South Sudan needs to improve its accountability

By Deng Riek Khoryoam, South Sudan

June 9, 2011 (SSNA) — In less than a month time, this semi-autonomous region will formally be declared as “Republic of South Sudan (ROSS)”. The long awaited independence and hard-won freedom shall have been accomplished, and will have arrived at the doorstep of every Southerner who longed for this since Sudan became an independent country exactly half a century and few more years ago. Those who will be alive by then or on that day shall have seen the dream of our forefathers and heroes/heroines come true. We will have also realised that those who died in the cause of the struggle for free and independent South Sudan (not for disillusioned unity) did not die in vain. They died for a good cause, a cause worth dying for! This is the beauty of it all.

As the South gears up for the independence celebration and the euphoria surrounding it, its people should not just be prepared physically, as it’s the case now but more so, psychologically. We need to reflect on where we came from, where we are at now and most importantly, where we are going after the July 9th. This is the essence of the July 9th date, one would think, perhaps! Overall, we need to remember our heroes and heroines, whose blood sacrifices brought about this relative peace we enjoy today; therefore their names should be on our lips as well as on banners during that day.

For almost a month now, I decided to give myself a break from writing anything about any issues facing the nascent state. Then some (four) of my readers wondered as to why or what could have made me silence for long like this. One of them asked me if I was alright or not, and I told him that I have been fine – just took a little break. Three others did the same and I just jokingly told them that I went underground for a while and have just resurfaced from my hideout. Honestly speaking, it gives one a very high morale and good spirit because it means that our people, the Southerners recognise and appreciate someone who offers (at his/her peril) to speak or talk on their behalf. This is also something one must be cautious enough not to brag about.

But what is accountability and what does it entail? Good question. According to Wikipedia, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the resulting consequences of such decisions and or policies thereof. This is the simplest and easiest definition within the context of this article. However, accountability could mean different things to different people at different times. Therefore, different people can define it differently, and in whatever context they want or deem fit for them.

In our context, South Sudan needs to improve her accountability on various aspects. I chose to leave it open because it’s a broad term, hence, I didn’t want to be specific about it or focus on one aspect of accountability or what type. I remember vividly predicting or saying in one of my articles of the past that “the events leading to July 9th are not going to be pretty” and true to this statement, the events have not been pretty over the past months and will not be for the next couple of weeks to the sacrosanct date. A lot of killings of innocent civilians happened and continue to happen day after day. A recent UN finding had it that close to 300 innocent civilians alone were killed by the SPLA in the Kaldak fighting which took place on 23rd of April, 2011. A huge number is still unaccounted for as dozens are still missing and could not still be alive by now. More than 100 civilians and more have been killed in Unity state according to the recent UN report; more than 70, 000 homes burned to ashes by the SPLA. For fairness’s sake, the rebels too are not clean either and could be blamed for a quarter of the damage.

Killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and other ill-treatments punishable under national and or international law are common practices in South Sudan. All these things happened/happen in almost every corner of South Sudan. What does this tell us? It tells us that we need to improve our accountability measures and punish anyone who abuses human rights for whatever reason. At least we’ve got a system since the CPA was signed in 2005 to date, even though it’s not a perfect one – but at least we have one. All we need to do is to improve on it. We need to start valuing human life as being more important than any material gains/wealth. The government of the republic of South Sudan seriously needs to do something in order to improve its human rights record and restore the damaged image and reputation at the international level.

Some of these small things that we take for granted like the killings of innocent civilians in Greater Upper Nile and elsewhere in South Sudan could land some of us in The Hague, at the International criminal court (ICC) some days to come. The international human rights bodies are or have been taking note of what’s been happening since we established a system 6 years ago, a functioning government known as GOSS. The international community or international human rights (not human wrongs!) bodies are not oblivious of what has been taking place since and who is responsible for what. They are all aware of that. We have to be responsible for our actions, policies and decisions, and that’s what accountability entails. That was why I argued in one of my articles published in January this year that “what matters is not actually the name but whether the new country shall value and respect basic human rights or not”. We cannot struggle to establish a country of our own only to use it a flatform to killing the very people who are the solid foundation of this house in which some of us are just pinnacles!

In recap, when I talk of the need for South Sudan to improve its accountability, I don’t want to create an impression that it’s to do with money. Make no mistake Sister or brother, it’s not about money; but about human life and how it could be valued and handled with utmost care it deserves since it’s irreplaceable. It’s a necessity and they need to seriously think about improving it so that we are not branded by the international human rights bodies as ‘human rights abusers’. If we want to assume a position of power then we need to accept the responsibility that goes with that particular position of power. Let’s accept the plain truth that Kiir and Machar are all accountable or answerable to the people of South Sudan.

It’s the people of South Sudan which gave them the power and mandate to serve them (people); therefore they (Kiir & Machar) are the like employees, and the people of South Sudan are their employers. We all know if an employee doesn’t perform the task assigned to him/her to the expectation of the employer, that employee will definitely get sacked or fired because the employer can’t keep someone whose outputs aren’t seen or who is not productive. Let us improve our accountability so that we can all feel proud of this young country of ours in waiting. We have started on a wrong footing already but I believe it’s never too late to redress the mess here. There is still a room to do so, if there is goodwill; the window of opportunity to prove to the world community that we meant it when we fought for 3 decades of civil war and finally voted for independent South Sudan in January early this year.

The author lives in South Sudan, and could be reached for comments at [email protected]

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