sudanese problems in history.
In fact, our government has not taken time to study the past of South Sudanese and to relate it to the present realities in South Sudan.
South Sudanese history has been characterized by divide and rule doctrine exacerbating tribal rivalries.
Divide and rule Doctrine was used purposely by the north as a means of surviving amidst South Sudanese nationalism, which eventually destroyed the unity and territorial integrity of South Sudan.
It was hoped that after the independence, the first thing the indigenous government of South Sudan would have done was to work for social transformation, national unity and national building.
However, as noted by one of the Protestant Bishops, David Zac in one of his criticisms against the Ugandan Government that the coming of independence did not help either.
Bishop Zac, as he observed correctly about Uganda likewise for South Sudan is that not only did the independence introduce a new concept of control state managed resources where the resources are stolen with impunity but also new lines of rivalry and conflict have been created.
This is the fact of South Sudan, for instance, billions of dollars were stolen with impunity in South Sudan.
The failure by the head of South Sudan to demand this money and invest it in the improvement of the people’s welfare is the form of dictatorship we are talking about.
In a country where dictatorship exists there is no accountability.
Dictatorship, violent transition, that existed in Sudan before independence of South Sudan are the processes which South Sudan are likely to face in case of any change.
There is a clear disconnection between the hierarchies in the government; states are doing their own things in disregard of the policies of the national government.
The independence that was received with joy is dwindling as it is being replaced by disappointment.
In summary, the history of South Sudan is a bad tale as many people are suffering under some of the leaders who are not morally sensitive to the needs of the people.
This is due to the failure by the leadership to realize that South Sudan is inhabited by different tribes and they have to change their approach in management of the country.
Sadly, some leaders are out there to build personal wealth and empire at the expense of the people; talk of leaders of Lakes State who build swimming pools and some are building skyscrapers while citizens are dying every day of preventable diseases.
Meanwhile the President who is supposed to ensure that leaders under him are directed on what to do and to follow the government policy, he is not doing enough to support citizens and which will help to fuse tribal tension in the country.
In addition there is a need for the government to provide solutions to the people’s problems because the solutions of pain killer is not a good solution for South Sudan at all.
In short, there is a need for establishing a strong system based on the respect of the rule of law and human rights.
The government must respect individuals’ property. People are always proud of the system that protects their interests.
It is only in doing this that is when the democracy and unity of the people can be promoted in South Sudan.
NB// The Author is a Fourth Year Law Student in Makerere University and he can be reached through the following Contacts: