South Sudan slipping into dictatorship

BY: Odongi Banabakintu, RSS, DEC/23/2012, SSN;

When the country was still Sudan, all of us, then Sudanese under the leadership of Hassan Omar El Bashir knew crystal clear that dictatorship did exist. The regime then required and still requires one person and one party to be in control of a nation and a climate of fear was provided by the notorious National Intelligence Services was and is well accepted. As such personal freedoms disappeared in the whole country and we fought to get back our liberties. The reputation of the NIF/NCP Police and the secret police was such that no-one wished to cause offence. In this sense, Sudan was a nation ran on fear of the government, the situation Bashir had created within months of taking power in the 1989 coup.

When the final signatures of the IGAD brokered peace talks were penned in the famous Naivasha Hotel, South Sudanese both at home and in Diasporas shed tears of joy. Events followed each other in the South; all those documented militia activities, un-investigated killings, political sabotages and maladministration were blamed squarely on Khartoum and her assumed collaborators.

When Salva Kiir was elected as the first President of the Republic of South Sudan, it didn’t sound a moving event as the whole population in the South knew he would be given the votes so as to task of the successful referendum which rested heavily on the shoulders of his party. Note: The death of Dr. Garang in July 2005, allowed Kiir to combine the posts of being Commander in Chief of the SPLA and the 1st Vice President of the Republic of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan.

The positions which if not well understood and managed can tempt the Benydit to continue thinking he is the one and only man fit enough to run South Sudan – in a one-man show. Local political commentators who saw this as a clear signal for a dictatorship taking over the nation were quickly termed alarmists….just to shut them up.

Salva Kiir Mayardit was sworn in as a President. His only remaining problems from his point of view were disloyalty within his own party ranks and the fight against the cancerous corruption. He made public the victor’s rhetoric which if pronounced in other countries will earn the speaker honorium even before any achievement is measured. In his own word:

1. “The people of South Sudan want peace, better living standards and freedom which my government will strive to achieve. I will not be a disgrace to the people who showed confidence in me by re-electing me back to the office.”
2. “Any unnecessary misuse of funds for trips abroad, buying expensive cars or building of luxurious houses will not be tolerated because the money has to be used to help the citizens of South Sudan to develop the agricultural system, market economy and in helping fishermen.”
3. “Universal access to clean water, improved physical infrastructure, efficient delivery of public services, peace and security and the rule of law shall be key in my new government.”
4. “The youth shall be provided with employment opportunities and education sector will be fully supported. I call upon the cabinet to make sure that this order is fulfilled during my term of office.”
5. “I will lead the people of South Sudan to the direction they want.”

The Nation waited for 9 months to see what the report of his well written speech would look like. None, the language of stock-taking which was one time used to nail Bashir in Juba Stadium began disappearing and nobody bothered to remind the President to tell the public how far his government implemented his promises.

I think that those who could help our dear President in delivering the promises realized that they didn’t move an inch in that direction and therefore, chose to divert the attention of the President from what the poor voters in the bomas, payams and counties are expecting from their romantic votes.

In fact, 2010 had earlier on shown Kiir that the support SPLM enjoyed reached a point of diminishing return as shown in the public outcry of the corrupt system, key SPLM party members lost seats (majority filtered into the legislative assemblies under the umbrella of party list).

And when the March 2010 election was endorsed as free and fair by the lazy local and foreign observers, a sign of a disaster was looming, one person voted 15 times and that is said to be right? Surely this gamble will later on see Kiir and SPLM possibly taking the constitution making process in the same manner as if some sense of moral judgment doesn’t exist in the Country.

How did South Sudan descend so quickly into becoming a dictatorship?
Immediately after the July 2011 South Sudan Independence, the hopes for democracy which was high in the minds of the thousands and foreign dignitaries who gathered at the Garang Mausoleum began dwindling. Some citizens like this author who sat and watched speechlessly the event from a TV screen, painfully moved away from the TV Screen as the celebration was inching towards signing the hotly debated and the unholy constitution. Ops! It’s going to be signed and the Independence subsequently declared.

