Your vote may land us into trouble!

By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD

March 17, 2010 (SSNA) — What will happen to the rest of the Sudan should the south choose to secede in the 2011 is not an issue that I intent to discuss here. It is simply not my cup of tea. Unfortunately others continue to draw pleasure from talks that portray Sudan as being a fragile state and they are worried that it can disintegrate at any time. But in case these are the kinds of issues that remain to bother some people out there, then it is our duty now as south Sudanese to make it crystal clear to the whole world that as far as we have come, we are no longer bothered with what would become of the north once we are declared independent following the referendum or otherwise. This north which has dominated the south for the last five decades or so is capable of worrying for itself.

It is also important that we accept certain realities, for despite the commonality in origin for the numerous north / south political incompatibilities, the reflections of this malfunctioning relationship has evolved from one stage to the other and taken different shapes over the years. Promising universities, tape water, electricity, roads, railway lines etc which are things that would have made the unity of Sudan attractive to the southerners in 1947 or even as late 1967, are no longer the political statements to make a southerner vote for unity, leave alone whether they can on their own make any incumbent politician to retain his/her constituency or even save Salva Kiir’s seat in Juba.

This immediately brings us to question the relevance of the campaigns carried out by the NCP presidential candidate, president Omer al Bashir during his tour to many towns in the war ravaged south Sudan. The President for reasons that lies right in the core of the Sudanese politics chose to stick to the old fashioned, Ismail Azhari type campaign, when it was believed  that it was the president who  holds the only key to all developmental projects in the country. And unless he sympathizes with the citizens of a particular locality, that place is unlikely to receive any development.

There is nowhere else these days that a day passes by without seeing incumbent representatives to the state assemblies, the south Sudan assembly, the national assembly, the state governors and those running for the presidency of the south and the nation’s presidency going around and promising  the same things e.g. drinking water, schools, roads, jobs etc. However the crucial question that poses itself here is that, if these things are all that important and known to be so by these very politicians, then why couldn’t they have provided them earlier to the people? Why wait all this time and only to bring them up as campaign slogans? Politics cannot be reduced this low by just reciting an overused shopping list.

Until we stop these cheap 19th century style campaigns, we will not be doing justices to our poor electorates. A civilized campaign would have been led by citizens probing into what these good for nothing politicians have done and not done in their last five years in offices. It is obvious that both Salva Kiir and Omer al Bashir have personal interests for running in these elections, and of course it is also true of the other politicians. As Omer Bashir is searching to attain legitimacy in face of the ICC arrest warrant, comrade Kiir is not yet prepared to quit. Can we blame them? Is it not what other African leaders are doing? Once in power cling to it, and if you chance to be the first post-independence leaders, then aim for life in office.

Not so much for me to say about Omer al Bashir, after all he came to power on the back of a tank, and overthrew a democracy in process. He and his notorious NCP will be the last to convert to any democratic transformation, and regardless of what he promises, this ‘Jabheji’ Islamic fanatic will continue to view us as infidels and as such enemies to the spread of Islam into the interior of Black Africa. And by all counts he will remain a wanted man to face justices.

But what reasons are there for us to keep Kiir in office? Is it only our hatred for the person of Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin or his ethnic background or his political history of the so called multiple deflections? If so, can we claim that Salva Kiir Mayardit has something special to his person or his ethnicity or his political history, not to mention his 2004 mutiny against late Dr. Garang de Mabior? President Kiir has lately chosen few buzz words for his campaign and they are: development and stability in the south. These were the two words that he expected to sell himself with to the southern electorates wherever he launches his election campaigns, yet realities on the ground show a great discrepancy.

Kiir remains the sole chairman of the dominant SPLM party since he resisted any move for any changes during the 2nd party conversion in Juba. The secrets of why SPLM is being run the way it is today lies all in the way the 2nd convention was held and how it was concluded, leaving no room for any internal led reforms.

On the very eve of that 2nd convention, everybody was more than convinced that the leadership was a crab and needed change, however it was not to happen. And to those who naively think that Kiir is only a window dressing thing for arriving at the independence of south Sudan come the referendum in January 2011, must wake up and accept that once he is democratically voted into office, then he remains there as long as the forces that protected him in the 2007, second party convention remains intact and operational.

This Commander in Chief is obviously not in control of affairs in the south. There are hardly any proofs that he still commands the respect of his officers whether they are in the army or the other security forces and the justification is that despite his strong condemnations in the public to the repeated and widespread events of killings, things seem to be the same or even getting worse. Events past and present in the Western Equatoria state, the Warrap state, the Lakes state and the Jonglei states clearly demonstrates that local forces on the ground are too strong for Salva Kiir to bring under his control.

Opposition candidates continue to face harassments from state organs in defiance of the national Elections Commission (NEC) declarations and the SPLM led GoSS under Salva Kiir evidently lacks the  political will to bring the culprits who no doubt are SPLM supporters to the book. The GoSS ministers, the senior military officers and some Para-military loyalists remain to operate more autonomously of the president’s directives. This last bit was well captured by the Las Vegas style heavy weight boxing show between people in high constitutional posts right in front of the big boss. All he did was to quit and no campaign was held. This is the man who goes on promising stability and security. I thank him and his party the SPLM for the Bentiu showdown. Where is the leadership by example and where the respect and civility is all gone in the blink of an eye?

Again here is another similarly funny development, which one finds extremely difficult to understand the motives behind, when the caretaker Minister of Cabinet Affairs in Southern Sudan, Luka Tombekana Monoja cited in the Media that “overpayment and ‘ghost workers’ “to be the major factors of corruption in Southern Sudan following their recent workshop with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Yambio, Western Equatoria.

