South Sudanese Elites & Illiterates in twin objectives: A nation bleeds by Herself

BY: Gabriel Garang Atem, JUBA, FEB/24/2014, SSN;

Two decades of war eroded social progress, institutions and torn tribal cohesion in the country. The independence of July 2011 provided an opportunity for the people of South Sudan to reap what is called commonly known as ‘peace dividends’ – social services, security, development and peace.

The events of December 2013 have halted the flow of social services and redirected the resources and manpower of the conflicting parties to war – an expensive affair that is causing immense damage to weak social infrastructure, systems and development programs that were initiated during and after the interim period of Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Already the death toll is high and outflow of refugees to neighboring countries and displaced camps is at its highest since peace was signed in 2015.

The war is on and the destruction is unfortunately done and continues to be done.

Since independence in July 2011, the country has witnessed various forms of rebellion that resulted in loss of lives, and property.

However what is critical is the scale of destruction, the nature of destruction and the forms.

On many occasions, government forgave the insurgents; rewarded them with government positions and integrated them into the national army and in some cases; resources were mobilized towards peace conferences and seminars.

All these efforts were noble but have not brought stability as an end envisaged product nor reduced the impact of criminal activities on the citizens.

The key problem facing South Sudan is an education access gap. When missionaries came in the 19th century, much of what is currently making up South Sudan was inhabited by pastoralists’ communities whose lives entirely depended on hunting, animal husbandry, traditional farming and wild fruits gathering.

All these forms of economic activities required to some extent a degree of hostility – a true survival of the fittest.

As a result of this life setup, children abduction and cattle raiding became the central forms of commercial activities.

During the war, between 1983 – 2005, the traditional form of commercial competitiveness took a new twist as weapons enhanced enterprisation of criminal activities.

This led to high scale of economic and social destruction which further widened the social cohesion gap between communities.

The animosities of war and enterprisation of criminal activities were imported to the new political and socioeconomic dispensation in South Sudan after independence.

For over two decades of war, there has never been a formal education system for South Sudanese, and during and after the interim period, the government priorities have been centered around security, governance and institutions’ creation leaving education at the periphery.

In reality, South Sudanese citizens are largely the same pastoralists of the yesteryears.

However, two things have changed; enterprisation of criminal activities has increased as result of weaponry, and pursuit of ‘twin objectives’; power by educated elites and petty robbing by the illiterate citizens.

The twin objective hypothesis has in part united communities to jointly pursue criminal and inhumane commercial enterprises.

While the elites fight for power and money, the illiterate and vulnerable are available for mobilization with an aim to revenge the old misdeeds and loot.

The pursuit of twin objectives by different interest groups within a community and wide spread of weapons are the main cause for inhumane and heavy destruction happening in South Sudan.

Nothing explains this than ‘peace and reward dichotomy’ that has being going on between the rebels and the government; the senseless killings of civilians and looting are acts of illiterates to achieve their objective.

My hypothesis is that actually, the twin objectives are complementary but at times conflicting.

The killings and destruction is mostly used by illiterate and small raiders to scare off their prey may at most harm the achievement of objective by the high end raiders.

Nothing illustrates these better than ongoing conflicts between the government and the rebels in South Sudan.

While the illiterates rejoice at destruction and killing of opponents, the leaders are more reserved as at times, they might be held accountable or might reduce chances of ascending to power or vice versa.

South Sudan is unique, it problems are because of it. Though there is a growing population of educated citizens, they are product of the past, their association with the past – experiences and folk tales continue to drag and educate their minds the South Sudan way.

This is illustrated by how all act. During the December 2013 event and afterward, civilians were being targeted and resources destroyed. On the internet, the educated youth burn green leaves and beat drums to announce war.

The nation was divided right along their experiences and folk tales. Worst enough, when missionaries came, the pastoralists used to send their uncooperative, indiscipline and lazy kids to school.

South Sudan being a pastoralist’s nation, largely its current leaders could be ‘community rejects’ with no leadership abilities to work for the good of the nation.

The viability of South Sudan must be built on true solid foundation. South Sudan must create a new nation by educating a new crop of people, people educated in class and not through biased folk tales. This will have many benefits, one it will create a true middle class that is self-reliant, sober and less pollutant.

Kenya though very tribal, its educated middle class is its tower of peace that holds it together during 2007 election violence.

Second, though highly resources endowed, South Sudan will not develop and grow without human capital. Singapore, India and other Asian countries demonstrated that human capital is first amongst natural resources endowments.

Thirdly, growing an educated population will create informed citizens, democracy and public policies are key ingredients for country’s progress but both are functions of education.

Today, debates and issues of public interest get distorted – no one can truly and faithfully read or interpret issues for others and keep his interest at bay.

Till such times, merit is recognized and reward, those who speaks issues will be kept away which is not good for the nation. The country must disconnect its new generation from old pollution.

