Independent South Sudan represents Hopes & Uncertainties

By John Juac Deng, WINDSOR, CANADA, NOV/02/2013, SSN;

In our revolutionary armed struggle for freedom, representative democracy was as vital an aim as independence; the two were inseparable. It was not our purpose to rid South Sudan of the Arab authoritarian colonial system in order to substitute a South Sudanese political tyranny; we wanted to free our people from arbitrary rule, and to give them freedom to choose the kind of government they felt would best serve their interests and enhance their welfare. Our long armed struggle was fought to make our people free to practice the religion they chose, to give them the liberty to associate in whatever groups they wished, to create an atmosphere in which they could say, write and think freely, without harming their neighbors or jeopardizing their new state.

Unfortunately, the men who proclaimed the new republic followed independence have disregarded these authentic ideals of the armed struggle, making them assassins of freedom. So the current image of independent South Sudan is analogous to a ship sailing for a new land that runs into gales and storms and this image represents the hopes and uncertainties. The real revolutionary fervor has been dampened, and betrayed by the SPLM nationalist party’s conservative vision of reform. Beneath pomp and slogans, the old Sudan’s colonial state apparatus has remained intact; this has prevented realization for the liberty and equality for all South Sudanese citizens.

In fact, the leaders of the ruling body, led by Kirr Mayardit, have not swept away the old order that was employed by the Khartoum regime to suppress South Sudanese’s aspirations for independence and freedom.
But they have secured freedom for their own circle, not for the country folks, with their axes and blackened hands. This reminds us of Machiavelli’s view of human nature emphasizes that men are ungrateful liars and neither noble nor virtuous, and he warns of the dangers of political motives that go beyond concerns with the excise of power.

Most South Sudanese constantly complain that South Sudan suffers contradictions that are dulling its vitality and creativity; certain powerful individuals from Mayardit’s repressive regime inner circle often limit individual liberty unnecessary and the result is a total submission, which is more dangerous than present social disorder in the new nation. John Lock, an English political thinker once wrote that: “I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom.”

Liberty is the idea that there is an area of human thought and action that is private, and within that private sphere, all individuals have the right to make choice for themselves. According to the principle of liberalism, then, we are free to do whatever we wish provided there is no law prohibiting us from doing so. We have the rights, which means that we are free to decide for ourselves whether we will or will not do something. This freedom to decide for ourselves about such matters as which ideas we should believe and what religion we should practice is an essential element of the liberal understanding of politics.

And from these initial freedoms, flow a number of others, notably freedom of expression and freedom of the press. But what provides the philosophical foundation for the principle of liberty? In contemporary liberal democracies, there are two schools of thought that dominate: natural rights and utilitarianism. Natural rights school argues that individuals possess certain rights: life, liberty, property, or privacy because they are human beings. These rights, now often called human rights, are rights that all human beings possess everywhere, and always, whether they are recognized or not; they are”inalienable” rights in that they cannot be given up or taken away.

According to the natural rights school, these inalienable or natural rights establish both the purpose and the limits of political power. The purpose of the government is to secure these universal and permanent rights and no government is allowed to act in a manner that violates them. Utilitarian justification for liberty is fundamentally different. For utilitarians, the importance of liberty derives from its usefulness as a means of promoting human happiness, but utilitarians do not believe that there are universally and permanently valid ed natural rights; they argue that rights are created within each regime in response to circumstances.

It is important to appreciate, however, that utilitarians believe the articulation of rights to be guided by certain ground rules, and the most important of these rules would be the famous” harm” principle elaborated by John Stuart Mill, another English political thinker. According to the harm principle, governments cannot interfere with the actions of individuals so long as those individuals are not harming others. Mill argued that happiness was most likely to be achieved if all individuals were allowed to develop their own individuality as fully as possible.

The full development of our individuality requires that we each be left as free as possible to explore our own ideas and to act on the basis of those ideas. Provided we do not harm others and even harming ourselves is within the province of liberty. So the harm principle means two points for the contemporary South Sudanese politics.

The first point is that the onus of proof should be placed on the SPLM led governess and its provincial counterparts to show why any law that limits individual freedom is necessary. The second point is that such a law will be valid ed only if it is necessary to prevent some direct harm to other South Sudanese. They should not pass laws forbidding citizens to smoke or drink when they are acting in ways that harm nobody. But when their actions, such as driving while drunk, the government is allowed to invade their liberty for the protection of others’ rights.

The list of specific rights that South Sudan’s citizens should now be enjoying in the post-independence period is a long one, but it is possible to summarize the essence of those rights in three general principles. The principle of the liberty draws a deep distinction between the private sphere and public sphere. The public sphere includes those areas of human activity where the governmental authority regulation of our conduct is necessary to protect the rights of everyone, while the private sphere includes everything lees, and the government should not interfere in these areas of our lives.

