Weighing & contextualising the change we need in South Sudan politics

By: Marial Mach, A’duot, Melbourne, Australia, OCT/01/2014, SSN;

Any South Sudanese bestowed with conscience and rationale would agree unequivocally with the pervasive charges and claims of failures laid upon the government of republic of South Sudan. Informed by the calamity of wars and the shameful conditions of lives, it is unquestionably true that our government is a complete failure, vested uncharacteristically with mediocrity.

From the myopic understanding and dealing with the public security to non-existence of public services, the scales of what has been achieved since the interim periods to the present is outweighed by what has not been done and government unwillingness to act prudently.

These unfortunate facts are cheaply blamed on socio-political fatigues; a transiting from war to the government and that might have some elements of truth in it, but that must not be used as a perpetual signpost to repute the ineffectuality of the current system in carrying out its duties.

Knowing the scale of destruction we endure as South Sudanese in decades of war, no one would have an illusion that government should fix instantly the mess of five decades, but failure to initiate the work in progress conjures doubts on government’s ability to govern and to deliver.

The scales of government’s failures are evidence through effects of the rampant corruption and insecurity which makes the government not only lacking public-oriented conducts, but also the credentials of modern governments, e.g., higher standards of responsiveness and accountability.

Even before the debacles of the current conflict worsen the living conditions of the people, the state of public security was not close to any sense of security, but cluttered.

Public tranquility and peace was vanquished, savagely attacks by political violence deriving a shambolic state of affair and irresponsibility in Juba that failed to nourish the destitution and ease the tribal confrontations.

Failure to institute credible security, and the rule of law has allowed carnage to reign, and corruption to flourish, given the flaws of authority to assert control and punishment over criminal activities and corruption.

What has become more tragic as the result of such political delinquency is the notion of the people in power becoming more relentless in unleashing self-enrichment that dwelled on government’s ill-practices and incapacity to constrain the behaviours and actions of those officials to conform to the larger collective purposes of the society.

This has been evident in embezzlement reports involving the key government figures. Because of these incidences, it is explicit that government of South Sudan is not meeting its responsibilities. Hence, it has failed and change is inevitable.

However, the difficult question integral to those calls for change is the kind of change we need and how do we intend to achieve that? Many commentators even before the war came up with some good and impossible suggestions.

Among these suggestions are the destruction of SPLM in order rid country from the liberation idealism, others are seeking a democratic solution through a mass rejection of the ruling party at the ballots box and the third phase is a military solution currently pursued by the people that are waging it.

But as far as the current political situation is concerned, none of these aspirations are materialising or a solution and here are the reasons why.

First, the SPLM now in the government will not be destroyed easily, but will continue to exist and even widen its prospect of dominating South Sudanese political scene not because it will assemble the force to protect its forcible reign as it might be perceived, but because the legacy of liberation is fresh in people’s minds and would use that advantage to retain the power.

SPLM, for many generations in South Sudan is viewed as a liberating machine, thus, the immediacy of the struggle and the pride of such assumption is not fading any time soon. This makes the thought of SPLM relinquishing the power, let alone its forcible eviction an illusion at best.

SPLM will remains as a foundational basis for the government for a while, and an inspiration for future generations unless evicted democratically. This assumption is informed by what the SPLM brings into government; the ideals that shaped the struggle.

Even though the entire leadership of the movement and their practices in the government are most antiquated, still the movement can capitalise on any opposition, especially those waging the violence by invoking the pride of liberation they rightly earned.

Their credential of heroism among the public became their greater advantage given the public disapproval of opposite political forces as those who having been handed the independence on a plate.

SPLM in this case has become a trademark in which the aspirants market their political ambitions. To speak political language firmly resonating among South Sudanese, one needs to associate with SPLM and that is why we have seen the rise of few political parties with acronyms such the SPLM-DC, SPLM-in-government, SPLM-in-opposition and the SPLM leaders.

It could be impossible to uphold the destruction of SPLM due to the mindsets, and because of its political message immersed in the legacy of liberation that everybody is seeking to capitalise on it.

