Do we really need democracy in South Sudan?

BY: BOL PHILLIP, JUBA, MAR/05/2014, 2014, SSN;

Democracy, as a political ideology, has its own set of prerequisites that are necessary for establishing and maintaining democratic norms and principles in any society.

These prerequisites for democracy are such simple things as the rule of law, the constitution, literate and politically aware constituencies, registered political parties, strong government institutions and the middle class, which is always the backbone of any democracy – just to mention but a few.

In the context of South Sudan, which is totally lacking the most basic ingredients of democracy, let alone the abundance of renegade generals who only know how to give and receive orders and wage wars as military leaders.

The realization of democracy will continue to remain elusive in South Sudan for some time until the most basic prerequisites for democracy are first and foremost met and established in the new nation, regardless of who is the president.

As I have said before, there are no short-cuts in any democracy. As such, rebellions and military coups will not only take us off the democratic path, but actually exacerbate the whole political, social and economic situation in the country, which is totally unnecessary and uncalled for at the moment.

It is obvious and indisputable, even to the most undiscerning mind, that the government of South Sudan (GoSS), along with the SPLM party, have enormously failed as a government in terms of the delivery of basic services to the citizens of this great nation.

However, that does not justify any acts of rebellion, insurgency or a bloody revolution in the name of democracy in our new nation state, especially when the general elections are just around the corner next year in 2015.

As such, any kind of desirable political reforms and leadership change in South Sudan, now or in the future, must only come through peaceful and nonviolent transfer of power, period.

In fact, military coups, ethnic rebellions and bloody revolutions are nothing but the exact opposites of democracy, which is the last thing we need in South Sudan right now given the state of our national affairs in the current sensitive political dispensation of our time, especially in the post-conflict era.

Further, as we are all cognizant of the political culture in South Sudan, which is highly characterized by nepotism, tribalism, corruption and incompetence, it is needless to say that the ruling SPLM party in South Sudan has failed, both collectively and individually in terms of its members, to deliver the most basic services to our citizens – both in the rural and urban centers.

Hence, it is acceptable and understandable at the moment for anybody in South Sudan to ask or demand for a new political leadership in the country.

Personally, I totally agree with any South Sudanese who would like to see good governance and the immediate delivery of basic services to all the people of South Sudan, both in rural and urban centers; a simple demand that, if it is not met, will also lead to another simple demand for a new political leadership.

Having said that, however, I must also add that I totally disagree with anybody who believes that power transfer or power consolidation can be achieved through the use of political violence and any other means – military or otherwise – that have the potential to destroy our beloved new nation within two short years of its hard won independence.

In short, we must put the national interest of our nation above and beyond our narrow and selfish personal interest, as we move forward as a nation to forge a new beginning and a better future that is promising and inclusive of everybody, regardless of our tribes, region, religion, gender and political orientation.

Furthermore, as human beings have learned, since time immemorial, that “putting the cart before the horse”, so to speak, does not work in practical terms, it follows here that anybody who demands for democracy without the provision of the basic requirements (prerequisites) of democracy is basically naïve, ignorant and unrealistic in both practical and political terms.

According to the old wise adage, “Rome was not built in a day”; and therefore the question begs itself: what makes ordinary South Sudanese citizens, along with our immature politicians, think that South Sudan can build its democracy within two short years of its hard won independence?

Once again, we have to remember the key words in talking about democracy: it is a very slow, long and complex process that requires time, patience, education, cooperation and determination from us as a people and political leaders. So what is all this fuss about and the rush for?

In light of all of these facts and trends mentioned above, do we need democracy and freedom of speech right now or do we really need, first and foremost, the delivery of the most basic services in our cities and rural areas?

In our political discourse in South Sudan, I personally think that focus and priority should be given to issues related to health, education and the basic socio-economic infrastructure of our country.

In other words, let us laser focus on building good and strong schools, colleges, universities, clinics, hospitals, government institutions and tarmac roads that connect our urban centers with our rural areas, including our inner cities, such that the movement of people and transit goods is made safe, smooth and possible.

Yes, “a human being is a political animal” by nature, and hence, “a government is a necessary evil without which communities cannot co-exist and live in peace”, according to the ancient Greek philosophers.

