The Moral Discrepancy at Higher Echelon of Political Power in South Sudan

The Moral Discrepancy between Traditional Ethical Values and Practice at the Higher Echelon of Political Power in South Sudan

BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, FINLAND, AP/23/2013, SSN;

While we are at it, kindly allow me to clarify my views on the previous article that I subjectively and perhaps erroneously so, entitled “The Dinka Problem in South Sudan: Part I.” Three main points can be recapped and set straight from that discussion going forward in this piece, which from now on should be treated as an examination of the moral discrepancy between traditional ethical values and practice at the higher echelon of political power in South Sudan in relation to the issue of corruption.

As some have correctly pointed out in the previous discussion, discussing corruption in the Republic is a thorny issue, and may cause you your life. It is even more sensitive to try to come at it from below without offending anybody by reflecting on what I previously called “impunity from below.”

Thus, it was clear from some of the public uproar, verbal abuse and threats following the previous piece that engaging in such an exercise may be counterproductive at the time being. It may also promote disunity rather than foster the desperately needed unity among our people and collective South Sudanese stance against the corruption venality in South Sudan—the very purpose for which we labor in putting our views together in writing.

Since there was plenty of misunderstandings, it is important to be on the same page regarding the main points articulated, and the morale of the previous exercise. The central argument I attempted to present as objectively as possible on that occasion, is that the carnal corruption is eroding the social fabric of our people, and impeding development and progress in our costly and hard-won Republic.

This is in part because of greed of our political leadership exacerbated by what I called “impunity from above,” and in part due to the need of our people who have been condemned to perpetual deprivation as a result of intractable civil wars.

Because of being subjected to deep and sustained impoverishment during the wartime, and even in the era of the CPA peace agreement, including after the independence of South Sudan, our people have albeit unwittingly, found it difficult to resist being lured into participating in corruption and hence indirectly providing impunity from below.

This impunity from below in turn further contributes to social disharmony and the polarization of our people across ethnicities.

But in light of the negative public reaction of some of our brothers, perhaps it is now best to dismiss impunity from below as a morally justified practice or a byproduct of an existential struggle to survive due to persistent marginalization and destitution of our people by the governments of the day, including both northern governments and their counterpart in the South.

Secondly, on the previous occasion I argued that the oil shut down and the subsequent “Kostirity measures, ”though biting hard on the poor, was nonetheless, a lesser evil and came to rescue and mitigate the greater evil of our continued social decay and ethnic multi-polarity, which is proving to be destructive to our nation building aspirations and efforts.

Moreover, due to the austerity measures I contended, the eyes of our people were opened as voices of acknowledgment of mis-governance and corruption that rose above tribal commitments and that would have otherwise been vulnerable to being quieted through petrodollar hush money as a result of the perpetual state of need of our people, became louder and clearer.

And thirdly, I maintained that the prophetic voices of dissent against wanton corruption and political malpractices, however increasing and deafening in recent months, will remain scant and ineffectual, as long as they are not bolstered by a collective effort and official public statement that assesses the performance of the government, and outlines a collective vision on the way forward to build a peaceful, just, equal and prosperous united nation called South Sudan.

While I may have regrettably failed to clarify why I examined this thorny corruption issue from a Dinka perspective, the underlying assumption was that, as an elder son of several younger siblings myself, in the absence of my father, I have had to assume the responsibility to lead my younger brothers and sisters by example, in order for them to develop into becoming healthy and contributing members of the society. If I fail, they will also fail or so my South Sudanese traditional culture tells me.

Thus, using this cultural metaphor where the older son assumes responsibility of the family in tandem with the fact that the Jieng community constitutes the largest tribe, and therefore, representing the elder sibling that also dominates the current government, I saw it fit to encourage our Jieng brothers to lead by example in addressing how corruption has been handled, to ensure the country does not fall apart.

South Sudanese have bitterly complained about power abuse and excessive constitutional powers wielded by the President. But monjang, and all South Sudanese are the true constitutional power holders in the Republic. Without the Jieng’s support, and our collective social contract to be law abiding citizens those constitutional powers held by the President, are null and void.

After all, the law is made for the people, not people for the law. In this context, South Sudanese collectively have the constitutional power and moral responsibility to inform the President on our vision for a peaceful united South Sudan that is not wracked by corruption. We also have the moral duty to kindly urge the President to grab this corruption disease by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.

