BY: Agou A. Kur, WINNIPEG, CANADA, MAY/12/2013, SSN;
Throughout the ages, various self-declared prophets have warned about the doomsdays and the end of the world but as a student of politics not a prophet, I hereby warn my country about the coming apocalyptic election in 2015, which will be our doomsday depending on how we conduct and handle its aftermath. Whereas the doomsday prophesies are based on superstition and alleged divine revelation, far from it, my hypothesis is based on empirical evidences and analysis of our past and current political developments in South Sudan.
I will argue in this article that 2015 election will be the defining moment in the history of our country. It will either make or break us as a nation because it will test our union which is weak due to lack of institutions, norms and constitutional framework that would have safeguarded and channelled the political processes including the election.
It is now clear that the forthcoming South Sudan’s election has generated a great deal of interest that is almost equal to the excitement of the days leading to the 2011 referendum and the subsequent independence on July the 9th of the same year. The difference however, is the fact that during the referendum, all South Sudanese irrespective of their regions, political ideologies and, yes, tribal differences, were all united in their determination for freedom and secession from North Sudan. That I will admit was our proudest moment.
Unfortunately now, and only time will tell, that if the recent developments and political intrigues can tell us anything, then it can be concluded that we are going into this election unorganised, with elevated tension created by political ambitions and sadly divided on tribal lines as politicians and supporters alike are intoxicated by their quest for power and blinded by tribal loyalty and with the “It is our turn to rule” mentality.
Consider the fact that there are over hundred tribes in South Sudan and all are proud with sense of entitlement want their son or daughter to be the president. The outcome can only in the observation of this author be nothing but tragic for it is not an election but a contest for a pure madness.
Now, let me give you a little background as to why this author believes that we are doomed unless something is done and done quickly then the future of South Sudan is in peril. I will not waste your precious time on the history of South Sudan civil war and how it got the independent. That is a common knowledge to you. I will begin with the election of April 2010 in which the current leaders got elected from the president to the national assembly, the governors of the ten states and all states assemblies.
All of them were elected in the first election ever in South Sudan, and almost the entire process and results was bitterly contested in all levels and regions of South Sudan. Some of those who disputed the outcome of election had legitimate claims while others were opportunists driven by greed. So they took up arms and rebelled, claiming the election was rigged and that the current government was illegitimate and therefore wanted to overthrow it.
The result was the death of civilians in thousands in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. Not to mention that the little they have in property was completely destroyed. The government for a while tried in vain to dismiss the rebellion with bravado talks, that they will “crush the rebel within days.” It was not until the United Nations Security Council alarmed by the death of civilians in thousands, passed a resolution calling for action that is when President Salva Kiir, who had since barricaded himself into his J-One Statehouse, came out to issue amnesty to the rebels to down their arms and join their fellow citizens in preserving the precarious peace.
It is now almost four years after and those presidential amnesties are still being cheaply dished out to rebels. Mind you, it has become a lucrative business that some rebels sign them and rebel again and again so as to fast-track their promotions into the ranks of generals in the South Sudan Army, fatten their accounts and secure mansions in Juba for themselves and some of their lieutenants.
And what is the cost of that, you may wonder? Yes, at the cost of thousands of civilians deaths. Men like David Yau Yau, General Gadet Yak among others, have made their names that way. Some unlucky ones have been killed like the late Gen. George Author and Colonel Galuak Gai.
And that briefly is the legacy of a mishandled election of 2010. Therefore, you and I have a reason to be concerned if not to be afraid. We need to be concerned because our country has to conduct an election in a time when it has zero institutions required to hold a free and fair election. I repeat, a fair and free election, for that is what is required if we are to carry them out, they need to be fair and free.
The role of institutions in election and nation building
So, what are these institutions I keep saying that are mandatory not only for an election but for the nation building? First, every association of people needs a social contract and in government, it is famously called the constitution. Constitutional framework outlines what are the purposes of forming a political entity, what goods or benefits it will provide to its members.
Constitution states how the political union will operate, who will execute its visions and the power and limits of those people elected for that specific period to run the affairs of a country. Most importantly, the constitution outlines how the election must be conducted. It spells out the requirements and qualifications for those seeking various positions. Constitution creates the main institutions such as the executive, the legislature and the Judiciary.
Yes, we have the executive, national assembly and the judiciary now but they are new, weak and those who currently occupy them do not hesitate to tell you, “we are young and an infant nation.” For them that is their smartest way of dismissing any criticism when they fail. Ask them why is $ 4 billion stolen? Why are people dying in thousands? where are the schools, hospitals and roads? Their answer to all these questions is, “We are a young nation”. Really? Were they born on July 9th, 2011?