But to a naked, starved and a dying man or woman, the most urgent and desirable thing is food, clothes and a shelter (a house) where he or she can take refuge.

The last thing that will ever come to his or her mind is democracy and freedom of speech.

If we were to talk to any man or woman or even a child who was hiding in the bushes in and around Bor, Bentiu and Malakal over the last few weeks during the time of the raging battles in those towns, they will definitely tell us that the most important thing right now is peace, security, food and clean drinking water.

We will never hear any of them mentioning the word democracy or freedom of speech, which are the very same two words that have caused their immense sufferings in South Sudan so far.

To be precise, a few greedy and reckless South Sudanese politicians decided that it is high time for change in political leadership of this new nation – by hook or by crook – without any consideration for the consequences of their words and actions.

And now, ten thousand people are already dead and one million people have already become internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees once again in this senseless ethnic violence because of their narrow, selfish and personal political aspirations.

We definitely need a paradigm shift in terms of how we do politics as usual in South Sudan, which is always characterized by ruthless violence and wanton destruction of properties and towns.

In conclusion, our politicians need to learn to conduct politics in a civilized, peaceful and nonviolent way in South Sudan, such that their words and actions do not undermine the national security and sovereignty of our beloved South Sudan, as well as the unity of our diverse people.

As political leaders and people of South Sudan, we need to renounce militarization of politics and condemn the use of political violence in our political discourse for the greater benefit of our people and nation – both in the short and long term.

National elections are due next year in 2015, so why can’t we just wait for that patiently and peacefully?
God Bless South Sudan!

Bol Philip
A concerned South Sudanese citizen
Juba, CE, Republic of South Sudan


  1. Elijah Samuel says:

    Ya Dinkawi,
    Power must not be transfer by force only when the democratic tools are not Brocken and eliminated as your Dinka elites and kiir has done! The peaceful means to transfer power is through political disagreements and campaigns as was the case with the Team Riek including Madam Rebecca and the four who as we speak are in Jail for wanting to change power by political pressures! Power will never be handed over by one who have tested power. He must be campaign out of it, but how can one do so if all democratic tools are distorted and opponents are framed and thrown in Jail?

    Those who keep shouting power must not used in such environment are simply blindfolding the eyes of the masses! If the SPLM could not hold her very own internal meetings to elect a chair, what make you think the national election will take place leave alone clean!

    John F Kennedy once said ” Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” is this not the only options we are left with?

  2. upiu says:

    Yes, we do.
    If western civilization has taken over the world and we need to be part of this world, then we ought to play the game by its rule…democracy. Equitable delivery and provision of services to ordinary citizens can be done best when there is fair play in the game…democracy.

  3. democrat says:

    what are the modalities that could lead to 2015 election?. why attempt to disarm some members of the presidential guards by ethnicity? why training private army from the same ethnic group and calls them reserve army in the pretext of the secret genocidal plan? why using 91 episodes as the basic reference in the current Splm political acquiesce which ostensibly brings the semi brink of civil? why no developmental project has ever been launched since independence? Rome is not build over night according to the adage but this president gnaw a chunk of basics service for his own good and defense it by uttering daily presidential decrees . this is the real manifestation of the dictatorship. Museveni was there when our forces were seriously being bombarded at Helig oilfields in which he should have willing meddled because of the same oil interest. let us talk sense here guys

  4. Dr JAC Ramba says:

    My dear friend Bol Philip

    You are talking of peaceful transformation in a society which has known what force and rebellion can bring about. South Sudanese are aware of what kind of destruction in human lives and properties any rebellion can bring on the common populace.

    However they also know that rebellion and raising the AK-47 in the face of any dictator, rotten and corrupt system can bring about the changes they want. History as well says so.

    I don’t think that if South Sudanese were to continue arguing their grievances from the parliament in Khartoum, they would have got the independence and sovereignty they are having today.

    You can preach your gospel of peaceful change to the SPLM led dinkocracy in Juba. But be informed that both evolution and revolutions use the force of nature (human or environmental) to bring about all the changes that have so far come to happen in the world. Maybe you want to know why the dinosaurs are extinct now?