Ghost names was the way invented by Salva Kiir’s SPLM led GoSS to pay their relatives, loyalists and cronies, while securing extra petty cash for themselves over the last five years. As for the overpayments, one can only think of the fact that the decision makers being drawn from apparently greedy tribal cohorts, in their aims to acquire huge wealth over a short period of time, over inflation of salaries, contracts, kickbacks, bursaries , rents, bills, vouchers etc,….just name it, all seemed ideal for the purpose.

None of the above is new to south Sudan under Kiir and his companions, and by their own repeated confessions and admittance, that the president adopted the slogan of zero tolerance, when in reality it is but a zero, zero tolerance. What has happened so far is no more than this Anti-corruption official, Paulina Riak, being appointed, then promoted and the next time, not very long would be to accuse her of being corrupt herself the same as it happens all over the continent of Africa where the anti-corruption officials always end up being purged because of being corrupt themselves.

The political future of south Sudan under the dominant northern Sudanese political parties is very bleak because these parties are largely sectarian in nature and fundamentally Islamic in their outreach. These facts leave no doubts that the northern political elites are all in agreement to establish an Islamic religious state on the first opportunity, and do away with any agreements reached with the south. Having recognised this impending disaster the south is in no any better way being told to seek its independence if it wants to remain to live with dignity.

It is clear that some people in northern Sudan are still holding to the naive dream that secessionist tendencies which has been an integral part of the south Sudanese’s struggle for over five decades can be over turned as if it is just one of those bad moods that anybody can pass through and then at the end of the day, when offered relaxing environment, that mood cab altogether melt off.

However it will be an over exaggeration if I refuse to acknowledge late Dr. Garang de Mabior’s believes in maintaining the unity of the Sudan. Those who knew him, whether they are northern Arabs, Nuba, Darfuris, Beja, Ingasana, Nubians, Africans, Arabs of the Middle East, the western world and indeed the south Sudanese themselves, they can testify to the fact that he did strongly believe in a united Sudan.

However late Garang was also aware of the fact that without coercion, no southerner would ever go for unity. And this was his statement: “When the time comes to vote at referendum it is your choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice.” Dr. John Garang de Mabior.

Up to the above mentioned points, the secession option not only becomes extremely attractive but also the only logical alternative. If it is anything to go by Ali Osman Taha’s statement, the southerners would be the most stupid fools and assumedly acting under an Islamic spell to freely choose to remain as a part of a united Sudan that the Arab Islamists are bent to convert to a radical Islamic fundamentalist and Arab state.

Let us face it, and whoever harbours an alternate view can still go on stretching his/her joints in the illusions of Garang d Mabior’s vision of New Sudan. The fact that this alien vision was pumped into our people’s mind by a tyrant leader who enjoyed the advantage of an unquestionable power guaranteed to him by his close cronies so that all those who questioned him never lived to get the answers, is a proof that the vision was destined to fail the test of self determination anyway.

South Sudan despite all odds is determined to go through these coming elections and the referendum in 2011 as scheduled. Of course the elections in themselves can never tackle our problems unless they are made free and fair, nevertheless our people need to be very clear that these elections are quite vital in order to have a legitimate government. Unfortunately It is also true that some politicians are all ready wrongly painting the elections as an unimportant component of the CPA as H.E Salva Kiir Mayardit preferred to put it the while reiterated his party’s position in the  Nairobi IGAD meeting.

“The conduct of the elections is not a pre-requisite to the conduct of the referendum,” Kiir said.

The above message definitely needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, and it will be very dangerous should our politicians go around making anti-democracy campaigns in the name of the people. The very idea of belittling elections and avoiding democratic transformation in the name of safeguarding the self determination is unfortunately a reflection of deeply seated unconformity to democracy. It is like saying,” All we care for is to have an independent south Sudan, but how democratically it is to be run is an issue better not talked of.” This is exactly how the previous African liberators turned into tyrants and anti democracy monsters.

A point of interest is that, power holders today in Africa, including those who attended the IGAD special meeting on Sudan’s CPA, are themselves clearly unaware of a fact that most of them are no longer approved by their grassroots, making them no better than either Salva Kiir or Ali Osman Taha. It can also be argued that the Sudanese system if anything at all, it lacks the least qualities of what constitutes democratic governance.

Where on earth do we have a democratic government that goes on ruling for ages without even realizing how bored the citizens have become with the monotonous rhetoric of achieving abundance for all when the actual reality is to enrich the power holders and their indispensable cronies?

If our people are going to vote for incapable leadership simply because they don’t seem to have an alternative, this will in itself signify an utter failure in the existing political structure. How do we explain a situation whereby after more than fifty years of struggle, our hands can still be twisted to voluntarily vote for a leadership that until as recent as 12/03/2010 remains convicted of overpayments and ghost names as declared by an insider, none but the caretaker minister, Dr. Luka Monoja.

Is it possible to tackle instability and underdevelopment in south Sudan when Kiir cannot pinpoint where his zero tolerance on corruption has worked? How do we want to continue with overpayments and ghost names and still dream of a development? It is a matter of soul searching and unless you see it far from emotions, your vote may be a dangerous vote. Vote wisely.

“Changes do not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent” Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B. Ch, D.R.H, MD. The Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). The Party that stands for the Independence of South Sudan. He can be reached at either [email protected] or [email protected]. All the articles of the author are available at www.nilebuffalo.comand blog http / /

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