BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, SOUTH SUDANESE, APR/14/2013, SSN;
As promised, in this sequence of pieces, I reflect on what I referred to in a previous discussion as the “Dinka problem in South Sudan.” I figured I had to rush my views out, before petro-dollars hit Juba streets from the world market following the resumption of oil production and export. This is mainly because the viability of the argument presented here hinges in part on the petrodollar drought and the now popularly dubbed “Kostirity measures” —a phrase used to describe the austerity measures taken by GoSS following the termination of oil production in January 2012.
At stake to be explicated in some detail is, therefore, mainly the seeming impotence exhibited by our political leadership in tackling head-on the ills of wanton corruption in the Republic. Part of this weakness emanates from what can be argued as a moral dilemma, a divided loyalty, or an apparent disconnect between the moral ideals and practice of the Dinka society, which I see as the Dinka problem in South Sudan.
However, to be frank from the onset, the issue of corruption is not unique to the Dinka society, nor is the Dinka society its sole benefactors. It is a national problem, and as such all South Sudanese tribes have also found themselves wanting in combating this issue. In that sense singling the Dinka tribe out in this piece may raise eyebrows, draw ire, or some of our brothers may even rush to call for my head, if they have not already done so.
But, the objective here is to show how the Dinka society being the big brother or sister of South Sudanese by virtue of being the largest tribe that also dominates the Kiir regime, is required to lead by an example for the smaller tribes to emulate.
To be sure, I am no tribal bigot. In fact I come from a family whose relationships cut-across several ethnicities in South Sudan, including Dinka and Nuer. One of my favorite cousins, who I harbor much respect for as an older brother, and who mentored me as a boy on survival mechanisms and how to be independent and navigate the famine-ridden and unforgiving environment of Juba, hails from a Dinka father. I also have younger cousins from Nuer mother, cousins married to Dinka individuals, and cousins hailing from Mundari tribe, and the list is long.
If anything, therefore, the intention is to mitigate and if possible neutralize public wrath and ire that is indiscriminately directed at the whole Dinka tribe for the failures of individuals within the current regime under the leadership of his Mr. President Salvatore Kiir Mayardit.
However, the corrupt individuals within the current regime would not have excelled in this vice without cover and impunity from above, as well as from below, namely the various South Sudanese ethnic groups, not least the communities from which these individuals hail from, and more so from our Dinka brothers and sisters, for the reasons outlined hereafter.
In the past, when questions were raised about unaccounted for missing funds, the concerned political authorities were quick to divert the blame and argued that the instructions to allocate the funds in that questionable manner came from above. Moreover, the culture of impunity from above can again be seen in how the Kiir regime has failed to grab the endemic corruption in the Republic by the throat, and all under the pretext of Pax-South Sudan.
Where is this peace that needs to be maintained, while the baby state is degenerating across ethnicities? There is no need to remind ourselves of Kiir’s weak political leadership as exemplified in the “open tent” appeasement policies, and his 75 feeble memoirs written to the corruption cartel in South Sudan to “bring the money back” to a secret location, but which went unheeded, precisely because of the seeming impunity from above.
By the same token there is impunity from below. Until recently for instance, when a simple criticism was expressed against the Kiir government, even without making mention of Dinka, our Dinka brothers are immediately irritated and found it extremely offensive, as if the Dinka tribe was under attack. There was no distinction made between the tribe and the government.
In recent months, however, there is a growing trend within the Dinka communities to distance themselves from the President. Most have started arguing that the whole tribe must not be blamed for the shortcomings and the rampant corruption in the Kiir’s regime, and rightly so.
Thus, the promising side is that at least there is now an acknowledgment of grave mistakes being committed in the governance of the country, and there is a deliberate attempt to distinguish between the government and the tribe. Others have even started emphasizing the plurality of the Dinka tribe, redirecting the blame to Warrap State where the President hails from, which I think is equally ill-informed.
In all this what is clear is that the President’s support base has dwindled in recent months. The President’s popularity has evidently dipped within the various Dinka clans, particularly within the Bor Dinka, for what they see as isolation and marginalization from rightful entitlement to holding key political leadership positions, and the alleged violation of the right to life by Kiir’s custodians, namely the “kitchen boys” or the “tigers.”
One only needs to look at the strong widespread public condemnation of the Kiir’s regime by the Dinka Bor specifically, following the unfortunate assassination of (Abraham) Diing Chan Awuol to see how Kiir’s popularity within the Dinka society is on the decline.
An added reason for this in my view is also related to the decision to shut down the oil production. The surge in political dissidence against Kiir within the Jieng society one would argue, therefore, is equally reinforced by the drought in petrodollars and the drying out of the Ministry of Finance, which means not enough money to go around to silence disgruntled Jieng’s voices.