I remained motionless to recall what efforts South Sudanese of professional backgrounds exerted to see that the interim constitution reflected good governance, At this moment, I could vividly see South Sudan slipping into dictatorship as many questions ran through my mind:-

1. Shall South Sudan ever hold free and fair elections under this constitution?
2. Will this questionable constitution protect our basic rights?
3. Will the numerous political parties become partners in building this country?
4. Is this event marking the beginning of a lasting celebration in my country? etc…

Like the Nazi Party of Hitler in the Reichstag of January 1933, I saw Kiir as a fall-guy politician who would have to shoulder all the blames if things get worse under his leadership. The signing of the constitution (they prefer calling it Interim Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan) was a bold landmark that tells things will keep on being imposed down the throats of the citizens with no justifications.

The Big Man in the land made promises. This would have been, in his mind, the perfect opportunity for him to show all politicians who opposed him that the true loyalties lay in the South Sudanese people who ululate at every word he pronounce.

Well, just 5 months after the independence celebration, Kiir on behalf of the SPLM/A immediately declared war on Sudan Armed Forces who occupied Panthou and informed the globe that he is not under somebody’s rule. Other South Sudanese were in jubilation, thinking the messiah is finally here starting to restore our pride and punish the watermelon eaters.

But the author was like… why not learn and practice peacetime and preventive diplomacy other than war diplomacy? However, I consoled myself when I borrowed the words commonly used in the Juba street politics “…He is just there as a figure for public to view as a President. But the men who run the country are behind the smoke screens down there and that is why all decision are rashly carried out by the clique within the circle of SPLA/M to undermine his performance and have Benydit exposed to the public as a failure… And guys sympathize when you see him stressed up.”

Before we consolidated our jumbled arguments on the Panthou score, the President ordered his men in khaki out of Panthou after being bullied and or pestered all day and night long- this according to many analysts was to prove to our president that he still is under some people’s rule.

Where do you think a president in such a situation will vent out his frustration given the fact that he wields unquestionable constitutional powers locally? Not on those who will criticize that he is not up to his words?

As stated in the Constitution, Kiir thought that if he was to convince us of protecting our sovereignty, he has to be given emergency powers – such as that stated in the Interim Constitution – “….holds the ultimate constitutional right to dismiss any elected governor/constitutional post holder.”

When threatened with the rejection of some clauses in the draft interim constitution, Kiir (upon the advice of some close aides) threatened to close down the South Sudan National Legislation Assembly to create an atmosphere conducive for discussing the document when in fact it was to have a smoke free empire to manipulate the Law making process.

The meeting in J1 Presidential palace, was clear that the constitution was quickly to be passed into law. Those SPLM legislators who insisted on a fair constitution were branded “hyenas in sheep’s skins.” The act which will give Kiir what he wanted – dictatorial power. Meaning what he wanted would become law in South Sudan within minutes of his signature being put on paper.

This Constitution gives Kiir and the SPLM party what they wanted – ability to ban the activities of some political parties perceived as threats… not to register them and Civil Societies activities intending to voice out any vices of the Juba-based administration.

These started by some leaders from opposition parties getting arrest threats and newspapers warned of censorship if certain types of articles kept being published in them. To the Kiir Government, the law is to ‘keep the peace’ and maintain law and order. The unprofessional and notorious police can start roaming the streets, entering bars, restaurants if any day is declared “Public Day,” disrupting business – typical of the “Brown Shirts” of Adolf Hitler who instilled discipline by ordering the elimination of anyone suspected of being against the system.

As was anticipated, a known activist, Deng Athuai, was caught immediately following the demonstration against the officials who allegedly stole 4 Billion from the government coffers, those who arrested him – claimed in hiding that Deng confessed to them that the demo was an initiative of SPLM/DC – a scapegoat of course, signal to other party opponents to start the revolution to overthrow democracy in the country.

