By Elhag Paul
November 25, 2011 (SSNA) — On close examination of the paper I noticed that this is something concerning. Although I had heard of the cabinet going abroad, I did not figure out that the purpose was to meditate. Now getting to grip with the purpose of the trip is proving difficult for me. I was unsure whether what I was seeing was the truth. I tried to jog my memory to remember whether any government in the world had done such a thing before, but I could not recall. The nearest thing I could remember was the ill fated trip of the Polish president with a number of prominent officials of his government to Russia. This example would not fit into the one of GoSS I am now writing about. I am yet to learn whether anything of the sort happened in the history of governments.
Why was the leadership going abroad at such a crucial time when there are a number of problems demanding immediate government attention? Could they not have gone to any of the beautiful places within the country such as Badingilo Park, or Nimule Park? No matter how one tries to rationalise the government’s action, no sense comes out of it except that this administration is truly hopeless. This is a hedonistically corrupt government bent on blowing the meagre resources of the country on their own luxuries while the masses suffer without health and other essential services.
South Sudan became independent on 9th July 2011. It is barely 4 month that we existed as a sovereign country and 9 weeks since the present cabinet was formed. As far as we know the government has not unveiled to us, the South Sudanese people any political or development programme for the next 4 years that they awarded themselves to be in government. Up to now we do not know which path is the country going to take politically? What are the priorities of the government for development and how these are to be implemented? At this point where we are, we do know that their programme for the travelling documents such as passports has been a total flop with the country wasting millions of dollars. The currency project too has been a total flop with the country wasting millions of dollars. The opening of diplomatic offices abroad too has been an utter failure. Lighting and water project for Juba and throughout the country has been an abject failure. Agriculture, a woeful performance not worth talking about. Even organising a simple national event like the marriage of the president’s daughter Adut was a shamble. The only thing that this government excels at so far is detention and torture of intellectuals/journalists for speaking their minds and corruption.
The president’s speech in New York on Friday 23rd September 2011 was measured for that occasion and limited to issues of governance. Although this is something that our president should have prioritised in his to-do list because of his own reputation and credibility, he appears to have forgotten. This too is turning out to be a flop with possible reputation of our country going into tatters. Had the cabinet been engaged with these issues in the past 9 weeks, it would be understandable and they could be forgiven for their tourism. Now going to a retreat presupposes that they needed seclusion and chilling out period. As they have not done anything within this short period, the questions one asks are: retreat for what? What have they done that deserves this retreat? And why retreat in a foreign country? Why go away when there are pressing urgent issues such as our relationship with the Sudan, security, famine and so on?
Had they been in office for at least year post independence, perhaps a benefit of doubt could be extended to them. But mere 9 weeks and the cabinet goes to Mombasa/Kenya for a retreat beggars believe. This is clear abuse of power; abuse of state resources and utter gross negligence in running the country.
Abuse of Power
Since President Kiir took over power following the unfortunate death of Dr John Garang in 2005, he has ruled the country as if it was his own personal fiefdom. He did as he wished whether the constitution allowed it or not without any accountability. Whatever came to his mind he implemented it and the SPLM apparatchiks followed suit. In the last 6 years they were so busy siphoning state resource to the extent that they nearly forgot about the referendum. Ingeniously now they have come up with this retreat business. This new invention of the cabinet going to a foreign country for retreat is but exercise of absolute power that the king abuses left and right. President Kiir feels unconstrained because he has ensured that the constitution of South Sudan that SPLM drafted and imposed on us silences the parliament and fetters the hands of the MPs.
The current parliament is composed of two types of MPs, all unelected as of 09/07/2011. The first group comprise the MPs who where in the then parliament of South Sudan and North Sudan. These were elected in the general election of the Sudan of April 2010. That election was marred with controversy and the international observers reported massive irregularities in the process in both parts of the Sudan then. It was open secret that SPLM rigged itself into power. It is this election that gave birth to the rebel movements now operating in Unity state, Upper Nile state and Jonglei state. The second group of MPs comprise people appointed by the president under a provision in the transitional constitution. Most of these MPs apart from the independent ones were people who were rejected by the electorate in the general election of April 2010. They failed miserably in the elections.
These two groups of MPs who make up the entire parliament from the word go had their mouths gagged by the constitution. They are in the parliament as cogs of a big rubber stamp machine. Calling the MPs as bits and pieces of a big rubber stamp machine may sound harsh, but please let me explain why.
The first group of the MPs have a double barrel gun held on their heads. The first barrel is the SPLM polite bureau which controls the selection of candidates for elections. The current MPs in the parliament know that they can not afford to defy the King. If they do, they will be deselected in the next general election like those members of SPLM who opted to become independent in the previous election. So they are under no illusion about which way their bread is buttered. The other barrel is with the president. Under the current constitution, the king can fire and hire MPs as he likes. So if the current MPs do not tow the line and they become sort of nuisance then the president with a stroke of a pen can end their tenure in the parliament.
