BY: Tearz Ayuen, JUBA, SEPT. 19/2012;
I am both sad and remorseful that I have to write this piece in response to what some South Sudanese are thinking, saying and writing about the son of Late Dr. John Garang. I am sad because I hate to meddle in issues that are somehow tribal, clan-based, sectional or regional. I am also sad because South Sudanese, both illiterate and literate, men and women or young and old, do not look at the message, but concentrate on the origin of the messenger, of which they base their responses on.
In addition, I am sad not because I am going to take sides on this particular issue but because I really didn’t want to register my name on the list of issues thousands, if not millions, regard as us-against-them.
However, here is a point to keep in mind: I do not know Mabior Garang in person. I don’t know anything about his private life. I am not friends with him. We are not relatives either. And I don’t even intend to create any sort of relationship or friendship with him. In short, I am neither seeking favors from, nor friendship with either Mabior or any member of his immediate, extended or clannish family.
More importantly, I never wished any of Garang’s children get involved in political affairs of South Sudan. I even made fun of them the other day on the social media—Facebook that: If I were Mama Rebecca Nyandeng or John Garang’s son, I’d stay out of politics forever. I would constantly run away from anything political. In fact, I’d buy myself some new pair of Nike athletic shoes and shorts, and always keep them close to me just in case I see politics coming, I’d tighten the laces and outrun the thing.
I have a million reasons as to why but I prefer keeping them to myself.
Anyway, here is the point. Following the publication of the Alan-Mabior interview in which Mabior pointed out a lot of the criticizable weaknesses in President Kiir-led ‘thumb-less’ government, South Sudanese (should I say) of all walks of life digested the message in different ways, depending on ‘educational upbringing,’ birthplace, level of civilized-ness and state of mind.
Many people welcomed the message and cheered him on. Others got angered by the words and began to speak ill of Mabior. They even went extra miles to invade his privacy; that, ooh, Mabior is an alcoholic, ooh, he is irresponsible; all in an attempt to hurt him, and eventually discouraging him from speaking his mind on national matters.
Simon Peter, some citizen who, according to his writing, got annoyed by Mabior’s move wrote on South Sudan Nation.com website: “….they’ve broken your jaws, next time they’ll break your neck! But what you don’t know comrade is that what’s posted isn’t expected from you… Who cares to listen to a drunkard who masters only drinking?”
OMG! What a beautiful way of silencing dissidence!
Simon Peter contradicts himself here. He wonders who cares about the drunkard, forgetting that he himself is the answer to his question. He forgets that he cares much more than anyone else and that’s why Mabior’s utterances made his blood clot. Simon Peter and his crew have also forgotten that no one is perfect. Each and every public figure or, say, a government official, has a ‘smelly’ background, either past or present. But still, they hold public positions. What counts is how he or she delivers, performs, etc.
For example, some of our current leaders indulge themselves in uncouth practices unexpected of them, including having love affairs with young girls. Others are good at habitual drunkenness, stealing, ineptitude, arrogance etc.
And most of our leaders have failed to bring up their children the way they should have. They have no control over them. Some of these children rarely attend classes. They are wild and untameable. They spend a lot of time running around, ‘showing off’ in East African cities and beyond. They go clubbing 24/7, fighting, causing havoc in clubs and almost everywhere they go.
Others even confront traffic police officers for being pulled over yet they are children of ‘big men’ in South Sudan. “You silly cop, are you new in this city or what? Didn’t you see the number plate, CES, uh?” One scolded an officer the other day. Now if the father of such a young man can’t control him, is he fit to govern 8 million people, hold public post? Is he or she worth the leadership?
But we understand and separate their rotten sides from the good sides and continue to adore and respect them as our leaders—good ones. We pray for them every time they fall in. We always converge at Freedom Squares – during public functions, in the scotching sun, with empty stomachs and dry lips – to listen to what they have to say. We give them rounds of applause every time they speak; out of love, we clap our hands and shout out their names even when actually they have said nothing. You can call that unconditional admiration.
