BY: DANIEL JUOL NHOMNGEK, KAMPALA, UGANDA, APR/05/2018, SSN;
When the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, made remarks at the Consultative Meeting on South Sudan with UN, IGAD and the African Union that — “first of all, it is clear to me and, I’m sorry to say so, but I’ve never seen political elite with so little interest in the well-being of its own people,” some people expressed outrage that it was against the sovereignty of South Sudan for him to make such remarks.
However, he was and he is still right up to now. In my opinion, he made a very precise observation about the conduct of South Sudanese leaders. The leaders of South Sudan do not have any interest in serving citizens as their interests solely lie in power and wealth.
The desire by the leaders to have power and resources has reduced the human values in South Sudan to nothing. This is because South Sudanese have become less human beings since what the leaders look at is not how to improve their welfare but how to enhance their power and acquire more and more wealth.
Thus, citizens have been reduced to objects and because of that they have lost intrinsic human values due to the indifferent conduct of the leaders of South Sudan.
In other words, in the politics of South Sudan, welfare of the citizens no longer matters.
But what matters in South Sudan to politicians are wealth and power. Hence, leaders use citizens just like objects to maintain their power and wealth.
Therefore, the way human values and citizenry are understood in South Sudan explains the problems being faced by the people at present. The following problems:
The first problem is the shortage of foreign currencies, which was caused by corruption facilitated among others through the Letters of Credit (LC). By implication, the shortage of foreign currencies has pushed up prices, which in turn has led to runaway inflation.
Unfortunately, the runaway inflation has become worse because it is not matched with the increase in salaries or business activities. The overall implication of this nature of inflation is the emergency of abject poverty facing all citizens except some of the leaders and their families.
The second problem is the deteriorating conditions of the citizens. The liberation war of 1983-2005 whose negative impact was not reduced and the present war which is the continuation of that war has had a negative impact on citizenry.
The war in particular has psychologically affected citizens but South Sudanese authorities have not come up with policies that deal with post-traumatic stress that result from the psychological consequences of the past war and the present.
In a study recently conducted by the US-based National Centre for Biotechnology information, it has been found that at least 40% of the participants asked across South Sudan showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The prevalence of post-traumatic stress caused by the war has made majority of the citizens live in hopeless lives.
The loss of hope has led many of the citizens to committing or attempting to commit suicide. Hence, on 15 September 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that South Sudan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
In addition, on 29/03/2018 News24 reported that suicide in South Sudan rises as years-long war grinds down South Sudanese. The many suicides in South Sudan are caused by the post traumatic stress that has affected the citizens uncontrollably.
Thus, the post-traumatic stress has had a great toll on many citizens though the authorities live as if things are normal with citizens.
The third problem is that of the Unknown Gunmen. Many citizens are being killed across the country and in Juba in particular, without accountability. It appears that the Unknown Gunmen is the government project intended to deal with its critics.
The government on many occasions has been accused of forming the unknown gunmen which is said to be an organ of the National Security.
In fact, what made many people to believe in that theory is that it is common with the unknown gunmen to target the civilians perceived to be against the government and those with property yet the government has never made any attempt to apprehend any member of the unknown gunmen.
The forth problem is the problem of communal violence among rural, and in particular, the cattle keeping communities. This is a type of violence perpetrated across ethnic or communal lines. It is where the violent parties feel solidarity for their respective groups, and victims are chosen based on group membership.
The above type of violence is the kind of violence that is eating up South Sudanese communities found in different states in South Sudan. For instance, this type of violence is common in Gok State, Western Lakes, Eastern Lakes, Tonj, and Gogrial State and in some of the states in the Upper Nile.
The presence of the communal violence has led to many citizens abandoning their original homes as their livestock are stolen or robbed and their crops destroyed yet the government does not even try to get a solution to this kind of violence, which shows that politicians of South Sudan are indifferent to suffering of ordinary citizens.
The fifth problem is the drilling of oil in disregard to the safety of the local citizens of South Sudan inhabiting areas where oil is found. This has resulted into waste water not processed being disposed of in unprotected areas.
Recently, the report prepared by the German NGO, Sign of Hope, estimated that 180,000 people face life-threatening risks from oil-related water pollution.
The Sign of Hope further reported that heavy metals, from leaking pipelines and refineries have affected the soil and citizens. This has further resulted into massive displacement of the people in oil producing areas.
Despite negative effects on citizens of unmonitored mining of oil, the government of South Sudan does not care about the welfare of citizens as it is busy drilling oil purposely to sustain the war against the rebels with illusive hope of winning it.
This fact has been confirmed by the recent report which made it clear that the leadership in South Sudan is using oil revenues from Nile Petroleum Corporation-NilePet and the National Oil and Gas Corporation of South Sudan to fuel the ongoing conflict.
Though the government rubbished this report by denying it in totality and instead put up a defence that it has been using oil money to pay salaries to the employees.
This is not true because civil servants including those working in different embassies of South Sudan are going to ten months or more now without being paid. This therefore confirms the fact that the government is lying, but in reality, it is using the money gained from oil to fund the war.
Sadly enough, as South Sudan‘s elite uses the country’s oil wealth to sustain the war as well as to terrorize the civilians and to get rich, the country is sinking deep into financial quagmires.
The economic uncertainty and limbo have made the country hostile for its own citizens to live in.
In general, South Sudan can properly be described as the sick man in East Africa since it is a country with suffering population but indifferent leaders.
In fact, the suffering has not spared any person including the soldiers who now beg on the streets though they are the ones defending the same leaders to remain in power.
Those widows whose husbands have been killed defending rebels or government are now begging on the streets because people in South Sudan are viewed like machines that become useless as soon as they are not able to produce more.
In summary, looking at the war as the war of power struggle not reforms, it is not easy for the leaders to reach compromise to achieve peace in order to save citizens. For that reason, there is no hope for achieving peace in near future.
This fact has been clearly confirmed by the recent statement from the First Vice President that he did not see any prospect of achieving peace very soon since the differences between the government and the oppositions are too wide.
NB// the author is South Sudanese Lawyer residing in Uganda and he can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org