Alas, I must stop “rumbling too much,” as our elder brother, Chief Abiko would wisely advice. Bottom line is that due to the three points outlined above, the rest of this exercise employs Dinka cultural lens to try and understand the seeming discrepancy between Dinka cultural moral ideals and practice in the Jieng’s majority led government of South Sudan.

In this regard, I am aware and take on board the constructive reservations that have been expressed about the “sensational” usage of the title “the Dinka Problem in South Sudan” in this sequence of reflections, and hence the change of the title here.

In fact in anticipation of such reservations, I attempted to use the subjective proposition “in” as in “the Dinka Problem (in) South Sudan,” to imply the problem exists as subjectively seen by me from a Jieng’s cultural perspective, rather than using the objective proposition “of” as in “Dinka Problem (of) South Sudan,” which may mean the Dinka are objectively being condemned as the Problem of South Sudan, which is far from it.

In the end these are my views and my views alone, which may perhaps make more sense to me than to others. If this is the case, kindly disregard this exercise, without the need for verbal abuse or posing threats. I stand responsible for my opinion pieces—that I know.

Now, picking up from where we left off we will attempt to answer the question of how does the government’s ineptitude to remove the impunity from above from the corrupt officials not only risks eroding the well-being of South Sudan, but also defies and contradicts the cultural moral existence and practice of our people?

This is examined here by looking at some of the core cultural moral values, or Jieng’s cultural moral discourse on issues such as greed, justice and wholeness of the society.

Without further ado, unpacking Jieng’s cultural stance vis-à-vis greed yields intriguing results. As a result, the Jieng culture like most South Sudanese cultures is one that can be summed up as a morally driven culture that is abhorrent to greed, and therefore, corruption and the impunity from above that condones the practice of such vice within the higher echelon of political power in South Sudan.

Looking at Dinka worldview and cosmology that defines the Jieng culture, for example, it is readily apparent that there is not only zero-tolerance of greed and corruption, but also that it was precisely because of human greed that the Jieng society conceptualizes and articulates our current human condition, and the reasons for our demotion to endless suffering by God the Creator (Nhialic Aciek), from our previous primordial state of bliss.

According to one of the most popular Dinka mythologies, which is reminiscent of the Genesis account of the fall of man in the Hebrew Bible, the current human condition was precipitated by greed of our ancestors — whose names were Garang and Abuk.

Before the world was “spoilt,” the account enumerates that the earth and the sky were not far removed from each other as is currently evident. Rather, Garang and Abuk, the first man and woman residing on earth, could with limited effort climb their way up to the sky—also known as nhialic by means of a rope that connected both spheres.

God provided Garang and Abuk with one grain of millet for their daily subsistence, and prohibited them from carrying out any effort to provide for themselves. However, because of Abuk’s greed (and Garang’s complicity too), she disobeyed God by cultivating more grain for consumption.

As she raised her hoe to cultivate the ground, Abuk ended up striking God, which prompted God to retire far beyond human reach, expanding the gap between the earth and the sky in the process. God sent a bird to sever the rope that linked the earth and the sky, thus alienating Garang and Abuk and their subsequent offspring from God.

Along with this separation, God told Garang and Abuk that they are on their own now. Consequently, hunger, disease and death became the fate of humanity, as the world became spoilt.

This rich Dinka mythology, which recounts the origin of humanity’s separation from God, highlights how divine-Dinka relationship was originally harmonious and peaceful, characterized by the Dinka’s relative accessibility to the divine abode in the sky. God provided for the daily needs of Garang and Abuk, albeit with the condition that they should rely entirely on divine providence.

However, greed meant that divine-Dinka relations deteriorated as God and the sky withdrew at a distance, while hunger, violence, disease, and death became a commonplace. Can you see the similarity in the current practices of our government owners?

Understood this way, greed in Dinka culture is a repellent vice that raptures harmonious divine-human relations as well as social relations, and is therefore strongly discouraged. Why are some of our people now indulge in greed and corruption—practices that are alien to our traditional cultural beliefs and moral practice with impunity from above?

Why have these values been rendered a thing of the past, and when we try to remind ourselves about staying faithful to our cultural values, we are accused of perpetuating tribalism and inciting disharmony in the community?

To restore sound divine-human relations and social harmony, Dinka religion was introduced to function as the bridge between the spiritual and corporeal. Spiritual leaders perform ceremonies and rituals of reconciliation between God and human beings as well as between human beings themselves centered on cattle transactions.

Perhaps, this also explains the unique affiliation with cattle-herding in Dinka culture. In Dinka religion, cattle are offered as sacrifices to appease Nhialic, as well as the spirits of the ancestors believed to be involved in our daily activities, and can invoke curse or bestow abundant blessings depending on our moral display, including in relation to greed and corruption.

These spirits are collectively referred to as yeeth. As the prominent Dinka expert, Godfrey Lienhardt, in his book “Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka,” aptly noted: “relationships between human beings and the divine are regulated by the transfer of cattle in dedication and sacrifice, as conflicts between different human groups are resolved by the simple transfer of cattle from the offending to the offended group.”

In short, greed and corruption is abhorrent in Dinka world view and religion, and therefore, those who practice this vice with impunity are not worthy to be seen as members of our traditional societies. This is particularly true of our current political leadership, who in their greed and corruption practices, have become a tribe unto themselves.

I will examine the remaining part of this discussion by reflecting on how the Dinka culture treats the concept of social justice, and the wholeness of the society in the last part of this sequence of opinion pieces due in the foreseeable future.

The discrepancy between our traditional ethical values and practice at the higher echelon of political power in South Sudan in relation to the issue of corruption will be examined in our next piece, more specifically as reflected in Dinka social organization, folktales, and songs, and also in terms of what is expected of a leader, political as well as spiritual. Stay tuned.

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

16 Comments

  1. Simon Tongyik says:

    what would you think if Dinka Corruption reached to the extent to God, would it not be hard for any earthen to change them from practicing the corruption in South Sudan? Therefore, this what South Sudanese perceive about Dinka behavior. But to end this practice would require the change of this government because there will be no solution aside of change at lest tribal war that is not necessarily needed in our country now.

  2. Gatkuoth Lok says:

    Good Mr. Tongun, however, your article is based on Dinka cosmology and cosmogony in explicating what is good to be done and bad/evil to be avoided in Dinka cultural standpoint, implicitly containing Jieng political culture within which the way politics is being played is said to be applauded or the opposite.
    To me , this is a combination of three disciplines: cosmology, moral philosophy and political philosophy. Leaving those areas aside, now, mythical stories are not true nor false for they did not happen in time nor in space, only they may be meaningful and useful for God-fearing people, not the reverse. Hence the judgement based upon Abuk-Garang original sin in relation to how politics is being safely and unsafely played seems to me nonsensical and absurd.

    Since the inference of the essence of your article is manifest to show the Jieng Nation that it is as corrupt as their ancestors although paying lip service to zero tolerance against corruption, yet to you they will do nothing. (mere recognition) I think moral values in the aforesaid culture are paramount only that politicians held from the aforementioned Nation may not do as expected of them by elderly Dinka, or else what is immoral not to be done is politically necessary evil, to be done. Mind you my friend, meanings of all things, which you can remember are all conferred on those things by people depending on a player in a specific time and place.

    Politics is a phenomenon, new to many people in our country. Mr. Tongun tell us plainly what you want to say of the government of South Sudan leaving aside any kind of fallacy of generalization against Jieng. Preach what brings us all together rather than what takes us apart, for it is our absolute responsibility to love one another or not.

  3. Dau-network says:

    “Confused generation,” as the American’s book says!!!
    Meaning, when the grown-up children joined civilisation, they could be between the two cultures.
    These half-educated people such as Tongun and others are worse than villagers in their hatred toward certain tribes instead of challenging the government. No country without a big tribe, even if the Equatorians got their independence, then Zande tribe should be dominating!!!!

    Equatorians are about to miss a chance, they should rally behind Joseph Bakosoro and most of dinka will throw their support on him against Dr Riek. He should do it through other party rather than SPLM, because he can’t win a party’s election.
    Contribute your ideas but not based on tribes.

  4. umoja says:

    Gatkuoth Lok,
    In Jeing society cows are valued to human beings, now if you can see Jeing people are dying after cows it is difficult for any person to understand. If cattle raiding is not a sin in Jeing society how do you think Jeing can respect resources of a nation?

    So please tell jeing that stealing cows should not be brought into public resources. It’s better for our president to send his people to steal cows in the village than stealing public resources that belong to all not only Jeing.

    Umoja

  5. malith Alier says:

    I have watched many articles against and for Jieng, if that generalization is correct. I have also watched the world for and against USA. USA is hated and loved at different times, when something goes wrong and America does nothing it is blamed but at no fault of its own. The same is applicable for Jieng in South Sudan. Let me remind all of you, the haters and lovers of Jieng, that Jieng is a force for good in the country like Kikuyu of Kenya.

  6. James Lual Garang says:

    I completely agree with Gatkouth, I have lived with many people from different ethnic backgrounds but I didn’t see anything like corruption or greed being attached to (one tribe)….The only option best is to preach ‘unity’ in our society and live as one with common objective (South Sudan). To me I don’t really see the importance of looking at ourselves from tribal perspective because there is nothing we can make out of it. I love to read Tongun’s articles but now is trying to revert my thinking about him as a person. Let us appreciate good and condemn evils like greed or corruption whether being practiced by Dinka or whosoever.

  7. Dmajak says:

    To umoja,
    your hate speech for Dinka will not do you any good. Keep writing, you will learn a good lesson from Dinka people if you are in south Sudan.

  8. Government of South Sudan is not Dinka and leaders are government ministers and other officials. To me tribes of South Sudan are in the government and those corrupt peoples. I do not understand why is my friend talked of Dinka, leaving aside his/her tribesmen.

    • chop_chol says:

      dear friend, let me tell you this; south sudan is home land for dinka regardless of who lives in the south. Therefore whoever work on this corrupted Government is a Dinka. You think you are not corrurted; but we know who you are. In the real no happy looser, but there is a happy winner for sure machar will in that coming election. don’t waste your time joining the coming president machar; because kiir time is gone and now is the time for Dr Riek

  9. Bingo, this is wise and senseful comment, dear Mr. Gatkuoth Lol, generalization of one tribe as the corrupt one is not logical, all walks of life of the South Sudan tribes and ethnicities as well as all the Political Parties are part of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, not all of the participants in the Government are all corrupt, but some of them from different tribes, each in his own capacity not necessarily mandated by his own tribe to loot the nation, what we could all call for is accountability and the rule of law, period.

  10. Dau-network says:

    Brother Umoja. I think you didn’t ever lead your small community to test how difficult the leadership is. I’m not pro-Kiir but be sure leadership is a difficult task if you are not talented.
    The most ARCHENEMIES of Sudan are Umoja, Tongun, Mi diit, Alhag Paul, these people are encouraging tribalism but will not help. Brothers, you better join me to campaign for Joseph Bakosoro to be next president instead of non-productive regime of Kiir and Dr Riek.
    Could you read Dr Riek Machar 1997 agreement, it shows that he is a shallow-minded man, because you should not sign the agreements which excluded the separate ARMY. how did he think that agreement would survive without protection?
    Another weakness was the court of Arbitration about Abyei and Heglig/panthou, when he said yes.. yes.. yes, before making consultation. That’s why S Sudanese should not delegate him for anything concerning any argument. He will let us down.
    Joseph Bakosoro ooooyeeeee.

    • Dau-Network:

      Thank you for nominating Governor Joseph Bakosoro of Western Equatoria. He will certainly be a great leader for our Country. We will elect him if he agrees to run for the presidency of South Sudan in 2015. Long Live to Governor Bakosoro!… Long Live to the great people of South Sudan!….. Joseph Bakosoro Oyee!

  11. Manyok Chuol says:

    Dear Tongun,

    This is another brilliant piece! I’m surprised some people think that Tongun is attacking the Dinka, far from it; this discourse is good for the country. Tongun Lo Loyuong is mature and he writes responsibly and for anyone to aim to silence him is reprehensible.

    On this article, I must say that the moral in Dinka mythology so eloquently narrated and aptly weaved into this discussion about corruption applies to all including non-Dinka South Sudanese and in a very powerful way; the perils of corruption are morally laid bare!

