BY: Mayak Deng Aruei, Doctoral student, USA, APR/18/2015, SSN;
It was not long ago that South Sudan was part of the then united SUDAN. After the secession, the new nation went on its own way, taking no system of the host nation. The ululations and giggling shortly after independence poured lots of hopes in the hearts of the civil population, but no enough preparations were put in place to run an independent South Sudan.
The worst part being that South Sudanese celebrated their independence for too long, forgetting that the newly independent nation was in need of Infrastructures and Security in order to sustain itself in the face of economically advanced neighbors.
Throughout the country, supposedly former army officers took oaths of their offices (constitutional/political posts), but continued to behave in their capacities as military officers despite their new roles as lawmakers and civil servants.
Unlike any other country in the Region, South Sudan was submerged under military rule, and all the officers who once served under the SPLA never believed in their minds that fundamental changes have taken place in their lives.
While in the governments (Central & states’ levels), they remained as SPLA officers, and even went further and encouraged former child soldiers to take up military training in order to fill positions in governments’ institutions.
The nation’s leadership (South Sudan) seems to support such mindsets, and the president dresses in military attires whenever he feels like it, and when he is sharing a security meeting.
Well, dressing in military uniforms means being ready for war or show of superiority. But do the majority of South Sudanese really want to see that?
As a matter of raw facts, all of today’s youths grew up in huts that had military uniforms and guns all over. So, dressing in military uniforms means an aggression, and that by itself energizes youths raised in wars to entertain and commit more violence against civil population.
Verify if terroristic attitudes of Governor Matur Chut Dhuol has reduced violence in Lakes State? Verify if an eye-for-an-eye has resolved problems in Jonglei and other states?
Verify if military aggression against disoriented SPLA’s deserters has deterred them from committing more atrocities on Government’s supporters and communities in their vicinities?
There is nothing wrong with military as a profession, but our people must know that most people who became soldiers were either conscripted into the Rebels groups or forced by conditions that South Sudanese were in, and to liberate the Region from successive Khartoum-based regimes that were hostile to African South Sudanese and other nationalities in the SUDAN (Dar Fur, Funj & Nuba).
With current military lifestyle being the new reality, majority unknowingly surrendered the nation to be run more like a military camp/base, and the same command has strayed into other areas: economy and social life.
As of recent months, the Army Chief of General Staff went head to head with religious leaders, particularly leader of the Cush International Church/Ministries also known Prophet as many of his prophecies have materialized in a rather a bad way.
They (national leaders) cannot command every aspect of citizens’ lives and expect a free State where citizens will contribute to development of the country without constraints.
For the last number of years, President Salva Kiir has been making changes in the nation’s military leadership, but never retired Army Generals as it is the norm in other parts of the world (some were short-listed as reservists).
Over the years (2005-to-present), Generals/army officers have been serving in civilian posts for extended periods of time, and then returned to military branches as active Generals.
For example, the current SPLA’s Chief of General Staff was Governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State between 2008 and 2013. He was removed by presidential decree, reinstated into the Army, promoted to the rank of Lt. General and given his new assignment as the SPLA’s Army Chief of General Staff, and also where he doubled as Chairman of the SPLM in his home state (Northern Barh El Ghazal).
There are other instances where those who were counties’ commissioners and states members of the parliaments returned to military service.
Where can we draw a line between the SPLA as the national Army and the SPLM as the ruling political Party in the Republic of South Sudan? Remember, their military ranks are earned titles, but they cannot practice military while serving in civilian posts.
Along the same line, caretaker Governor of Lakes State, Gen. Matur Chut Dhuol was appointed by a presidential decree as a Governor & retained his military status, runs the state more like a military barracks, terrorizing civilians, detaining politicians indefinitely and imprisoning them without charges.
He defied call by the Council of States (Constitutional posts holders). Can somebody tell Matur to mature and Malong to adopt rule of law (Lööŋ as his name referred to in Jieeŋ).
What kind of State do South Sudanese really want to have? Do they want a Nation where a minister smacks his subordinates in the face and expect to stay as a minister or do they want a State where Government’s officials are hold to the account?
To have a functioning system in a democratic State, it got to start with few steps and should start from somewhere, and be followed by those entrusted with the nation’s highest authority.
The kind of leadership that South Sudanese leaders have shown is likely to be copied by those who work directly under them. Let’s be factual, “what you sow is what you harvest.”
We fear not the current leaders, but those who would be tempted to walk the path walked by their mentors (money can recruit an army of ruthless loyalists).
There is no way that South Sudanese would expect to see responsible leaders in the near future if the ones we have misbehave publicly, overstep their authorities, abuse their subordinates physically and misappropriate nation’s wealth with impunity.
For one thing, the ones being bred in Juba and elsewhere would be no better than their mentors unless they follow the order of the world they live in.
No human is made of wires, and those who labor under the presumption that their immunity is God given are completely wrong. No wonder, our people (South Sudanese) are very disconnected with today’s world (no borders & no secrets), and they behave as if they live in their own isolated Universe.
In conclusion, brutality at the top is too dangerous for the nation of South Sudan. How can youths possibly distinguish good leadership from bad/toxic leadership if national figures keep doing the unthinkable?
For those who were in the bush (SPLA’s controlled areas), stories about officers physically abusing their subordinates were everywhere, and some of us thought those would be things of the past.
Sometime, one feels guilt-free for having not worked under brutal leaders in modern South Sudan. In reality, most of these leaders are well known for the bad things that they have done, and the bad image they have created onto themselves and the new republic.
The mentality of being an army officer for life must be discarded altogether or South Sudan would keep producing bad leaders prone to violence, and who believe in physical abuse of their subordinates and authoritarian running of the State’s affairs.
The author is Mayak Deng Aruei, a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership: Organizational Development. He is also the author of ‘Struggle Between Despair and Life: From Sudan’s Marshland Village, Child Soldiering, Refugee Camp and America.” He can be reached at Kongor.firstname.lastname@example.org