Other important institutions are the political parties through which those seeking various offices approach the electorates. Political parties are organised by their ideologies, views, beliefs and how these ideologies will guide them to solve the problems of the citizens whom they are supposed work for. Unfortunately, our current political parties are organized along tribal lines, driven by greed, personal glories and power for its own sake.
SPLM, the main political party, the party through which all the people of Sudan organised their dignified struggle for justice for 22 years. The party of independence has forgotten it roots, it is corrupt, arrogant and appears to be a party of elites (I emphasize elites here because they are the ones benefiting alone and not the whole tribe) from major tribes; Dinka, Nuer and Bari among others. Other parties such as the SPLM-DC want South Sudan without Dinka. So we are doomed, no choice and no alternatives.
Let’s now turn to the SPLM politics as it approaches 2015 election. SPLM from its formation, thanks to its late leader Dr. John Garang and co-founders, was able to explain its vision that it was fighting for “freedom, Justice, equality and progress for all Sudanese.” They argued that they were fighting for a New Sudan Vision which is different from that of old Sudan that marginalised and discriminated the Sudanese people based on their race and religion.
When South Sudan separated, some of it current leaders said that the idea of New Sudan Vision doesn’t necessarily apply to a united Sudan only but can be realised within the independent South Sudan. The vision of equality, justice and progress they argued is a vision we can proudly advocate and work for its realisation in South Sudan.
But like in other one-party state, SPLM has several factions with different values, goals and personalities. SPLM as it is currently constituted is an amalgamation of convenience, a situation that came about due to the desire for unity of purpose when SPLM was negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the National Congress Party in 2005.
So the leadership of SPLM then and with the encouragement of most of South Sudan citizens urged the political factions to come together to negotiate with one voice. These succeeded in bringing the main political actors and factions together. As a result, the factions led by Riek Machar, Lam Akol, Paulino Matip among others joined the main faction of SPLM led by Dr. John Garang. With some success, hardship, hiccups and heartbreaks thus far we have come a long way.
Then all of a sudden we found ourselves again in a situation in which our unity will be put to test once again as we approach the election in 2015. This much we know. Dr. Riek Machar, the vice President has declared his interest to contest the chairmanship of the SPLM through which he will seek the presidency of the country come the election.
The current chairman of the SPLM, President Salva Kiir Mayardit is reported to be interested to run again for the Chairmanship of the party and that of the president of South Sudan. Mr. James Wani Iga, the Speaker of the South Sudan parliament is also interested so is Secretary General of SPLM Mr. Pagan Amum among others.
All other positions are up for election such as all the seats in the national assembly, governors and state assemblies. All of them will attract men and women with ambitions who are determined to win at all cost.
Let’s now focus on the big price, the presidency, for more is at stake and the contenders are heavyweights with thousands of supporters and tribesmen filled with chauvinistic frenzy that their big man is the anointed one to overlord us, the masses. They also expect their guy once in office to loot millions of money for them and to dish out positions and development to their regions. Really!
Is this what politics has becomes? That the leaders these days are in it for ambition, glory and wealth for themselves and their tribes as opposed to being a humble calling for duty and service to all the fellow citizens no matter what regions or tribes they come from?
Latest political intrigues in Juba
So where are we? The latest development have it that President Salva Kiir has stripped his vice President Dr. Riek Machar of all additional duties given to him sometime in 2007. This move have angered Dr. Machar’s supporters and baffled the rest of citizen as they try to understand what is going on.
But those with knowledge of the internal SPLM politics opined that the president did that because the vice president declared his interest to challenge him for the chairmanship of the SPLM in the coming party convention. And the president didn’t stop there, he postponed a national peace and reconciliation conference that was initiated by the Vice President fearing the later was using it as a campaign platform that will give him additional mileage in his quest for presidency.
For Dr. Machar, some say he initiated the peace and reconciliation commission so as to redeem his image as the 1991 split of the SPLM that led to the death of civilians in thousands hang over his head like a dark cloud. Now everything seems to be ok on the surface but underneath trouble is simmering, rumbling and ready to burst like a giant volcanic eruption.
So recently, some wise men and religious leaders saw the apocalypse that I am telling you. So they went to talk to the President and the vice president to find out what was going on. Few hours later they came out like bearers of bad news who wore a nice face. They told the nation that all is ok, that president and his deputy are best of the friends and they are acting normal.
