BY: Dr. Lako Jada KWAJOK, MAY/07/2016, SSN;
At this point, only a few among the countries of the world could rival South Sudan regarding the massive problems facing it. The simple fact that many tend to overlook is that the majority of these problems are man-made disasters. South Sudan didn’t suffer an environmental catastrophe but what we went through over the past couple of years resulted in devastation on the scale of a tsunami or a major earthquake. These disasters shouldn’t have happened in the first place and were entirely avoidable.
Political and tribal bigotry coupled with incompetence and corruption were what got us into the current sorry state. Clearly, we have a lot on our plates to handle at any particular time. In such a situation the conventional wisdom entails prioritisation as the best line of action to be taken by the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).
Presently, the most pressing issues are the widespread insecurity and the absence of the rule of law in many parts of South Sudan. Insecurity is the single most crucial matter that needs to be resolved urgently by the TGoNU. I cannot overemphasise how important is the settlement of this issue for the full implementation of the peace agreement and for the maintenance of stability of the country.
People do realise that without significant progress in the way of improving the security situation in the country, there would be modest achievements or not at all on the other fronts. For example, those who have taken refuge in UNMISS camps all over the country, would not leave them if they don’t see tangible results that dispel their fears.
It would even be unrealistic to talk about mending what has been torn apart let alone enacting the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) while insecurity remains rampant and unabated.
Furthermore, there would be no hope for a robust economic growth and a speedy recovery if the working class and the farmers continue to feel unsafe in their homes.
At any rate, the formation of the TGoNU is the way forward but is not by any means the endgame in the political saga involving the country. Quick and favourable results are needed badly by the populace.
Regarding the issue of insecurity, the three Ministers required delivering sooner than later are the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Interior. The Minister of Defence, Kuol Manyang Juuk, represents the status quo and the way he works and conducts himself is well-known to many on this forum; hence, meaningful reforms are very unlikely under his watch.
However, some degree of change is bound to happen as a consequence of the implementation of the security arrangements and the fact that SPLM-IG is no longer the only political entity running the government.
As for Paulino Wanawilla, the Minister of Justice – he did express frustration with the state of affairs in his ministry back in November 2015. The following are what he said then: “I know in South Sudan corruption is not in one place, but it’s very sad when everybody is stealing. I know there is corruption. I have evidence of people in this ministry (of Justice) who are legal counselors and taking bribes.”
It’s unclear as to whether Wanawilla managed to get rid of his corrupt officials or not. Perhaps the new dynamics emerging with the formation of the TGoNU would offer the opportunity to prosecute and weed out those corrupt elements. A clean up at the top should go hand in hand with a real effort to facilitate justice delivery at the courts. Wanawilla is probably aware of what has become a common knowledge where criminals are apprehended one day and set free the next day without ever being tried in a court of law.
The real potential for reforms emanates from the Ministry of Interior under the newly appointed Minister of Interior, Alfred Lado Gore. Some may say he is not a newcomer to the government as he had previously held the portfolio for Environmental Affairs thus not much of a reformer.
Well, it could also be argued that advocating reforms and democratisation of the SPLM party were the very reasons that led to the purging of him and his colleagues from the government and the SPLM party.
Alfred Lado Gore is a dedicated leader with an unwavering stance. He is a sort of a perfectionist that often set him at odds with his corrupt colleagues in the SPLM party before the split. It’s no wonder that the regime’s cronies regarded him as a thorn in their sides. Also it explains why he was made to lose the 2010 Central Equatoria Governorship election through extensive vote rigging by the regime.
Addressing the issue of insecurity requires setting up a policy blueprint with achievable targets and measurable outcomes. The Minister of Interior, Alfred Lado Gore, certainly has the political will to bring about change in the way things are done in his ministry. He probably has plenty up his sleeve that would define his leadership style.
Nonetheless, talking about the obvious matters that need fixing without delay is worthwhile. There is a consensus across the board, particularly in communities hit hard by insecurity – that something needs to be done now and fast.
In the first instance, the Inspector General of Police, General Makur Arol, ought to be sacked. He has convincingly failed to contain let alone eradicate the cycle of violence that has plagued our cities, towns and villages. He appears to be following the footsteps of his predecessors, General Achuil Tito Madut and General Pieng Deng Kuol.
The infamous phrase, “Killed by unknown gunmen,” came into common use during Achuil’s tenure, flourished under Pieng and reaffirmed with Makur Arol at the helm. Their legacies as the first three Police Chiefs would ever be marred by that telling phrase. And if not an act of sheer tribalism, why the Chief of Police post remains the monopoly of one tribe, the Jieng, despite repeated failures?
Why not give the opportunity to serve the country to a competent officer from another tribe?
The Minister of Interior knows that to succeed, he needs to start with a fresh team at the top of his administration and never “inherit” the same old faces that have failed. An overhaul of the ministry and demotion or purging of incompetent officials can only boost his popularity among the South Sudanese people.
The insecurity in Juba would be the biggest challenge for the Minister. One could argue that the reason for lawlessness is the fact that hitherto the people who have been entrusted with the duty of policing Central Equatoria state, have neither the knowledge of the people and their cultures nor relation or strong ties to the area.
It’s a well known fact that a significant number of crimes have been committed by individuals in uniforms. The time has come for sons and daughters of Equatoria to take over the responsibility of policing their areas. There is absolutely no reason that the Chief of Police in Central Equatoria state should not come from its community.
By the same token, the Police Chiefs and the bulk of the police forces in the other states should be from the indigenous populations. There are clear benefits in adopting such a policy as enthusiasm to tackle crimes would be at the highest level possible if someone is assigned to work in his or her community.
On the other hand corruption and police brutality would be at its lowest as no one would like to be seen mistreating his people. Moreover, it would lead to a substantial revenue savings by cutting down the costs of policing our communities. For example, accommodation and travel allowances would be kept at their minimum as there would be no justification for them if officers are stationed in their areas.
Finally, one could only hope that those who have been calling for reforms and even putting their lives at risk for effecting them – realise that a lot are at stake including their popularity and political survival.
There should be no room for tolerance of incompetent officials or officers. Failing to deliver the goods should equate with getting kicked out of office.
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok