The Battle for Winning the Hearts and Minds of South Sudanese

BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, SOUTH SUDANESE, APR/29/2013, SSN;

Recent political developments in South Sudan are promising and encouraging. The series of Republican decrees issued by the President of the Republic, Salva Kiir Mayardit in the past several weeks, including the decree that introduced the formation of a new national reconciliation committee under the auspices of His Most Reverend, Daniel Deng Bul Yak, the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, deputized by His Lordship, the renowned peace-loving and highly influential Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban of Torit Diocese of the Catholic Church, are laudable to the fullest extent possible.

Equally commendable is the accompanying Presidential decree that granted renewed Presidential amnesty to rebel groups fighting the Government of South Sudan (GoSS).

As the quick positive response exhibited by some of the rebel groups to grab the amnesty window of opportunity by both hands depicts, the politics of reconciliation is the most assured way to promoting sustainable peace in South Sudan.

The president must, therefore, receive full and unreserved credit for these latest positive policy-decisions that can be described as not short of a declaration of battle for winning the hearts and minds of South Sudanese by the President, and long may this battle continue and these constructive decrees ceaselessly flow.

The battle for winning the hearts and minds of South Sudanese is always a good thing because it can only mean that South Sudanese public stand to benefit from downward looking policies that can only improve their lot and meet the longstanding expectations of finally enjoying the fruits and peace dividends associated with being free at last.

In addition, such renewed policy changes can only set the Republic on the road to progress, development, envisioned by the liberation struggle as to live a dignified life of justice, equality and prosperity, as opposed to previous visionless policies that were bound to put us on a road to the Balkans, from Rwanda through Somalia.

It seems the President is finally coming to his senses and is beginning to realize that he has been misled into overlooking the grievance of his people. The people for whom the President heroically dedicated his adult life since he was 17 years of age by struggling in the thorny bushes of South Sudan, in order to free South Sudan from the yolk of colonial subjugation, slavery, marginalization and impoverishment.

Moreover, the President also seems to have come to the realization that his own political carrier and future is on the line, and depends on the future he charts out for South Sudanese, and the fledgling Republic.

It has also likely, albeit rather belatedly dawned on the President that securing a third term in the office is contingent on winning the hearts and minds of the South Sudanese public, rather than the misleading attempts at gratifying the individual greed and parochial interest of elite few for whom the national interest of South Sudan doesn’t exist. For these individuals, South Sudan is a fountain for personal enrichment and a forum for belly-politics that serve only their interest and that of their immediate families and possibly their kinsmen and women.

In this context, the hearts and minds of South Sudanese can only be won through the pursuit of not the already tried and failed policies of political cronyism promoted by the political opportunists in the government, including those serving as advisers of the President, but by policies responsive to the people as the President has elected to pursue in recent weeks.

The changing policies must continue to follow the recommendations made in relation to the ethics of reconciliation on our previous discussions.

With the formation of the new national reconciliation committee, and the issuing of Presidential amnesty, the President must continue to show his resolve and political will that show he has turned the corner. This can be shown by making the amnesty a blanket one offered to all political opponents, including the likes of Elder Justice Peter Sule, who are still languishing in arbitrary detention under rebellion related allegations for which the President has now issued the renewed amnesty.

Or else, the President risks being seen as settling old scores or harboring grudge towards Equatorians for whatever reason, which may jeopardize the integrity of the renewed nationwide national reconciliation process and render the exercise redundant and waste of resources.

In furtherance, the President must capitalize on the momentum gained by the recent decrees, and consolidate them by appearing to be building and reforming state institutions, particularly the rule of law and security sector.

Likewise, the President must be seen to be reducing and reshuffling the government, including relieving old and appointing new Presidential advisers in a diverse and inclusive manner.

Now that the oil is back up and running, signs of social and economic service delivery must begin to be seen by the people to instill or restore optimism and confidence in their government again.

Recent discourses on quality education, enhanced housing sector et al., must be followed with action and concrete gestures to that end, even if it means digging a hole and pouring some concrete cement by the President before the media as a sign of things to come, in terms of social service delivery, such as the building of schools and provision of quality education.

As part of economic service delivery, employment opportunities must begin to be created and made accessible to all without regard to ethnicity, tribe, creed, religion, gender and the like.

Other principles of freedom, human rights, individual liberties, and democracy must equally appear to be safeguarded, encouraged and practiced. The President must redouble his efforts, and work closely with the procrastinating parliamentarians to begin to pass some of the outstanding bills still lying on their desks.