Further, the government of South Sudan may legitimately tell its citizens how fast they may drive a car or what kind of guns they may own, but it has no right to tell them what religion to believe in or whether they should refrain from engaging in era-marital sex. Canadian Prime Minister, Pierore Trudeau, once articulated this principle of liberalism in his famous remark that” the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.”

An understanding of this ideal begins with the recognition that the individual is paramount. The individual does not exist to glorify government; government exists to enhance the individual. The government by people is based on the individual’s rights to speak freely, to organize in groups, to question the decision of the government and to campaign against the government. Only through free and uncensored expression of opinion can the government be kept responsive to the people and can governmental power be transferred peacefully in South Sudan.

Elections, separation of powers and constitutional guarantees are meaningless unless all South Sudanese citizens have the right to speak frankly and to hear and judge for themselves the worth of what other southerners have to say. Despite the fundamental importance of free speech in modern democracy, some South Sudanese politicians and public officials believe that speech should be free only for those who agree with them; a national newspaper owned by those who disagree with them must not be permitted, even in peacetime to criticize the government and its ministers and this indeed is ridiculous.

Mayardit’ regime should proscribe all discrimination on the basic of ethnicity, religion and other politically irrelevant characteristics. The effective protection of the various rights of South Sudanese depends on the principle of the rule of law; and at a minimum, this principle would enable ordinary people to count on law and order, for without the protection of an effective legal order, their rights would be in jeopardy. The rule of law should also stipulate that Juba government and other governmental authorities are not themselves above the law, and both the local and the national courts apply the law equally and impartially.

Every action taken by the new rulers in the control of public power should be grounded in some legal authority because they are arbitrarily treating people.” Everyone is at the mercy of these powerful leaders who are running our new country on the barrel of a gun and recognizing no limitation on their capacity to act,” a senior bureaucrat disenchanted with Mayardit’s autocratic style of leadership, said in a telephone conversation.

Thus, insisting that the new rulers act on the basis of the established legal authority is a crucial mechanism for guaranteeing individual liberty in the new nation. The laws protect liberty; the purpose of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom in political society; where there is no law there is no freedom.

The annulment of 2015 elections is unconstitutional

Most advocates for democratic reform were surprised when President Mayardit announced in September that South Sudan’s first general elections since independence would not be held on schedule 2015. But Mayardit’s comments did not surprise me; in one of my articles published in, I pointed out that since accepting reform is an admission of failure or fallibility, Mayardit and his die hard supporters may put up all sorts of arcane reasons to block the reform and that is what they did.

I had long suspected Mayardit’s desires to perpetuate himself in power; he resorted to subterfuge and chicanery to fool South Sudanese and advance his secret agenda; he also violated Article 100 of the transitional constitution that states” the tenure of the president starts from 9 July 2011 to 9 July 2015.”

It means elections must be before that, but Mayardit’s comments have casted further doubt over the timely conduct of the election. Despite this constitutional violation, the opposition parties in legislative assembly and civil society have failed to organize citizens against the unnecessary delay of the poll. Could one assume they have not realized that Mayardit has disenfranchised the entirely population? According to some insiders, opposition groups and civil society have a different attitude of mind and different challenges; civil society is not cohesive and internal squabbles and disunity are among the multiple disadvantages that have dampened the opposition effectiveness.

Obsessed with remaining in the driver’s seat of the new state vehicle, Mayardit and his party officials subvert the electoral process and outmaneuver a fragmented opposition to stay in power, even though they are failing to govern themselves within their own party organization. They have their own internal logic and ethics and their driving motivation is self-perpetuation and self-aggrandizement, but poverty reduction and promotion of economic growth are least among their priorities.

Finally, disagreement between individuals is of the very essence of human personality. As long as we are different persons, there will be some of us who like one thing and some who do not; some who desire one order of society; some who believe to be realized in one set of circumstances and some who disagree with that judgment.

The course of action taken and the form of society thus brought into existence are determined largely by decisions of the government. The government has its hands upon the controls of the apparatus of coercion and is therefore the immediate authority determining social policy; the nature of the decisions taken by the government depends upon the character of the persons forming it.

Consequently, there can be no control of society by the common people, unless it is possible to change the personnel of the government and of the legislature. The first and most obvious characteristic of political democracy is the existence of a government responsible to the people and a membership of the legislative assembly upon the free vote of the people.

The people must have power to dismiss a government from office, but the existence of this power requires liberty. If liberty is to exist, there must be a real choice before the people and this means the steady maintenance of freedom to oppose the government of the day. Unless the existing opposition is free to prepare itself to take over power and the government surrenders it peacefully after an electoral decision against it, there is no choice before South Sudanese people. So what does the future hold for the world’s newest nation? This is what South Sudanese will have figure out themselves.

John Juac Deng
Sudanese journalist/writer

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