By: Justin Ambago Ramba
August 4, 2011 (SSNA) — While it is completely understandable for us to go on deservedly congratulating ourselves over our Independence and sharing the ‘free at last’ expression with fellow compatriots, there is an obliging need that we seriously consider those valuable advices that came from our generous guests who joined us in the celebration.
We will have to demonstrate a great deal of political maturity when we come to reflect on the participations shown by our many friends, as some expressed words of encouragement and gave advice, while others preferred physical expressions either drawing our attention by their actions, comments or body language. This is what friends are for, aren’t they? They have done their bits and it is now our sole responsibility to choose which ones to take and which ones to discard. As it always goes the final decision is ours for it is but the beginning of being independent.
So if nobody has already told us how substandard the organisation of the 9th July 2011 Independence Day celebration was, they are probably being diplomatic with us. The obvious is that we clearly underestimated the complexity involved in such matters. It was chaos, but still it didn’t stop there for many of our guests were left to wonder what type of a nation was about to come out in this messy start?
Again as usual our top political echelons were quick to blame it all on ‘the over used’ excuse of ‘starting from the scratch’, reneging on the fact that we are at the continuum of a six years period where we ran our own affairs. That shouldn’t count as ‘scratch’, unless of course all that we with the $10 billion worth over a half of a decade was but some kind of ‘scratch’. Things need to change fellow compatriots and until the ruling SPLM recognises its limitations of trying bull-doze everything exclusively without the involvement of the other political parties, South Sudan will always remain a laughing stock.
We have seen the SPLM stuck in a vicious circle where decision makers insist on always assigning public duties exclusively to their kinsmen regardless of the fact that others from outside the domains of the so-called major ethnicities could have performed better. As defensive as some may react when confronted by articles like this, their lack to the sense of details is already damaging our national image and the pride we are entitled to as a country.
It is important that we not only look for genuine feedbacks from our guests as well as the people we do business with, but it is also important to learn lessons from them. Feedbacks are meant to help us have a picture or even just a rough idea about our performances as it is seen by other people. If you think that you know it all, and when you are caught in a middle of a mess and you think that each it happens you just walk away by blaming it on lack of experience……the overused starting from the ‘scratch’, then you are dangerous, for your neither learn nor alone in those who have the know how.
The 9th of July 2011 in itself was just a day that marked the official inauguration of the new state of South Sudan, but from thence we look forward to the reality of life as people of an independent sovereignty. As citizens of this new independent country we are entitled to a daily life that will not only continuously reflect the freedom that we hold very dearly, but we also should opt to do everything within our reach to maintain it forever in a context which guarantees our human rights and rights as citizens. Again it is about transparency and accountability from the top to the bottom.
Integral to this new dawn of independence the people of South Sudan is expected to enjoy the peace dividends and have a full meaning to their hard won independence. And to achieve these milestones the much talked about ‘democratic transformation’ should immediately be given a priority in all the socio-political engagements. Indisputably the SPLM which rules the new country has for decades acted as a voice of the oppressed and the marginalised, however the realities on the ground today say otherwise.
In South Sudan the people have long known that oppressors do not have race, skin colour, or religion and our ‘free at last’ from the Arab North will and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Indeed it is very easy for a liberator to turn oppressor when democracy ends at the eve of announcing the elections results. For ‘Democracy’ to be complete we have to have check and balance in place, even if it has to come from regional or international bodies, otherwise experience has shown us that a starting democracy like ours can easily overlook the important separation of power.
Governments can be tested by the most trivial events, and now the new state of South Sudan has issued a new currency which has just entered into circulation but the citizens are looking for answers as to why there is no issuance date on the notes. Deducing from how events unfold, the Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan is bent on downplaying what otherwise is a genuine public observation and concern. Sincerely speaking one feels irritated on hearing excuses as,’ even the British pound has no issue date’. And so what?
The people of South Sudan are clever people and they expected a transparent answer to their question as they suspect that these notes might have been printed long time back and only released now. Putting a date would have given out that bit which the people high up in the system do not what the common citizens to know. We better appreciate that it is now time for government officials to treat their fellow compatriots as equal citizens with the full rights to know how decisions are taken and why.
Patronizing fellow citizens is a breach of contract. The British banknotes may not carry dates of issuance and that is in the interest of the Britons, and should they be asking their people in authority for answers, I believe they will get it, and I don’t expect the British government to simply say they it is so because some country somewhere in the north or south pole are doing the same.
As it is commonly said, one thing often leads to the other, no surprise as a part of the surrounding euphoria of independence, President Kiir was reported to have publicly acknowledged being aware of the fact that some South Sudanese do own huge sums of money outside the country. “I know that some people here are keeping huge sums of money out there in foreign banks, and I advise them to transfer that money back to the country, now that we have our own currency,” . President Kiir commented. However one is made to wonder as to whether what Mr. President said wasn’t just a demonstration of his sense of humour which he obviously wanted to share with the jubilant crowd rather than genuinely appealing to the ‘over-night millionaires’ to seriously consider relocating these dubiously earned wealth?
Many will agree with me that before July 2005, there hardly existed South Sudanese with huge accounts in foreign banks the way Mr. President was referring to. All these fat accounts came into existence after the ‘liberators’ begun serving themselves through the Oil money in that government of self service, the GOSS. Huge mansions and super deluxe flats in Europe, Australia, Canada, USA, Dubai, Nairobi, Kampala, South Africa, even in Khartoum are visible evidences of how a recognisable number multi millionaire former SPLM/A freedom fighters and their cronies have looted the nascent country since they made it to the higher offices.
Again no surprise that most of these illegal amassed riches are basically maintaining super extended and compound families of top people in the government who largely reside in the Diaspora with bills paid from the public coffers. While this trend is likely to continue, it obviously means that more public money will continue to find its way into those overseas banks. this is the one well documented characteristics of our present day leadership as they are known for easily reconciling abusers of power and those whose corruption graft and received kickbacks in those countless dubious contracts both locally and internationally.
Recently there was media mention of the Vodafone scandal involving a high placed politician in the ruling SPLM who for his role in the current government will evade any question. The British Macmillan Printing House bribery scandals are one huge example of yet another big bribery at the international level. It seems that everything from telephone companies to roads construction contracts have been messed, while our national assembly engages itself with unnecessary bureaucracy that in itself compromises its attempts at tackling the infamous sorghum (Dura) saga.
Now that South Sudan is a sovereign state and a republic for that matter, the hope for a nationwide stability will only come through a unity of purpose and positive discrimination which aims at an all inclusive participation in the various organs of the state. Democracy is a beautiful thing and the ballot can achieve more than the bullet. The self determination referendum in January 2011 and the high participation rate that it achieved in settling what was otherwise a huge step in our history will forever stand tall as an example of what good democracy can achieve.
With my due respect to the leadership of the day, yet looking at their backgrounds with some scrutiny, one can never miss to notice ‘the huge conflict of interest’, when many are both owners of companies, or related(spouses) to their owners while they sit on the government side to dispatch those contracts. No amount of rhetoric can eradicate corruption, for neither nepotism nor favouritism contradicts with our tribal beliefs to which most of us take refuge when the going gets tough. Much will depend on the political will, but this too remains a historical rarity in third world politics. And the more we hope for a natural change the more things will remain the same, even under a new leadership. On the other hand other things are just too deformed to be reformed (late Dr. Garang, founder of SPLM/A) and where South Sudan stands now, only a total overhaul can offer the definitive way out.
Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General of United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.