South Sudan Reforms Lost in Translation

BY: Justin Ambago Ramba, UK, AUG/22/2013, SSN;

South Sudanese will have to take some time out, to come to terms with their attitudes towards issues pertaining to the transition and development of their nascent country. Too often our people have remained so much imprisoned in the war mentality. However to say the least, it is being both arrogant and ignorant if we cannot see the logic of adopting a different mindset needed for the promotion of peaceful coexistence and prosperity for our people, who have lived all their lives in ignorance, insecurity, poverty and disease.

On the whole we need to be conscious that it is now over eight years since the war ended. But we as a nation have collectively failed to apprehend the basic fact that there exists a great difference between fighting a war and building a country.

This observation shouldn’t be taken lightly, because unless we get it right and change the way we handle national issues and the basic rights of our citizens, it won’t be very long before we bring about our own peril and risk our country becoming even a worse place than it was ever before.

Many genuine voices have consistently and over the years drawn the attention of the president to trim down what was an unnecessarily huge post-independence government. Unfortunately he went with the idea of rewarding his cronies and thus created for them endless list of highly paid government positions at the expense of basic services.

On many occasions, he has clearly overdone it. Look at the excessively huge post-independence government with a fleet of first ministers and their deputies, and the equally unnecessary Council of States. Does South Sudan really need all these when its population is barely 8.5 million?

For the majority of poor people living in the villages and the rural hinterlands, even when others were enjoying the new found Oil wealth in Juba and the state capitals, life had never ever changed for them even at peace time, thanks to the directionless Kiir.

And because of his visionless leadership, ironically independence only began yet another serious cycle of hardship for many as it became increasingly difficult for the poor men and women in the villages, the cattle camps and the IDPs camps to get food, clean drinking water or medicine.

Completely carried away by the euphoria of the new found sovereignty, President Kiir and his aides only became concerned of the realities when he [Kiir] dared to shut down the Oil production in January 2012. Thereafter with every day the government coffers started to run dry, and the austerity measures, though hardly any at the top, begun also to bite.

At this time the popular calls for reforms got louder and more in favour a slim government of technocrats. Yet all that the president and his cabinet of theoreticians did was some empty talks about alternate sources of revenues, which were not new to South Sudan.

What is new, is how these new liberators instead of remitting the revenues to the government chest, they are pocketing it.

So one can say that ever since the people have requested for real political reforms that could put the country on the right footing. They wanted a slim cabinet, while the leadership opted for the opposite.
This is the same leadership that today, two years after squeezing the hell out of the people, has found itself forced to accept a slim cabinet, albeit for a different reason.

A very important point to stress here is that, it is important that our people keep a vigilant eye on the leadership. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled when certain policies are implemented only in the spirit of keeping a particular figure in office, while in the long run it will be the people to pay the price.

It is true that over the last three years the people of South Sudan, after having become disillusioned with the successive Government of South Sudan (GoSS) – aka Government of Self Service cabinets, they did call for a slim government of technocrats.

Notwithstanding the fact that there were indeed popular calls for technocrats to lead the ministries, but we need to remember that, these calls were prompted by the prevailing chaotic situation in South Sudan where as of late everyone has become a politician. And knowledgeable or not everyone is also being considered for ministerial positions by the current visionless leadership.

Talking about technocrats we mean individuals not only highly qualified in their areas of expertise, but also have had several years of working experience in that particular field – or ministry. These should have been the criteria for appointing ministers in any cabinet of technocrats.

However the pressure to become a minister at the expense of educational qualifications, experience and know how has become too high in our country and all sorts of people have looked up for these political positions. Yet it is the conviction of the few reasonable people that at this stage of our development, the country can do better under the leadership of technocrats.

Do we need anyone to tell us that it took a lot of time, money and technical expertise to construct all those buildings which are currently accommodating our government ministries and departments in Juba, while it will only take a few rockets to turn them into rabble and in no time?

Anyone can carry out the destruction, not necessarily the best in the army, but construction isn’t the same thing. This is where having technocrats becomes relevant for constructing our post conflict country.

On the other hand there were and still are much duplication of roles between the so-called specialized commissions and several of the national ministries.

One thing for certain is that when those ministries and specialized commissions were created in the first place, the SPLM Political Bureau as the decision making body until 2012 was more concerned about distributing ministerial and highly paid jobs among its members, some relatives and cronies as a form of patronage.

Without the least doubt, the current new cabinet is the brain child of president Kiir’s kitchen cabinet, albeit it came slimmer than its predecessor. However it lacks that experienced entrepreneurial touch to make it look, function and relate to one another as a truly technocratic cabinet, by putting the right persons in the right places.