However in knowing the public admiration of the SPLM does not in any essence gloss the movement’s failures to live up to the promises of liberation. We all know justice, equality and prosperity which formed the core foundation of the SPLM are not self-executed.

They must be realised by ensuring the public safety and provision of the basic services ordinary people cannot afford to themselves like road, schools, medical care and the clean drinking water.

Without changing the pattern of how the SPLM led government carries out its duties and style of leadership, it would be a matter of time before the hyper of liberation fades. People stranded in poverty caused by the insecurity would likely accuse the movement of having power without exercising responsibility and that might change the political equations and response to the SPLM.

But still I don’t think that can overwhelm the SPLM support base. The change we need must focus on how to ensure the improvement of the system to fulfill the above promise and that must be harmonious changes rather than through war and other un-procedural characteristics.

The reason why gradual and peaceful change is better than violence lies first in a conceptual notion of war as hindrance rather than remedy. It destroys the small gain we supposed to build on it.

However on the political front, war would likely strengthen government ability to remain in power without change. The SPLM in government would seizes affections of war and use it to appeal directly to those affected, deflecting the blames of failure by quickly branding those fighting the war as agenda driven forces that cannot be trusted.

Such scenario hinders the change we seek within the SPLM and government; unless different set of approaches not associated with violent is devised. The rough idea supported with fact is an internal gradual change within the SPLM and in the government.

This notion might invite more explanations, but I would rather put it simply as ‘a political transfusion’; gradual replacement of exhausted, wore out party’s elites with effective young talents armed with modern ideals and wills to serve the same purpose with different perspective and approach.

This kind of change can be harder and long to be achieved, or even impossible if we base our judgement on what happening in Zimbabwe and many other countries in Africa with liberating parties and leaders in power.

Since the corruption and mismanagement as well as the failure to create good and responsive governance are the main concerns in South Sudan, it is true to say that none of these can be fixed simply by changing the government or party in power without changing the system or modalities in which the government operates.

Gradual changes can include a political reform through a constitutional configuration to boost accountability through checks and balances and parliamentary interpolation. Those currently waging the war might disagree on the fact that government in Juba is vested with rigidity and records of intolerance. However that can be untrue because the strategies of change are not encompassed in overthrowing government alone.

Change, in my opinion can be dichotomised and expanded to include so many avenues of institutional resetting and the policy spectrums. Let say if we need an effective system of government to fight corruption and to manage our state of affair, overthrowing government can never caters for those needs.

Changing actors’ views on governance and their practices can be realised through political reorientations through legislature capable of confer the rewards and punishment for good and bad practices.

Derived from this assumption, Larry Diamond, one of the best known political scholars argued that, ‘endemic corruption will not be reversed and controlled with moral crusades’ claiming that ‘…Officeholders will not abstain from corruption unless it no longer appears in their interest to behave corruptly’.

In this assumption, the one and only way to implement the above strategy and that is the change South Sudan is lacking and might need is how to constrain ill-practices and bad governance.

Larry emphasised that ‘to control corruption the expected utility for the individual officeholder of obeying the law must be higher than the expected utility of behaving corruptly.’

In saying that, I assume Larry is advocating for a strong rule of law capable of controlling and punishing. Instead of running with guns in our cities and jungles, or maintaining the status-quo that defies changes of procedures rather than the entire system, it is true that we sought to do our nation a great harm than good.

The remedy to this purposeful idiocy is to end the current war and seek a peacefully political reform and arrangement through discourses rather than violence.

Having a democratic political system capable of maintaining civilised power where the officeholders would be perpetually held to account for their actions can be realised only if we can constitutionalising the roles of government that can never be achieved through continuing waging aimless war.

The author of this piece is a South Sudanese political scientist residing in Australia. Marial Mach, A’duot is Deakin graduate with BA in Politics, and International Relations, Masters of International Relations, Masters of Politics and Policy. He can be reach for comments at pandepiol@yahoo.com

1 Comment

  1. ayiik ayiik says:

    my question mr kolung I have no idea a bout what you talking a bout cous nuer people are the bad killer and blood sokter I call them Bed bugs so only thing we need is to spry them.

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