    • bolabokdit says:

      Dr. JAC Ramba
      It was described in the Bible that when Moses brought out Israel from Egypt they spend 40 years in the desert. The reason being that God wanted those who still hold slavery mentality perish before reaching the promise land. For us as Suothern Sudanese, we got into our promise land and those of you who got use to slavery as normal phenomenon are living outside Suoth Sudan or they are non-exixst.
      How do you trust the government call you and your people slave in your own country?. How many Suothern Sudanese in Khartuom befoer and after struggle? Why don’t Khartuom give them independence of Suoth Sudan, and instead fought their brothers in the war of liberation
      Creating chaos among people just because you are addicted to maltreatment of Khartuom government is the worst thing a Suothern like you can not do.
      Regarding Riak Machar tribal rebellion, First, you encourage them to raise the AK-47, and you don’t know which end of the gun bullet exit, so that you can reinforced when thing got out of hands.
      Second, for how long we hold guns to change any government we dont want even if he/she is elected president? Dr. Ramba and Dr. Tombe and any other person called himself a Phd holder who enjoy instability situation are possess by non- human spirit if not use your education to help solve the problem

  5. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear Bol Phillip:

    Yes,of course! For me,I need democracy in the South Sudan government in the country with good IMPARTIALITY! To make South Sudan to be a good democratic country,in the world,it needs people the citizens in the country to be edified politically! I have seen during referendum, the atmosphere for the voting time,it was very good indeed because there was good transparency on it!

    But at the moment time,there are going be no democracy at all in the government of South Sudan! The South Sudan and the whole Sudan,their people are like their fellow leaders in the tribes especially people illiterate classes!They are not yet well critical to judge matters in good faith in human good reasoning ability fairly!

    What is good for people in the country is that people must educate people must educate people to do things honestly and fairly without ever doing things base on tribal loyalties begin from local population up to the national level! Thank you!

    I come to the issue of democracy in the west. In the west,every candidate from their political parties will declare himself or herself to run for a president once he or she had submitted his or her course to the parties officials to gain a support before.But each candidate he or her,will responsible for his financial issue or her financial issue. In America government policies in the country,no candidate can run for a president without have the money background first! No financial background, a candidate will not run. Because the money are going use for paying in campaign such as in the media houses, and many more! This is the bottomline! in the west democracies Back to you in the forum to the audience!

  6. Dengdit says:

    Bol Phillip,

    Although I basically agree with your argument that it is imperative that provision of basic services is the number one requirement for our people, I totally disagree with your contention that provision of basic services can somehow be disassociated from democracy, good governance and basic freedom and/or human rights. It is naive to assume that those in power are somehow so selflessly pursuing the good of the common citizen that there is no need for a system that checks and balances their power(s). Democracy is not just about organising elections or having a multi-party system; at its heart, it is about ensuring the right of the masses to speak up/protest against the direction the nation is taking (freedom of speech), ensuring that the executive or any national leader is able to do what he/she likes (concept of 3 pillars of which legislature/judiciary are the other two) and that every citizen is equal in the eyes of law/state (human rights, good governance). I am afraid these things go hand in hand with delivery of state responsibilities; without these ingredients we will end up with the current situation in the country where those in government are just looting and killling citizens with impunity!

  7. Risio says:

    Mr Phillip,

    I have to disagree with your position. You are advocating the model currently pursued by the likes of Kagame of Rwanda, the so called “Developmental State”, used to some effect by the fast growth Eastern nations (notably China) where in exchange for stability and security, the post liberation institutions are frozen in place no matter how flawed they may be.

    In this model, unresolved tensions simmer beneath the surface and await violent expression or government suppression. Corruption, favouritism and exclusive institutions can thrive unchallenged. The nation inevitably becomes a police state where dissent of any sort is a defacto crime. Is this truly what we want for our country? I expect the best, and those martyrs who gave thier lives for the struggle deserve nothing less than the best for thier ultimate sacrifice.

    We can’t defend the indefensible. A true democracy is the only guarantee of the principles that underpinned the liberation struggle. And we must make it work in our context.

    You note the the elections are in 2015 and bemoan the fact that elements couldn’t wait “peacefully or patiently”. Whilst I don’t support the rebellion, please consider this analogy. If you are about to play a game of cards, and can see the cards being stacked in favour of the house, will you wait patiently and peacefully to play the game you know you are destined to lose? Or will you make a big noise about it and refuse to play?