The government commissioned an investigation into Athuai’s kidnap. Till now no report was shared about the findings, the Law for the Protection of the People and the State is gradually being thrashed into the dust bins of the judiciary, legislation and executives.

In order to undermine the independence of the judiciary and enforcement of the rule of law; the system keeps encouraging each State to have State Ministry of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agency. And in each State, this Ministry tends to be much attended and supported by the Juba.

How the Security Organs operation help tell it all.

All over the world, the German security men were famed for the methodical manner in which they worked. They divided the population into 5 categories:
1. V-men: men who could be trusted.
2. A-men: agents in the field.
3. Z-men: informants.
4. H-men: secondary informants.
5. U-men: corrupt and unreliable

Their intelligence there has vast power. It could involve itself in any aspect of someone’s life if they believed that that person was potentially “an enemy of the state.” Reports were kept at local levels. Reports were also sent to central office if it was felt that the person involved was important enough. These are all done to avert rush decisions which endanger national cohesion, as such these saw Germany having few opposition political asylum seekers in other countries.

However, in South Sudan, the average citizen had no come back against the Security and could have an order to have him or her immediately arrest and incarceration of any suspect and few are safe from the clutches of the infamous and confusing Special Branch and Public Securities. In a normal situation, being arrested was one thing and proving your innocence was another. The security organs here work on the assumption that an individual is guilty until he/she could prove her/her innocence. As the agents held all the necessary evidence and the individual involved is in prison, this almost became impossible to do to disapprove the crooked system.

Some surviving documents/reports show that the Special Branch run several torture houses in and around Juba (Jebel and Hai Jallabah), the several security branches such as the public security and special branch often rival amongst themselves while executing duties, and each views the other as a criminal organization. If this is true, then this can simply mean that being a member of the security organ is a criminal act in itself.

Don’t forget the politics of regionalism and/or tribalism is also one element leading the country quickly into dictatorship. Each region/tribe is strategizing to defend its interest if the Country will stand the test of this forged unity. This is further orchestrated by the inexperienced, myopic and elderly public workforce who carries forward their individual differences during the bush war (1983-2005) into service delivery.

They are currently succeeding in mentoring cadres all over the Ministries to exactly behave like them in dealing with public affairs, creating animosity where… hey! Are you witnessing these comrades addressing colleague bush time fighter so?

In the foreign policy, the SPLM-led government has miserably performed given the seven years of generous capacity building and mentoring from the donor countries and the Greater Lakes Region. It’s unclear to many educated population of this country what the foreign policy entails.

My central argument is that inclusive institutions are necessary for sustainable foreign policy. Does this look like ignoring the difference between sustainable innovation and inclusive diffusion of a policy? The intention of keeping it off the limelight is questionable and can perhaps mean avoiding critics but is that not what dictatorship appraised?

Look at the confusion South Sudanese vote caused in 2012 United Nations General Assembly. You will be tempted to ask, what direction is South Sudan taking? Sensitive national policies are often managed exclusively by a few who care less of consultation. But only turn up to consult when a mess they find themselves in has significantly damaged the country’s reputation.

Odongi Kintu is a citizen of South Sudan, he can be reached on

1 Comment

  1. Nonsense are beyond the capacity in south Sudan…. why we wait and no body among the writers who had overthrown the govt? Why are we abusing others everyday for nonsense? If you need to bring change into this nation, please don’t abuse, it may bring misunderstanding among us. To blame the president about Panthou, my friend, what do you need president to do? You need him to give Panthou out like that?
    If just like that why were we fighting for (22) years? Have you ever fought for the land? I think you are a life lover, who didn’t fight for the land. Please, president kiir had to order his army as a president not under Pres. Obama or Bashir. We are south Sudanese, we have to be ordered by our president. The time we’re in Panthou, I think you were enjoying yourself somewhere….

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