BY: Michael Thon Mangok, JUBA, DEC/31/2012, SSN;
The mysterious death of prolific writer, Isaiah Abraham Diing Chan Awuol, who was assassinated few weeks ago spurred up what would be seen as a second liberation in this country. His death sent heart-broken shock waves and hair raising experience with tough questions on whether South Sudan is really independent. The situation rudely made people to begin questioning the freedom, justice and liberty that were the core fundamental values of the long struggle. Such backslides normally turn and terminate the real goal for democracy in a country that had long suffered from lack of self-rule.
Well, the circumstances surrounding the death of Isaiah are not clear. But of course, few days later many Journalists and writers have found themselves locked up under the threat of intimidation; especially not to say or form opinions about his death proving the old English saying that, “Only the guilty one is afraid.”
This climate is not conducive particularly to those in the information business; doing what the public expects out of an independent media, where democracy and human rights are systematically intertwined. With our security trying to silence everyone does not constructively bring out the truth. The only approach would be allowing an independent commission or private investigators to prove the truth that might be satisfactory to the public.
During the funeral rites, people of south Sudan spoke clearly and their voices were the loudest. The immediate message was that they cannot tolerate any injustice done to them at this earlier time after such a long struggle to free themselves from the garrison of dictatorship. Isaiah’s daughter sent the crowd to tears when she read her eulogy to send off her beloved father, it demonstrated the practicality of a father who admiringly had the nation at heart; put the public interests first and considerably loved the truth through the display of his well thought writings.
Though many in this line including myself are facing security threats, the death of Isaiah is just an inspiration to the journalists and the writers to save the country from collapse. As journalists, the aim is to inform and report unquestionable information for public consumption. With such a tragic demise, journalists, writers and analysts should focus on matters of national importance that generates debate which fully creates awareness that can bring change in this country.
As the public eagerly prepare to usher in the New Year 2013, there is a lot of pending issues on the agenda for the national debate which demands for the practical journalists to compose much attention and fulfill their principle role of informing the public.
One of the issues will be the SPLM convention; the party will be put to test on whether the vision to lead the country is as good as it is now on the paper. People will ask where the model of taking town to the people is. Perhaps, they will too ask whether the system of governance is centralization or decentralization.
In the process, people of south Sudan would be stunned by the way SPLM party have become. They would ask if the movement still sticks to its values. The party they knew as the most disciplined guerrilla party in the world where the law took its course and corruption unheard of has now become the den of thieves.
Another importance debate journalists will focus on is the constitution review process, the great road to the new permanent constitution looks bleak now, the review commission mandate elapsed and the government looks relaxed with no sign of commitment to ensure that the country practically implements the permanent constitution before elections in 2015. The current constitution seemingly looks to be designed to fit certain political and ideological class not the interest of the people of this country.
This troublesome indicator suddenly puts doubt and questions the legitimacy of the current government. The elections that were held in 2010 were meant for the interim period and the mandate given by the people ended on 9th July 2011. This contradicts those who speaks on behalf of the government that this is an elected government. Let’s be straightforward; by whom?
Endlessly, the census might also take the centre stage; no country in the world has ever developed by making planning based on imagination without knowing the statistical population. One of the challenges right now is that the government gives the same grant to Ten States irrespective of their populations and this is a true source of financial inequality.
Every state contains its known population that might be greater or lesser compared to other states. Calculatingly, it is out of order for anyone to think that whatever you give to western Bhar el ghazel with three counties can produce the same developmental results in Jonglei State for example?
My crystal ball predicts that certain individuals are planning to let go of the vital census and permanent constitution which means there will be no elections in 2015. If this exercise is postponed and a permanent constitution process derailed, the current government will continue with unquestionable mandate from themselves to the year of their choice. To this, their answer is simply austerity measures as if this is the only country in the world facing the toughest austerity.
Their intention would be to explain it to the public how the country has lost 98% of the revenue from the oil which has negatively paralyzed largely the economy. But to predict it right, this is an irresistible weakness of the country’s leadership with poor planning coupled with weak policy formulations and implementation strategies.
Are they so ignorant about history? Ghana and Ivory Coast economies collapsed in 1960s and 70s respectively because of dependency on one commodity.
Accordingly, the expected debates might deliver a conclusion which leaves the country at the road junction. As an option those in the driving seat will have a choice to make, either to drown the country by their abortive clinging on to power, corruption, tribal politics characterized by “we-fought syndrome” and bureaucracy; or to press a forward button by practicing equality, rule of law, meritocracy, liberty and freedom for all. These constructive fundamentals are outlined in the constitution that needs to be approved, without it the truth is being obscured.
Like Wadah Khanfar, former director of Al-Jazeera, said, “in the media we shoulder a mission, which journalists should remain aware of as they perform. This mission is about serving the public interest without bias for one particular opinion or party or current or ideology.”
Isaiah Abraham’s death should not make the defenders of such a noble mission drop their vigor. It only should cement our commitment to the truth that liberation success has not been fully achieved. There is need for a political will from all individuals to actively defend the people’s right to useful information, deliver a devastating blow that will make impunity a foreign culture in South Sudan.
Michael Thon is a journalist and political analyst based in Juba. He hosts a talk show ‘Wake up Juba’ with Radio Bakhita.