Pardon me my wise men! I beg to differ, that is politics 101 for you. You have been duped and thank you for the initiative but don’t sleep nor give up, keep up the initiative and engage not only the two gentlemen but the whole country on how to keep peace and preserve our union in the forthcoming election. Hard times call for wisdom of age which you have in abundance but is lacking in Juba as the politicians are proud to be known for juvenile politics.
So what shall we do, you may ask? Here is my recommendation and it may not be the only one nor is it enough. We all need to do something, be it prayers, soul searching and, yes, dialogue about how we will conduct ourselves in the forthcoming election. Here is my recommendation.
We need to organise a free and fair election beginning with how the parties nominate their candidates for various positions. No one should be blocked unlawfully through schemes other than through a lawful way. People can only be barred to stand for election if they have committed an offence that the constitution says disqualifies them from running for those positions.
Therefore, I argue that the the key part of preserving peace and strengthen our nation is to have or at least to try to have a credible, free, open and fair election.
Other things need to be done such as to have non-partisan judiciary to hear any grievances and a professional security force that will provide security to all the citizens and the candidates running for various positions. Media should play its role in educating the citizens about platforms and manifestos of the leaders and what they plan to do for us, the people.
Elections in African
But as we are still at it, let’s take some lessons from our fellow African countries and their struggle with the problem of conducting elections. I have for sometimes now wondered about why most of the modern African countries are politically unstable, have weak economies and low standards of living?
There are many reasons, such as the legacy of colonization and neo-colonization and cold war effects. I do accept the effect of those events on our continent. But I don’t believe that they are the only reasons. As a student of politics, I have come to believe that the way of transferring power from individual to another and from one group to other is the answer as to why we are backward if you will for lack of better term.
You see, some ways of seeking power in African modern states are: coup de tat, rebellion and rigging of elections to stay in power. These have brought a lot of suffering to the people of Africa as groups and tribes are locked in perpetual conflict. Kenya, our neighbour to the South is still healing from the post-election violence of 2007 and had early this year successfully pulled off an elections peaceful though the results were contested in the courts. The reason they were able to avoid the bloodshed of 2007 is because they reformed their institutions especially the courts and passed an historic and progressive constitution in 2010.
The Democratic republic of Congo for the last two decades is spiralling into destruction as factions fight for power without any ethical consideration whatsoever, where civilians have been killed, raped, tortured in millions. Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe just to name a few are unsuccessful in holding elections.
If Africa is to realise her potential, it better first figure out how to transfer power in a peaceful way and all shall follow. And I can say with boldness, that, “Ye seek the political solution and all shall be added unto you”.
Back to South Sudan, the rebels in Jonglei are fighting for political power for it is the only way they know to get power. The fighting had disrupted the lives of civilians in Jongeli in particular and all over South Sudan in general. Due to insecurity, the civilians have moved to the nearest towns for security or stayed and be massacred like it had happened several times to many of their neighbours. And as they moved there, they have no means to provide for their basic needs such as food and shelter.
If there was security all over South Sudan and especially in the rural parts of South Sudan, our people will proudly continue to till the land and rear their livestock like they have done for the last centuries. So we need to establish a way to seek and transfer power peacefully.
And the only way I recommend is to hold a free, open and fair election. In free and fair election, losers loose with grace and winners win with humility. Therefore, losers have no reason to rebel for they were beaten fair and square. So, I recommend that in the forthcoming election in South Sudan all the political parties should choose their candidates in a free and fair process, beginning with and especially the SPLM. Then let the candidates tell the members of his or her party why she will be the best pick to represent her party in election.
Likewise, the national election need to be fair and free and all should be allow to campaign openly such that if Dr. Lam Akol of SPLM-DC or any other candidate beat SPLM candidate, I will accept him or her as a legitimate president of South Sudan as long it was a free and fair election. I don’t know if we can do that but let us try, failure to do so is not a choice if we are to maintain our union.
Our role as citizens and as voters
If you think all the groups I have mentioned have the main role to play, then think again. We the citizens have the main role to play in how the election is conducted and the way the outcome is handled. We are the ones to vote, to make an informed decision and most importantly to avoid being used by politicians to lift our hands against our fellow citizens, neighbours and fellow human beings.
God tells us, “You shall not kill,” and to treat others like we want to be treated. No one wants to be killed, have his property looted or destroyed. If we do that, my fellow citizens, if we observe peace before, during and after the election, we will look back some years to come and say to our children’s children that this was our proudest moment as South Sudanese and we will surprise the world once again, just like we did in our historic referendum. We can do that, we must do that for I do believe we are South Sudanese and we are decent people.
Agou A. Kur is a former Deputy Chairperson of The SPLM Chapter of Winnipeg city in Canada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.