    As a Jieng myself, I must admit I learnt of the moral or teachings of this Dinka legend when I was a very young boy but never heard it told again until I read this piece! Similarly, I also admit that I have not reflected on it in recent past and this probably tells you how discounted to our roots we all are, in spite of our impetuosity to identify with tribes for which we know or reflect very little about.

    In this regard, and despite the very powerful moral of this legend against greed in society, it pains me to say, and knowing very well that I’m at risk of appearing as if defending corrupt Dinka/Jieng officials in government, these corrupt Dinka and non-Dinka South Sudanese alike have chosen to be part of a new and separate culture, the culture of crooked ruling elites.

    These lords of corruption keep their loot in foreign land and they work in cahoot with foreign nationals and I’m not sure why a man of apparent intelligence as Tongun should bother associating these thieves with our noble morals and practices. These corrupt officials have successfully, unfortunately, absolved themselves from Dinka’s or similarly, moral upbringing as clearly shown by their behavior which, as the authors has shown, contravenes our moral and practices.

    Therefore, the question is how we can curb the permeating wanton corrupt ways. The author may disagree but the solution is in methods far from our traditions; it’s in ‘modern methods’: criminal laws and long jail terms to deter the criminals.

    Just to recap, this is great commentary by Tongun and I encourage him to keep writing if it’s possible for him. Thanks.

  12. umoja says:

    Dau-network,

    if you don’t know who sent Joseph out of SPLM, is it not your cowboy Kirr. I am not for Riak nor Kirr, these are ruling mates none will ever reform.

    I am not against Dinka but the reality is that dinkas and other cattle keeprs do practice robbery of cattle so they think robbing public resources is not a crime, that is how we go.

    I tell you my best find is Jeing but not jeings like you, kirr and others. I will not entertain nonsense and tribal appointment of Kirr. If you are not aware some of Kirr’s appointees can not read or write.

    Have you ever heard Kiir talking scientific language when addressing public? If this cowboy can not talk about economic policy, globalization, etc. What do you think good can come from him?

    Now this 21st century, leaders talk of economic growth, I doubt if your cattle leader (Kirr) know GDP, inflation, Sustainable economy? Kirr has never mentioned these words, what he always says is Arabic word Inu, inu, inu and mixed English language. What a shame on South Sudan through his dumb leader.

  13. GatCharwearbol says:

    Mr. Umoja,

    Your claim has sanity to it. Nuer and Dinka who are mostly the cattle keepers in South Sudan who have cemented the habit of robbery and indeed, to them, it is not thievery. But in the eyes of God, it is actually a thievery just like everything else traditionally considered to be an act of stealing.

    But to make you well informed, not all Nuer or Dinka practice this kind of robbery. Only few with greediness in them made this their business. Make no mistake, electing the wrong Dinka or Nuer to the office will tilt the table the wrong way than you expected. But if you are lucky enough to elect the right one, you will never doubt how good these people could be.

    On the other hand, Equatorians are not God and they could not be isolated as pure ones. Great mistake it is. Like every tribe, nation, continent, there are always good and bad elements. The bad elements you met in Dinka and Nuer also exist in greater Equatoria communities, thus, do not think you are not in the pot.

  14. Dengdit says:

    I sometimes despair at people (Gatkuoth, Dau, James Lual & co) who, whether it is because of carelessness or inability to understand complex analysis and eloquent articles, completely misunderstand an honest and objective piece like this written by Tongun. I was about to completely give up until I saw the comment by Manyok Chuol who seems to be only person to have understood and grasped the article correctly! I don’t find anything in the article attacking Dinka culture or Jieng generally. From my understanding, Tongun is trying to show that corruption is frowned on or abhorred in TRADITIONAL DINKA CULTURE – which means those who are practicing it in power now are not following TRADITIONAL CULTURE, be it Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Otuho, etc, to mention a few. I am sure all tribes in S Sudan traditionally & culturally abhor corruption, oppression, greed, etc. And our so called ‘educated elite’ who are practicing that should feel ashamed because they are betraying their traditions & cultures.

    Such writing and articles as this must be applauded and supported. This is objective and educative writing at its best – as opposed to the tribal mudslinging and empty threats by some of the airheads masquerading as commentators who are intellectually incapable of understanding such beautiful and informative writing – I bet they will completely misunderstand my comment too!

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