But again it is important to note that this is not only a Jieng problem that voices of dissent can be muted through cash handouts. The Jieng society is not the only society in need in the country.
Moreover, it is not entirely our fault or the fault of those who have found themselves rooted in perpetual poverty as a result of the civil wars and destitution in the country before and after the Southern independence to trade prophetic voices for money. This considered, it is, therefore, not surprising that when there is need and cash is being splashed out, you are likely to take your cut and turn the other way.
Only few people in this world are able to resist accepting cash handout without prior explanation regarding the source of the money. I mean let’s be real, in South Sudan with the current difficult living conditions and the skyrocketing commodity prices, and without adequate cash flow in return, mounu yao bi aba gouroush (who will refuse free cash handouts)?
In fact the corrupt official will be hailed for coming to the rescue, regardless of the strings attached.
In a sense then, the oil shut down and the ensuing ‘Kostirity’ measures came as a blessing to rescue the South Sudanese society from morally decaying as a result of the ills of wanton corruption.
Understood this way, the current pressing concern for many South Sudanese watchers is that when the oil dollar starts raining in Juba again, the resource curse of corruption is likely to rekindle and gather momentum. Additionally, with oil production back up and running again, our fear is that the security situation in the country is likely to worsen rather than improve and criminal activities are equally likely to resume business as usual and escalate rather than ebb.
I hope I am wrong, and our government owners have learned their lesson, and more transparency and accountability measures will be taken, to ensure the resources are better managed and evenly distributed this time around, and security and effective social and economic services are efficiently overseen and delivered.
But until that happens, one is justified to argue that the oil shut down and the ensuing ‘Kostirity’ measures are lesser of an evil that may have mitigated the greater evil caused by the preceding rampant corruption practiced by some of our civil servants and government owners, who have lost their way.
Currently, word on the street in Juba is that everybody has a price tag, and a buy-out clause in the case of our political leadership, which makes it even all the more pertinent for South Sudanese to team up and in unison and say no to corruption.
Buying and selling of leadership positions is currently the hot topic in relation to the power struggle brewing over who is to claim the top spot in the SPLM party. Unfortunately, the resumption of the flow of petrodollar revenues from the oil production and export is likely to aid in the task of buying out contestants for the top seat in the SPLM organization, encourage corruption, and render democratic exercise within that party meaningless, which may foreshadow a similar fate in the 2015 national elections.
It seems President Kiir is adamant to carry on for a third term in the first office that will take his tenure at the helm of the Republic to the year 2020, if not beyond. I hope these are baseless rumors, and will have to write an apology letter to the President if it turns out he is not running for the first office again. But in South Sudan, there is no smoke without fire!
If this is true then South Sudan must brace itself for a long and arduous journey ahead, unless there a miraculous change of policies and heart in the President.
The signs will be on the wall when the SPLM party displays its dirty linen to the public in the upcoming party convention in May 2013. This convention will determine the fate of our people, whether to make a nation called South Sudan or break the nascent state, which, God forbid, may in worst case scenario culminate in Balkanization, or Rwandanization, and Somalization or a combination thereof of our endeared Republic.
But lest I be misunderstood, I am no warmonger or a prophet of doom, and I don’t have children overseas. I only ignorantly whine, bicker and reflect based on the reality on the ground that the Dinka problem in South Sudan is the moral dilemma or the divided loyalty currently exhibited by our brothers with regards to their clear position towards the President Kiir’s leadership and policies.
Do we support the tribe or the clan, and therefore, the President at all costs? Or do we conclude from the conclusive evidence of the past 9 years that a fresh leadership and impetus is needed to steer the country forward, in order to create a nation called South Sudan?
This is the lingering moral dilemma our Dinka brothers and sisters, and all South Sudanese will have to grapple with and wisely choose between in the days and months ahead.
That said it is not enough to disown a member of our ethnic group when all is not well, and to beat our breasts and claim him when he excels. What is needed is a collective unified position that reprimands this member of our society when grave mistakes that tarnish the image of the whole ethnic group are being committed based on the traditional beliefs and moral ideals of the ethnic group, but the individual must also be commended when he is doing the right thing.
Nonetheless, and this is the heart of the Dinka problem, due to a moral dilemma or divided loyalty, the Dinka tribe as a whole is yet to issue a public statement outlining their assessment of Kiir’s performance or at least in a manner similar to the Equatoria 2013 conference, underscoring their fears and grievances.
How I consider this to be a practice that exhibits a deviation or disconnect from Dinka moral ideals and the nature of these ideals is the burden of part two of this exercise. Stay tuned.
I am just a concerned South Sudanese citizen, and happy to entertain questions and concerns at: firstname.lastname@example.org