The second group of MPs selected from people with hazy and controversial background again have a double barrel gun directly on their heads. The first barrel is that of social interaction related to the element of favour. Since the king extended favour to them and brought them to the parliament they have an obligation to repay him in kind all the time by behaving obediently according to SPLM wishes and demands. The second barrel is the powers bestowed on the president regarding dismissal and appointment of MPs. If these appointed MPs do not tow the line, the king can sweep them away with a broom from the parliament and replace them with a new batch of whom there are many awaiting such a moment.
Abuse of State Resource
The cost of this tourism by the cabinet will cause a big dent in the public purse at a time when the country needs every penny, especially in the face of a looming possible conflict with the Sudan. We want peaceful co-existence with the Sudan but as developments on the ground in the border area shows, Bashir is itching for a show down and there is no knowing whether he will invade us. Should Bashir invade, we need to be prepared for all eventualities. So, every penny wasted on this so called retreat is precious. Air fares to and from Mombasa/Kenya; hotel accommodation with food and guests service; hire of conference room with services, leisure and entertainment for over 30 persons is going to be in the tenth of thousands of dollars. In addition to that these touring ministers and their assistants will be claiming per diem for the whole period they are away in thousands of dollars. If we are to judge the expense of this cabinet tour in line with Reik’s recent trip to the USA, then we are talking about millions of dollars. What will South Sudan benefit in return for this sight seeing and surfing in the Indian Ocean resort of Mombasa?
With this kind of expenditures, it is clear that president Kiir’s kleptocratic government has not learnt any lesson from the recently released report of the auditor general. Certainly, the public cash being blown off in Mombasa will be another missing millions in the future report of the auditor general with no one to account for. President Kiir and his thieves are not bothered. They have already taken care of the report of the auditor general. No one will be held responsible for the mountainous squirreling of state resource. All the bravado of president Kiir in New York and Juba on the issue of corruption recently hides his unease in dealing with it. He is unable to tackle corruption because he is part of the problem. Please refer to president Kiir’s own prophetic words in the Rumbek report of 2004.
The puppy parliament as expected has coiled its tail and kicked the report into the long grass by referring it to a committee. The history of committees in our country since the first regional government under Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 speaks for itself. There is a saying in South Sudan that if you want to kill an issue, just refer it to a committee. Now this is what the MPs have done with the auditor general’s report. They have sent it to the shredding machine and shredded it will be.
We would be extremely naive to expect a person who presided over orgies and orgies of looting of state resource for over 6 years to begin cleansing the house. This would be like asking the boss of Mafia to be transparent by carrying out investigation on the code of Omerta. While we are at this subject of abuse of state resource, it would be very informative to read Joanna Adams recent article on South Sudan Nation website titled, “Getting tough on the weak ‘Unveils’ Kiir’s internal troubles” In her article Ms Adams carefully and vividly describes how the government corrupted the MPS to shut their mouths. This is an additional unspoken weapon in the hands of the king to lash the MPs with if they turn a little bit inquisitive or naughty.
Consequence of Abuse
From the aforementioned, our parliament is as good as dead. It will not be able to hold the government to account over current abuse of power named retreat in foreign country.
In any normal democracy, this retreat to Kenya would have been questioned and answers demanded with possible few heads rolling. But with our lame duck parliament composed of SPLM party apparatchiks, self seeking reprobates, and appointed thieves we can rest assured that this Thomas Cook government and its tourist cabinet will get away with its abuse of power and state resources. Also, the current transitional constitution shoved down our throats is not helpful in any way. It makes a monster of the president who due to his humble background is behaving like a delinquent teenager irresponsibly spending monies bequeathed to him.
The evidence of mismanagement of our country by Kiir’s government is in our face. There is no better evidence than the report of the auditor general and this report can not be questioned because the author is a die hard SPLM member who passionately defended the movement in the west during the years of the struggle. He has no reason to try to destroy his own beloved party. The cabinet’s tour of Kenya is just the continuation of the mismanagement and abuse. The misrule is Ouch!! A profound pain that we just have to live with for now. What all these tell us is that president Kiir’s government has:
Hence, democratically speaking the South Sudanese people need to decide on who should lead them. Thus president Kiir needs to dissolve the government and call for a general election in the interest of the country. It is time for the people of South Sudan to make their choice. SPLM can not continue to dangerously mismanage and misrule the country until 2015 as it engineered. It is time for the people of South Sudan to decide their own fate.
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan; he can be reached at email@example.com