Another group even misinterpreted Mabior’s message and labeled him as an opposition against President Kiir. A South Sudanese writer, Ateny Wek, wrote: ”…the eldest son of our late great leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior announced his accidental move to oppose the government of his father’s successor General Salva Kiir Mayardit – a move seen by political experts to have landed a blow on the government of the world’ newest nation….”
Oh boy! Someone is trembling, sweating. I don’t remember any line in the interview that shows Mabior intends to vie for an elective government position. Nor does he say he eyes Kiir’s seat.
Majority of South Sudanese know that Kiir is a weak leader (courtesy of his softness), but Mabior does not and cannot appear in the list of those who could replace him anytime soon. Even if Mabior was to stand against Kiir in a million presidential elections, Kiir would still emerge the winner a million times. The reason being, Mabior lacks the zero point five-kilo leadership experience President Kiir has. So, why panicking?
Mabior-Kiir’s case is simple, and it even gets simpler when one removes the ethnic eyeglasses. Mabior clearly and frequently says that he grew up knowing Salva Kiir as his uncle and he still respects and treats him the same way. They are still a family. All in all, Mabior’s mother is part of the leaning democratic government. Whatever decision Kiir makes, be it good or bad, Mama Nyandeng goes home with her share. But these are national affairs.
Any citizen with a sound mind can say anything about the affairs without having to be an opposition figure so long as he or she presents the criticism correctly.
Look at it this way: when you’re a bad man, who mistreats and batters your wife every single night, and your teen son gets fed up with it and he gets up, with his fists tightened and as hard as steel, says it to your face that you must stop beating his mother lest he shows you his true colors; will you conclude that the son behaved that way because he wants to replace you? That he wants to snatch your wife who happens to be his mother? South Sudanese please!
There is a difference between Deng Athuai and Lam Akol. For Christ’s sake, who cannot notice such a difference with reading glasses off?!
On the other hand, this is 21st century. No more intimidation and harassment of watchdogs. No more killing of truth-sayers. Any leader who cannot deliver and cannot tolerate criticism is unfit for leadership. He or she must pack his belongings and catch a bus home to rear chickens, goats or cows, depending on what part of the country his village is located.
Just like any other young South Sudanese that gets nauseated by Kiir’s ‘one-legged’ government, Mabior is being an activist. He just pointed out why Salva Kiir ‘limps.’ It should not be magnified, misinterpreted, tribalized and used to divide South Sudanese, ‘Bor and Bahr el Ghazal Dinka’ in particular.
It should not be used to endear ourselves to those in power. Salva Kiir is a democratically-elected leader, remember. That means he is open to criticism, especially from those who voted him in. Attacking, in whatever form, those who criticize him is undemocratic and Neanderthal.
Besides, not only is publicizing someone’s privacy – just like what Ateny Wek and Simon Peter did – unprofessional but it is also a deliberate abuse of ‘pen.’ My learned friend, Ngor Deng has lexicalized a word that I believe can describe such a practice. He calls it ‘illiterate literacy.’
Mister Ateny even went on to warn South Sudanese against expecting anything from Mabior: “…he is not even 1000 miles near his father in term of political and academic talent. So, unlike Jesus in the gospel, South Sudanese must not see Mabior as second John Garang in waiting.”
Political and academic talent? Oh really? Since when did highly sophisticated scholastic acquisition begin to matter in South Sudan’s political setting? Among all the government officials, including H.E President of the Republic of South Sudan, Lieutenant General Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is the refined scholar? Who is the professional politician?
The ‘war’ against Mabior shows nothing but fear— deep hidden fear. It indicates that whoever is in the presidency or close to the presidency feels politically insecure because he lacks leadership qualities. He is a weakling. He is vulnerable to downfall, both democratically and militarily. His foundation is so flimsy such that a slight gentle push could send him crumbling.
If the presidency wasn’t so weak, Mabior’s words wouldn’t have caused panic. If Mabior was a drunkard, a good-for-nothing citizen, why speak your lungs out, trying to shoot him down then?
You just made a drunkard a hero. See? Shouldn’t I say one man’s weakness is another man’s strength?