Technology is moving to India because of its hi-tech youth, Kenya has been held together by its educated middle class, Singapore that was at par with East Africa economies in 1970s is already playing in the first class economic league.

The future of South Sudan must be based on its realities; the future must be separated from the past. Those of us whose cows were stolen, relatives killed and homes destroyed in 1990s though educated had bias reading. South Sudan must know it true self, keep the past away and create South Sudan for future.

Gabriel Garang Atem is an Independent Economic Commentator. He lives in Juba and can be reached


  1. Elijah Samuel says:

    “South Sudan being a pastoralist’s nation, largely its current leaders could be ‘community rejects’ with no leadership abilities to work for the good of the nation”
    You meant Dinka?

    The above is the problem with Dinkas, To think South Sudan is Dinka and Dinka is South Sudan!!!! Most os us in Equatoria are Peasnats!!!!!!!!! Since when does south Sudan became a pastorilist nations?? Since when the Equatorians not Count!! Go crack!!!! Until this Dinka Mentality changes, there shall be no peace!!

    • Ww says:

      Mr. Samuel learn to appreciate an intelligent analysis. You equatorians “educated elite” always blame Dinka for your failures. I don’t know what happened to you people? When you become educated you become hatemongers and toxic to society. I can conclude that you are a worshipper of Mr Elhag’s garbage and ideology.

      Mr. Garang you are noticed. This is a masterpiece.tell the likes of Elhag how to diagnose society problems and highlight them instead of preaching hatred. The gap in education is our main problem in south sudan. Riek machar understand this very well. He knows that when Nuers become educated in the future they will be less likely to put him in power through a bullet. That is why he is so impatient. Unless they are educated, they will never understand that the definition of man is to die for a just cause. Anything short of that is foolishness

      • Elijah Samuel says:

        You are so intelligent that you are hiding your name to ww! Do you preach intelligence to me or I to you? If I speak Hatred, You Dinkas practice hatred, Guess which one comes first and which one is worse! When was the last time Equatorian tell a fellow South Sudanese, We are born to rule you? When was the last time an equatorian rape a Dinka lady in Dinka Land? When was the last time an Equatorian policemen slap a Dinak Chief, A Dinka Politician or Bishop in Dinkaland? When was the last time an Equatorian Community moved to Dinka land and displace a Dinka Community and claim to have the gun that liberated their land and claim now it is theirs because the constitution says so?

        FOR YOUR INFORMATION, EXPOSING THESE AND MUCH MORE ATROCITIES OF THE JIENGS IS NOT PRACTICING HATE NOR PREACHING HATE…IT IS THE LOVE FOR COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE….We the Equatorians lead and fought the first war and the only true war of liberations because of the above ills committed by the Arabs who have not even done half of the things the Dinka have put the rest of the tribes of South Sudan through!

        Instead of living in denials, if you stop you predetory cow mentality then we shall all live in peace!!!!

        Elhag is a true patriot and I am honored by you mentioning my name in connections to his! I would rather be identified with him a millions times than your likes and your lier and criminal kiir who has become the girlfriend of Museveni!

        • ww says:

          I don’t practice nor preach hatred against anyone or tribe. Mr. Samuel, you admittedly preach hatred as you have shown on this medium all the time. You have very limited understanding of South Sudan society. If Dinka is the problem then there will always be problems in South Sudan. Dinka is big and it was here yesterday, it is here today and it will be here tomorrow.
          It is not logical to blame Dinka for all the Country’s ill. Anyone who think that is a tribalist and I can name a few here but let me not waste my time.

          • Elijah Samuel says:

            “Dinka is big and it will be here” Of course I want Dinkas to be here! They are Sudanese just as I am, I want to be on equal terms with me, not inferior nor superior! You see the difference in attitude???????

            In any country, the majority ethnic group or those in power always set the tone if you are going to have a stable country or not! Dinka themselves had never had stable homeland within themselves or with their neighbours!! This a fact only Dinka who live in delusions can deny!

            Vs equatorians tribes who have overall achieved stability only being destabilized by Dinkas!! So is Dinka the problem? For Sure they are not and have not been the solutions.

            I do not preach hate, I expose practice of hate by the Dinkas. Tell me one reason for any non Dinka to love Dinkas????

    • Gabriel Garang says:

      1. On average much of South Sudanese are pastoralists (UNS, UN, JS, WS,LS, WBG, NBG and LS and partly EES – 3 counties of greater Kapoeta, Torit and Imehejik.
      2. On the hatred, i am bigger than discussing communities, i discuss issues

  2. Daniel Deng Makuer says:

    Mr. Garang, the best quote that summaries our Government you have mentioned is “On many occasions, government forgave the insurgents; rewarded them with government positions and integrated them into the national army and in some cases; resources were mobilized towards peace conferences and seminars”
    good job Mr. Garang, you are true Nationalist.