    I think we need to look very hard at the transition from liberation movement to national government. The same rules no longer apply. Discipline without criticism is no longer beneficial. No one is infallible. True democratic institutions are our only hope to test different approaches to the challenges we face, to innovate and to find the solutions that work. Trust in the people to make the right choice. Let us not infantilise them by taking that choice away from them.

    How many times has Benyamin Netenyahu been Prime Minister of Israel? Just because you are out today, does not mean the people won’t ask for you again if they need you. Similarly, we should give each contender a fair chance to demonstrate thier ability or prove thier incompetence.

    We must give democracy a proper chance before we throw it aside.


  8. Bol Philip says:

    I have been totally misunderstood by most readers here because the editors and moderators of South Sudan nation have basically deleted half of my article posted above. The point I was initially trying to make by my article has been changed completely due to their action (editing). I urge the editors and the moderators of SSN to kindly post the other half of my artcile that they have deleted for whatever reasons. (! Please re-post my article in its entirety for the sake of clarity for the readers and fairness to me? Thanks!

  9. James says:

    Reading your article March/5/14, I Totally agreed with what ever you narrated in your article, but one thing you need to understand is that democracy can not wait until we make ourselves comfortable in term of every things such as the delivery of basic services that you have mention in your article. in fact you are right in calling democracy as slow process and waste of time and resources, however let me remind you South Sudan is a most diverse country in the world because it has more than sixty tribes with different norms and cultures therefore, the only thing that will make us stable in our country Is a progressive democracy in which every tribes get their share no matter how small those tribes are., let me give you one example during the period of high council general LAGU become the president of the high executive council from the small tribe call MADI from Central EQUATORIA State. in conclusion democracy is the only tool that we can use in making our country stable and place to live in. I believe DR RIEK MACHAR did not engineer the current war he was into and he has to run for his live, I do not really understand why so many people always miss the point, I warn you guys for us to make South Sudan a great country in Africa let us always tell the truth no matter which loop you are standing.

  10. Bol Philip says:

    Let me make this point crystal clear: I am not against democracy in South Sudan; I am simply saying that we need the provision and delivery of the basic services to our people first and foremost. Most of the people writing on SSN, under fake names, are either comfortably living in North America, Europe and Australia and do not have any clue to what it is like for the one million IDPs in South Sudan who are now suffering and without food, shelter or clean drinking water, especially with the rainy season around the corner, or they are here in Juba, which is why they are using fake names out of fear to speak out their minds. If you think it is ok for any one individual out of the one million IDPs to die in the name of democarcy and freedom of speech in this senseless ethnic violence, while you yourself are hiding under fake names because you don’t want to die, then you are basically a coward and a hypocrite. Democracy will come to South Sudan – sooner or later – but the one million IDPs in South Sudan cannot wait for months or years while they are suffering more than anybody else in this senseless war that some people here on SSN are advocating for whatever reasons.

  11. Bol Philip says:

    Let me ask you guys this philosophical question: What comes first – the chicken or the egg?

    Which in turn leads to this question: Do we need democracy in South Sudan right now or do we really need, first and foremost, the provision of the most basic services to our citizens? We have to remember here that sometimes they don’t come together as a package, especially when illiteracy is above 70% in South Sudan.

    Well, unlike a fast food sandwich that anybody can grab or buy from a drive-thru window, democracy is a very slow, long and complex process which requires time, patience, education, cooperation and determination in order to actually build it and maintain it over decades and centuries as an effective political system in any nation. It does not have short-cuts and it is neither a perfect political system that automatically guarantees social equality, political freedoms, economic prosperity and sustainable development; in fact, democracy is merely a means to an end, not an end in and by itself. There is nothing divine or magical about it that can automatically guarantee the creation and establishment of a utopian society, whereby everybody is rich, happy, educated or well off as one cohesive nation without any societal problems.

    Even the most advanced liberal democracies in the world today, such as the US, the UK, Japan, France, Germany, Australia and Canada, just to mention but a few, still face political threats and economic challenges, from time to time, that force them to temporarily revoke or suspend some specific human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially when there is an imminent and great threat against the national security and interest of the nation. In essence, such trends and events serve as living examples that attest to the fact that democracy, as a political ideology, is not a perfect political system that automatically guarantees peace, security, stability, social justice, gender equality, sustainable development, economic prosperity or environmental protection in and by itself.