In short many key ministries are still led by people who haven’t any clue of what they are about to engage in. One such example is the Ministry of Environment, which should have been led by an environmental scientist to say the least. How on earth is this Islamist scholar any relevant to this role?

The same applies to the other ministries like the Ministry of Information; such ministries are now obsolete in the 21st century, as no government has any monopoly on information in this age. However for argument sake, assuming that the leadership’s mindset is still in the 20th century, then the president should have still hired a qualified journalist for this role. This is if we want a cabinet of technocratic experts.

On the face of it the cabinet is now slim and inclusive and president Kiir will further tell you that this is what the people asked for. But we are not fools falling into that trap when he has only served his ego for power when many of his choices remain at the best of it, characters of great controversy.

President Kiir who has now replaced the peoples’ interest with his own interest, is on a mission to bamboozle us into believing that his personal interest is the same as the state’s interest and vice versa. Questioning his decision would be to question the very existence of the state itself.

The author is only stating this here for the benefit of some of the readers whose government cabinets are not the products of the “Politics of the Belly”. Otherwise for the large portion of our people, the new minsters included, they already by now know what exactly it is that the president expects of them.

At this point some people may want to register their disapprovals or reservations, but as the train of totalitarianism has long left the station, any other talk should be about how it can be stopped. For this trend must be stopped before it anchors its roots any deeper into our country, which is a land fertile with tribalism, ignorance and illiteracy.

Nonetheless it was long known that the people will never get what they ask for from president Kiir. Those who lack it can’t give it. But rather as it is the case, our people are now getting what the president wants them to get. Why?

The answer simply is, because this is what the president believes will win him the 2015 elections and see him crowned as RSS’s President for Life!

At the end what was a popular call for a genuine reform to save the country has now been hijacked to serve the president’s personal interest and guarantee him his calculated victory over anyone who dares to talk of challenging his authorities. This is how South Sudan’s reforms became lost in translation.

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. He can be reached at:


  1. Bhanyker says:

    Dr: Ramba

    As always, this is an excellent analytical approach. Observably, it seems some south Sudanese have difficulties characterizing President Kiir. Where he really belongs.
    The questions which in every SS minds is that president Kiir is an illiterate or is he an ignorant?
    1: Illiterate: Means: somebody who could’n read or write. In that case President Kiir could write and read. Then the notion that President Kiir is an illiterate is false.
    2: Ignorant: Mean: somebody lacking knowledge or sufficient information about what is happening inside the country or outside world. The second definition is undoubtedly correct. President Kiir is an ignorant. Here you have it don’t ever call president illiterate again. Call him ignorant.

    • GatCharwearbol says:

      Mr. Bhanyker,

      I completely concur with you that Kiir is not illiterate. He can read and write – that is the definition of literacy. In actuality, he is just ignorant as you said. If he could read the evil book of “The 48 laws of power”, how could he be illiterate?

      • Raan Naath says:

        Dr. Ramba,

        I agree that Kiir is not only ignorant, confused, arrogant and selfish, he is politically illiterate as well. The man is just gambling in politics and that is why he resorts to dictatorship as a way out. He is visionless but power hungry simply for material interests and arrogance.

  2. Samuel Lueth says:

    Dear Justin Ramba;
    It’s going to be very hard for us to coexist when we don’t have respect for one another in South Sudan. How can you personally call people you want to coexist and share power with arrogant, ignorant and all other kinds of disrespecting words in an English language?! Anyone you call those names is going to come after you with far worst words than you are.

    You’re not going to expect anybody to welcome you on the table with an open arm when you pronounce them as conceit and uninformed! If your knowledge failed you to see that glitch in your communication; then I am afraid; you’ll have a long way to go to reach the common ground of less hostility.

    Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they are automatically your enemies and call them anything you wish; you’re not mending any bridges between us but breaking them. If you want to coexist with us then you seriously need a different approach; the way you seem to be doing it is not going to help anyone out including you.

    • Samuel Lueth,

      Ramba, wrote a very constructive article that points out the facts that are happening in our young country. President Kiir does not have respect at all for the citizens of South Sudan. He does not deserve to be respected. Kiir has been insulting South Sudan citizens since he took power in 2005. He is selfish, power hungry, thief, and foolish. Only goofy and idiotic individuals who have been stealing public money together with Kiir can get hurt by this article.