    • Elijah Samuel says:

      Nonsense, he spoke like a Dinka, Calling South Sudan a cattle nations, thus making us all cattle keepers, writing those of us who are not, off! He is not a Nationalist, He spoke like a true Dinka and is a true Dinka intellectual!

  3. Taban Mawa says:

    Good piece of work with very interesting analysis.

    South Sudan is equiped with well educated and young people right across the globe. The War with the North made many of us moved to other countries and got good and quality education. After the independence, if the GOSS was fair dinkum it would have put education at the centre of every piece of its policy.

    These bright, exceptional and bright young people would have been influence to go home to contribute and I know many are willing to do so except for fear of either insecurity or lack of vision of our leaders. There are many avenues to influence these young people. One of them is for the government to established strong link with countries where these young people resides and request for an exchange program with their host government to allow them to take 6 months or more to work in South Sudan Public Sector as a means to transfer their knowledge or expertise. Some are willing to do it for free.
    There are young lawyers, enviromentalist, geologist, economist, accountants, biologist, Medical Doctors, enginers and etc all ready to help change this young Nation.
    I am well aware of the number of Universities established established since 2005 but not sure what is the quality of their teaching or research.

    Those who have the power to make things work instead choosed to take away what little we have for their own survival forgetting the wider society, the orphans, widows and war veterans. I went to one of the best university in the World with one of Mr Kiir son. He couldn’t do his own assignment instead paid others to do it for him. He drives a very classic and expensive car not even driven by proffessors in the University. After 4 years of study, he is still in the same University with no formal qualification. Further, another daughter of his (Kiir) was caught by police carrying more than $50,000 cash in a brand new BMW car.

    Looking at that, the level of money our leaders are wasting would have been invested into bulding schools that will benefit the next generation of leaders.

    It may be political incorrect but for South Sudan to truly develop into a country we fought and all dreamed about, the current group of leaders has to be gone either by killing them or forcing them out. We all wants to live in a country where my son’s will be equal as your daughters and tribalism is no longer on the political agenda. This cannot happen without real change of leadership and proper establishment of State Institutions that will be transparent and delivering services to the people.

    Our leaders not only lack the political will to govern for all but lacks the courage to stand up for the truth and act in the interest of their electorate.One of the major problem lies in our current constitution. The constitution gve too much power to the current president to the extent of having the power to dismiss an elected governor of State. This is hell lot of power you never get in a Nation aspiring to be a democartic Nation.

    Our elected MPs are not willing to stand up to challenge the President or the Ministers. There is no clear path on the side of accountability on the side of these Ministers to keep them in check. Their families are living in Million Dollar houses far way from the sounds of bullets while other children stay awake a night hoping for a chance to see the next day. Our childrens are sleeping hungry with nothing to sleep on or eat while theirs are enjoying life of comforts.

    This sure will come to pass but unless we realise the reality and act to protect the future of our young Nation. Our national Army are not getting paid for upto 3 or more months while the Government is able to provide money to pay UPDF who have done more harm than good. Teachers are been forced to teach without salaries and those who speak out get jail for doing so. I wonder where this country might be in another 10 years if things continue to be as they are right now.

    With grace of God and the spirit of our deceased freedom fighters, one day a bright new day will come when the sons and daughters of this young nation will walk and sit toghether in the spirit of brotherhood and work towards developing a united and great country not that will be based on tribalism but Nationalism.

    • Charles says:

      Taban Mawa
      You have said it all. Nothing to add. Except also to agree with Makuer when he quoted one of the most dangerous practices that the current government has been practising: “On many occasions, government forgave the insurgents; rewarded them with government positions and integrated them into the national army and in some cases; resources were mobilized towards peace conferences and seminars”. We should also go further and ask which part of South Sudan, are these insurgents largely from, and who are they? I think those who come from those parts of South Sudan where the most cases of insurgence occur have a lot to answer to the people of South Sudan. They live in self-denial, and do not accept their responsibilities. Until they accept that they are the source of all our insecurity and instability, and take action to curb these, South Sudan will continue to be an unstable and insecured country. it is this living in self-denial and refusing to see and admit reality that is killing South Sudan.

  4. Abo says:

    This is very true….”South Sudan is unique, its problems are because of it. Though there is a growing population of educated citizens, they are product of the past, their association with the past – experiences and folk tales continue to drag and educate their minds the South Sudan way.”
    This has already manifested itself here in some of the comments already made.

    And this as well is another blatant truth…”Current leaders could be ‘community rejects’ who have no abilities to work for the good of the nation”. The same reality is true as well in the army. It’s the crooks, thieves, thugs, less or not at all sober in the families and individuals who have no viable alternative for living, who leave or get sent to the army. Their number one purpose is not to get there and boldly defend their country or constitution against aggression or violation but to enlist in the army such that they get those meager wages to be used for buying alcohol, daily meals, causal sex and many other unworthy practices.
    That’s a great analysis Mr Garang Atem.

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