    By definition, democracy simply means the rule of the majority, which practically means that if any political party or candidate wins during an election, with a simple majority vote of 51%, that party or candidate is the legitimate party or candidate which is authorized by the constitution to form its or his cabinet and run the nation-state as a whole according to its or his political agenda and policies, with or without the collaboration of the opposition parties and their political agenda.

    The origin of the term democracy, along with the philosophical concept behind it, goes back some three thousand years in Athens, Greece, which was both the hub of civilization and the epitome of philosophy in the world at the time. Democracy, according to the ancient Greek philosophers, is a compound Greek word that essentially means “the rule of the people”. This term, over time, has basically evolved to its present meaning of “the rule of the majority” or “the rule of the people, by the people and for the people”, according to the former American president, Abraham Lincoln, who is enormously credited for the abolition of slavery in America.

    Over the last several decades, however, politicians and political scientists of different political orientations came to realize that the rule of the majority (that is democracy) does not necessarily guarantee universal peace, national security, social justice, gender equality, sustainable development, economic prosperity or environmental protection, among other things, per se. In fact, they came to realize that democracy is a political system with a lot of inherent deficiencies and loopholes that do not and cannot holistically address all human problems – once and for all.

    In addition, there were several instances in the contemporary history of the world whereby the rule of the majority easily turned sour and became “the tyranny of the majority”. A case in point would be the huge atrocities that were committed against the Muslim minorities by the Hindu majority in India some few years back, even though India is the largest democracy in the world today. Again, as illustrated in this case, democracy was found to be lacking and full of loopholes that could not holistically address societal problems once and for all. Let me illustrate my point here by making use of an analogy: there is no such medicine in the world today that cures all kinds of diseases. Likewise, there is no single political ideology or political system that holistically addresses all human problems, be it social, economic, political, environmental or otherwise.

    Due to inherent deficiencies in democracy as a political system, some politicians and political scientists of different political orientations started to theorize and brainstorm in search of a better political ideology that would holistically address all social ills and human problems. Hence, several political theories emerged, in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, in different parts of the world then, such as Socialism, Communism, Capitalism, Utopianism and Egalitarianism, among others, as political ideals that were the most desirable political systems, or way of life, that is barely one step away from perfection, as it was thought then.

    However, time and experience proved that wrong, since some of these theories were basically premised on the wrong assumption that people and nations will eventually experience peace, security and prosperity in a class-less or egalitarian society that does not have any kind of social or political hierarchy in terms of equal distribution of wealth and power. But with or without social and political hierarchy in terms of power and wealth sharing, the kind of political idealism that were essentially the embodiment of the above-mentioned political theories also failed over a short period of practical experience, especially in the welfare states that were created in the most industrialized and technologically advanced societies in the western hemisphere, including those of Japan and Australia. This was basically another classical example that democracy is not an end in and by itself, but a means to an end whose aim was to keep society on the path of a constant progress and evolutionary development, as humanity as a whole keeps moving forward.

    As mentioned earlier, India, which is actually the largest democracy in the world today, is still plagued by a number of issues that range from social, cultural, religious, political and economic challenges to issues of national security, national unity and nationalism within its diverse population of 1.2 billion citizens. In contrast, China, with almost the same or greater population size, is actually doing a lot better in terms of its economic performance and sustainable development than India, although China is not a democracy by all measures. This is basically to illustrate my earlier point, which is actually the crux of my argument here, that, by and large, being a democracy does not necessarily guarantee social equality, economic prosperity, sustainable development or environmental protection in and by itself.

    Another classical example that clearly drives the point home is found in the Arabian Peninsula: Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E, all of which are monarchies that are basically ruled by princes and kings, are all doing well in terms of their economic prosperity and sustainable development despite the fact that these nations or kingdoms are not democratic in any way, shape or form. In fact, the only major weaknesses found in those states are usually related to and focused on gender-inequality and women’s rights abuses, which represent gross women (and thus human) rights violations on astronomical scale indeed. However, the same gender-inequalities and women’s rights violations are also found in the largest democracy in the world – India. So what are the implications that one can logically, hypothetically and philosophically deduce from such observable facts?

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