      • Bentiu Ramaran:

        Cousin, I like your comment very much but I warn you to be cautious when making such a comment as those Uncles around you with those big, fat bellies are part of the theft and might be offended. I’m sure that their big,fat bellies don’t grow big just by breathing in the fresh air from the Central Equatoria State. Also I don’t think they even graze with the Central Equatoria Bulls around Jebel Rajaf or elsewhere in Juba. Anyhow, it was a great comment.

        “The trust must be told even if it hurts”
        Lukudu Gatkuoth Garang!


        My dear, let me tell you one thing. when Basher Goverment was dominating you people, you were unable to communicate to him like the way you do in this article directed to the president Kiir, insulting him, without respect. both of you down there were like slaves. while we were fighting hard in order to liberate this Nation till we manage as we became free today including you. please, please, please please. stop writing this article.

    • nyaputa says:

      Dear Samuel Lueth,

      My Friend, where is that bridge you claimed Dr. Justin Ramba want to break? please try to build the bridge to your side. what i see in south sudan today is a bridge that leads to Dr Justin Ramba village so, he has a right to question your so-called coexistent policy. for us to coexist, then we need to recognised ourselves as southerners and share whatever services in our government.

      • nyaputa says:

        Dr. Justin Ramba,

        you just did very good job by educating southerners about tribal institutions in south sudan.
        bridge can not built only in one direction.

  3. Mathew Riek says:

    The best article I have ever read that points out distinctively the political problems facing the new nation in the hands of the authoritarian leadership of Kiir, the absolute dictator of South Sudan who owns South Sudan as a dish of food prepared to him by his wife.

  4. Leader says:

    Dr. Ramba,
    Your article is so educative and enlightening. Keep the torch lighting. You have just expressed the fact which is shared by the majority of our people. It is everyone’s concern that there must be change in the leadership though people differ greatly on who is the right person to assume the top position.

  5. Dr. Ramba,

    I agree with you in everything you said in your article. However, development will never ever come if president Kiir continues using his leadership power to undermine the right of citizens of South Sudan. Kirr needs to give South Sudanese citizens chances to exercise their rights by choosing their own governors, MPs, ministers, and commissioners. Ordinary citizens are likely to choose good people because they know who can do good jobs.

  6. GatCharwearbol says:

    Dr. Ramba:

    This is the purest truth and the reality that our people are going through. The Politics of the belly has started here. In fact, it seems to be the norm in the great continent of Africa. Ninety-nine percent of our leaders tend to cling to power for as long as they possibly could. The same Politics of the belly is what we are now seeing in South Sudan.

    As you can see, dislodging Kiir and the company from ruining our nation will sincerely be like pulling out the teeth. This regime has planted its roots of dictatorship deep and before it sinks them any deeper, it would be wise for South Sudanese to nip these roots in the bud.

    Coming election is the only window of opportunity I see to stop Kiir from going any further. Care must be taken though since he now becomes a dangerous beast to deal with. The silent majority are waiting eagerly and with their mouths watering to unseat Salva Kiir and replace him with any person capable of delivering our nation from this chaotic state of affair.

    I am well aware that our Dinka brothers think we are against them, but the truth is, we do not care who can take over the Presidency. The only thing we care about is the ideology and vision the said individual has to offer us. This is what our nation needs badly. Any good hearted Dinka with leadership qualities can have my vote for the upcoming election.

    Kiir and Machar seem to have polarized our nation into two camps. This is not good and healthy if we are to march forward as one nation. A new face is now ideal for the betterment of this young nation.

  7. Michael Abu says:

    Good article that we need to read and analyze. It is very informative and fully stated what the citizens are facing today in South Sudan. Now Dr. Ramba, you have presented one of the ideas that we need in our country to build the nation that we can exist as one people and look out for the poor villagers that no one cares for and for soldiers that defend our country without good pay check while millions of dollars are disappearing to few individual pockets as you put it.

    Articles like this piece of your writing are the one that we want and we need to educate our people that a good leader is the one that cares about all his people not only his inner circle. If professionals like you write like this then we can change the mindset of the masses that don’t understand who is good for the country. When the truths are pointed out, we can win the minds and the hearts of our people through their intellectuals who read what other intellectuals advocate for and we will be able to bring changes in 2015 election.

    Let’s hope that unwanted leaders will be removed and replaced by the ones that will hear us and lead the country to better future and care for the citizens.

  8. Jijury says:

    Very thoughtful article indeed, but you have to remember, Dr. Ramba, unless this current system is changed nothing will move this country forward. Dinka are planning to build their Kingdom while ignoring those other 64 tribes in South Sudan.
    Thus, It’s up to those tribes to see the rain before it falls; otherwise, if they allow Dinka to build themselves up with this country’s money, the result will be disastrous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.