The permanent constitution making committee must up its game, and complete a draft permanent constitution of the Republic at their earliest convenience. In a nutshell, the President must now not look back, but continue in the direction of his seemingly newly preferred people-oriented and peace-building policies, even as South Sudanese public register their appreciation of his new policies.

In terms of laying the groundwork for the anticipated national reconciliation process, the media must be encouraged to dissipate peace and reconciliation messages to our people. Media programs must be setup to elicit what constitutes peace and reconciliation as defined by our rich and diverse South Sudanese ethnic groups.

Traditional elders and ethnic representative must be widely consulted on how they envision the national reconciliation process to be effective and sustainable. Our senior political leadership must also be hosted in nationwide televised programs to discuss their experiences with some of the most gruesome atrocities we have committed against each during the war years.

Truth telling and acknowledgment of those atrocities is in order as part of the national reconciliation agenda in South Sudan, the culmination of which will result in reciprocated public apologies by our political leadership that should lead to mutual forgiveness and the opening of a new chapter in our history.

Building memorials to commemorate some of these atrocities, and naming schools, streets, monuments et al., after fallen martyrs of past atrocities must also begin to be publicly debated, while reparation mechanisms to compensate victims or their relatives must also be publicly considered and discussed.

On the whole the new policy direction and steps that are currently being taken by the President must be welcomed and appreciated, even us the President must be encouraged to do more.

Surprisingly, some of our brothers remain unhappy with the new policy direction taken by the President, and have rushed to dismantle the formation of the new national reconciliation committee spearheaded by Bishop Bul, for instance.

Many factors have been cited, including past failures by Bishop Bul in reconciling belligerent communities in Jonglei State and elsewhere, and question-marks surrounding the neutrality and moral credibility of the Bishop, as well as what has been seen as a continuation of nepotism in the appointment of a Dinka to spearhead this process.

Encouragingly, our brothers from across the various South Sudanese tribes, including Dinka and Nuer, have aired their view of wanting to see His Lordship, Bishop Taban led the process.

However, a close examination of the newly formed reconciliation committee rebuts the position of our disgruntled brothers, and instead shows a shrewd side of the President that defeats the naked-eye of the average South Sudanese, who may have lost trust in the President’s decisions based on previous experiences.

Yet, from an ecclesiastical point of view, the President’s appointment of Bishop Bul as the head of the new reconciliation committee suggests the President is well-informed, and is in touch with the doctrinal teachings on church polity and jurisdictions, as well as pastoral theology.

Traditionally, the Greater Upper Nile State has been mostly under the jurisdiction of the Protestant Church with the Episcopal Church constituting the largest church, followed by the Presbyterian Church. The Catholic congregation is a minority in this geographic area. In consequence, it is only logical that the reconciliation committee must be led by a Protestant shepherd. And since Bishop Bul is the head of the largest congregation in this area, it follows that his assignment as the chair of the new reconciliation committee is spot on by the President.

Assigning a Catholic Bishop to spearhead a reconciliation process, whose strategic objective is to heal past wounds beginning with atrocities committed in the Greater Upper Nile State would not only violate church jurisdictions, but may also be counterproductive.

Moreover, contrary to claims that the appointment of Bishop Bul is based on nepotism, the reverse is true. The President would have been nepotistic had he appointed a Catholic shepherd to lead the Protestant sheep that dominate the Greater Upper Nile State.

Such an appointment would have made the President appear ignorant, but also be seen as appointing his church leadership, since the President is a member of the Catholic Church. Besides, Bishop Taban does not need to be head of the national reconciliation committee in order to influence its deliberations.

He can play an influential supporting role from behind, much like he did during the liberation struggle leading to the signing of the CPA and beyond. In sum, let us rally behind the reconciliation process and collectively work toward fostering unity, harmony and peace between our people in South Sudan.

To wrap it all up, in order for the President to win the hearts and minds of South Sudanese, and perhaps secure a third term in the first office of the Republic, he must continue to be seen to have ushered in a new policy direction that is people-oriented, unifying, and promoting sustainable and just peace in the Republic at the center of which is service delivery.

The hearts and minds of South Sudanese can only be won through access to basic human rights and amenities, such as daily bread and clean drinking water, quality education, affordable healthcare, livelihoods and employment opportunities, infrastructure, security, individual freedom and liberties, and the like.

Guarantee these needs, and you would have likely secured a third term at the helm of the Republic.

I am just a concerned South Sudanese, and happy to entertain questions and concerns at: tloloyuong@gmail.com

8 Comments

  1. Dau-network says:

    Tongun Lo.
    Don’t run your mouth reckless on the decision made by president for appointing 2 archbishops is welcomed.
    Next step, we like president Kiir to nominate his successor candidate instead of contesting again.
    Mr president, we like you for your standing for SPLM/SPLA from beginning and your success through referendum to independence.
    Don’t destroy your reputation like Gadaffi and Mubarak, these confused generation will remember you when you left at the end of this term. Not because you are too bad but to give others chance and your legacy. 10 Years in power are enough.
    The worse president will come after you, if you don’t nominate the party’s candidate. If you like this country, don’t contest, don’t give Dr traitor a chance, better Joseph Bakosoro, John Lok, Dr Majak Agoot, pagan Amum and others you prefer.
    To assure guys, president is a fool , because he had declared ealier that he was for separation, Bashir would have violated our golden CPA.
    You guys whose want a change, let’s go for Joseph Bakosoro the governor of western equatoria, he working hard toward development.
    Joseph Bakosoro oooyeeee.oooyeeee.

    • Gatkuoth Lok says:

      You go for Bakosoro, for you know very well what you are saying. Man is the measure of everything, things that are, that they are and things that are not that they are not (one of the ancient Greek philosophers said).

  2. Dau-network says:

    Guys l mean president is not a fool.

  3. BOM PET says:

    Mr. Tongun Lo Yoyuong, thanks for this constructive comment. However, our beloved president has a long way to go in order to secure a third term in office as the head of this country. Remember, a student who does not begin his/her studies right away as soon as the school opens, doesn’t succeed in the final exams. Mr. president’s efforts may be in vain in the next presidential election due in two-year-time.

  4. Deng says:

    No 2nd or 3rd term for him please!!! Let him go and rest after long struggle.

  5. Dhaal Mapuor says:

    Dear Tongun Lo Loyuong,
    Am incredibly pleased and enthused by your insightful article. It has structurally entailed facts in depth. It’s too late for the president to battle to win the hearts and Minds of South Sudanese at this time. Social service delivery has been so poor. Many primary and secondary schools remained closed for several months because of lack of teachers due to either a low pay or no wages at all. Universities in the country also suffered frequent closures since independence in 2011 because of lack of funds to pay both teaching and technical staffs at the university. No money to build adequate lecture theaters and recruit more lecturers for various faculties in a range of Universities in South Sudan. The university students remained demoralized to a point of no repair.

    Out of aforementioned failures of Kiir’s administration, health care remained one of the most challenging issues in the country. No qualified doctors. Those who are qualified have opted for private clinical and medical enterprises to earn their living because they are either poorly paid or not paid at all in the public hospitals. Wards in several major hospitals including Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba are not bedded, no constant electricity and the admission rooms for patients are so insufficient and laughable.

    The rule of law is at the verge of death. Security, individual freedom and liberties are not felt. Food insecurity becomes a life demanding threat in the country. People are starving in Unity and Eastern Equatoria States and the Response and Emergency Department in the President’s office remained silent.

    It’s really promising that the country is removing the grudges of wounds inflicted in the past and the current conflicts by opening the new chapter of peace and reconciliation. The appointment of His Lordship Deng Bul, though extensively criticized, I personally applauded it in the religious point of view. The committee, I hope will work for greatness of this big land.

    It has nothing to do with hatred if one points out where the government has failed. If the government is not criticized positively, the engineers in the machinery will not perform well because they won’t be aware of where they have gone wrong.

  6. Magangdit says:

    To S.sudanese,
    FYI, The president is going for the 3rd, 4th and 5th terms, believe me or not, I know the president more than anybody in south Sudan. mark my word.

  7. bolabokdit says:

    Guys, honestly I am worried for those people who want to lead the country. some of these people had been fighting SPLM/A at the of struggle just for Leadership. I don’t know, is it the title that is important or security and services a president delivered to the public? I strongly believe Kiir Mayardit has to lead our country while preparing for selfless person as his successor. The only mistake Kiir does was that he appeased power and wealth hunger with public fund to bring peace in the country. There is corruption in every country but there are institutions to correct it. the question is why southern Sudanese lack institution to correct this corruption?

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