By Elhag Paul
February 12, 2012 (SSNA) — “What have we done to deserve this?” lamented, a decent and honourable South Sudanese lady in an email to me a couple of months ago. I could feel her pain and frustration. The trigger for this feeling was the announcement of the first cabinet of the government of South Sudan. Many people were taken by surprise with the appointment of opportunists and miscreants into the parliament and the first cabinet of the RSS. Although the president’s intention might have been good in that he wanted to have all the states of the country equally represented, nevertheless the move seemed to dismay and frustrates a good section of the society.
This expression of dismay and frustration is common in our country and it seems to cap the rape of South Sudan by the ‘Oyee party’ The republic of South Sudan, the newest country of the world and the 193 member of the United Nation is a country endowed with huge natural resources ranging from wild life to oil. It too has a reasonable population of about 9 million people at the minimum. By standards of all the other African countries that attained independence in the 50s and 60s, South Sudan can be considered lucky. It has a reasonable income from oil which places it in a better position to take off with development. Though there is lack of skilled and well trained workers, there is a good percentage of South Sudanese who are skilled and well trained in various fields. At the moment most of these are in the Diaspora, kept away by the state of affairs at home. With a good government there is no doubt that the Diaspora would be pouring home to take their right role in the development of the country.
However, the mentality of the current administration is so myopic and is based on the myth that everything in South Sudan is starting from the scratch. This is not true. It is a lie. The reality is that this myth is peddled as an excuse by the current rulers to rob the country through and through with impunity. Now, it seems the international community has bought this mendacity. I was gobsmacked on 7 th February 2012 while watching Ms Hilde Johnson in BBC Hardtalk promoting this unfortunate line of argument in ameliorating the ‘Oyee party’s’ abuse of power and mismanagement of the country.
Ms Johnson argued that there was nothing in South Sudan in the form of government institution for the last 50 years and therefore the ‘Oyee party’ needs to be allowed to succeed with the “government institutions recently established.” I did not know what to make of this. How could the Special Representative of the Secretary General of United Nations be so deliberately ignorant of the history of South Sudan?
South Sudan has had running government systems and institutions right from the time the British colonised the Sudan from 1898. From this time to 1947 South Sudan was ruled as a separate territory under the provision of the closed district act 1927 with governors in charge. This gubernatorial system continued from 1947 until independence in 1956 and beyond. People who doubt this should visit the University of Durham in UK to find this information out for themselves.
In 1972, South Sudan gained autonomy and acquired more powers and as a result it further developed a more modern and complex system of administration called ‘regional government’ with various ministries and a High Executive Council. Some of the people who led South Sudan during this period include Mr Abel Alier, Gen. Joseph Lagu, Gen. Gismalla Rasas and others. The three mentioned dignitaries thank God are alive and they are a living testament. Gen, Lagu is now an advisor to president Kiir, and Gen. Gismalla Rasas is an appointed MP. So, what is this nonsense of, “we are starting from scratch”? This is not only a total lie, but utter rubbish. If the international community is using this phrase to appease the ‘Oyee party’ in the hope that it will change, let them rest assured that they are being taken for a ride. Joining the chorus only allows them to be influenced negatively with a net result of a loss. The ‘Oyee party’ has developed a bad culture which is impossible to change. To the world they present a benign face and to the South Sudanese internally they present a deadly menacing face. During the war, SPLM organised a convention in 1994 in the ‘liberated areas’ of South Sudan where they made promises over promises and nothing materialised. Similarly since assuming state power in July 2011, president Kiir has been to USA twice making grand statements on governance and corruption. What has transpired so far? Nothing. Instead he intensified repression of media while insecurity spiralled out of control. On the issue of corruption, president Kiir ran a tangle of complicated web while waving some bogus legislation at the international community claiming progress is being made. In reality the issue of corruption is slowly being squeezed into insignificance, especially now with the issue of oil taking centre stage as a rallying point for South Sudanese.
The people who peddle this lie that ‘we are starting from scratch’ are the same people who worked in the regional government of South Sudan from 1972 to 1983. Most of the current ministers including the president served under the regional government and they know that there has always been a system in South Sudan. In fact, the ‘Oyee party’ is responsible for dismantling that system by de-legitimising the local government structure at the village level. The SPLA soldier became a power unto himself with his AK47 and the vile and infectious songs of indoctrination: Ishalla Abuk wadiu talaga. Kalashnikov da umma bitak, ita bakul fogu. With the legitimisation of AK47 as the instrument of survival; SPLA looted freely, raped freely, murdered freely – all sorts of crimes became acceptable and the norm. They transferred this culture to the towns as of 2005. Hence, the looting spree of the government coffers. Yes, there might not have been a system in the bush because they dismantled it. But in the government controlled towns there was a functioning system and they inherited it. This system broke down out of their arrogance and tendency to discriminate between those who remained inside the country during the war (called Jalaba) and those (themselves) who returned from the bush (blessed liberators). Having created this chaos, without shame they are now saying we are ‘starting from scratch.’ The statement we are ‘starting from scratch’ is a fallacy. The Anglo-Arab colonial system may not have appealed to SPLM but nevertheless it was a system. That system is what you find in most former British colonies such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and so on.
The current setting works well for SPLM to continue with their plunder of the country’s resources. Before the CPA, SPLM/A was engaged in all sorts of abuses ranging from corruption to severe human rights abuses. In the process, the strong in the movement became richer with the masses getting impoverished. In the SPLM/A controlled areas, looting, raping etc reached a level whereby it became almost part of life. In the process, the rape of South Sudan took a full turn across all spheres of life and this continues to date.
Politically, when the CPA came into force and SPLM/A assumed full power in South Sudan, they continued with their culture of abuse and impunity. They imported the bush lawlessness into the towns and the government offices. They began a divisive language by calling those South Sudanese who remained inside the country ‘Jalaba’ and those outside the country (Diaspora) as ‘cowards’. As far as they are concerned they are the only liberators. Instead of being magnanimous, they dismissed the contribution of all others. This abusive behaviour continued until 2010. During the election in that year, SPLM banned legitimate members from standing. For instance, the late George Athor, Alfred Ladu Gore, Lawrence Korbandy, Mary Kiden, Joseph Bakasoro and many others. Some of these individuals opted out and stood as independent candidates. SPLM unashamedly went out and massively rigged the elections sparking a series of mini rebellions. Arrogant as they are, they took advantage of the state and used state resources to fund their preferred candidates. Although following a complaint from Mr Clement Mbugominiwa, the leader of USSP and the intervention of Mr Benjamin Nkape (the former president of Tanzania and the UN representative), the other parties were eventually allocated meagre funds for election purposes, this was most unfortunately corruptly misappropriated by three prominent persons leading to some of the intended recipients losing out. This grave issue was brought to the attention of the vice president who ignored it. Wrong doings in our country do not get any attention even at the highest offices. What hope is really there for our country to take of in the right direction with this lot in power?
It is abundantly clear that the ruling party is corrupt through and through. Just as in the case above, one would expect that the vice president would order an investigation to deal with the issue firmly as a way of discouraging corruption and ensuring that the system works properly. Instead, he pays a blind eye sending a message to the thieves that corruption is accepted and rewarded. I just imagine him punching the air in glee roaring SPLM Oyee! with the party lemmings answering back loudly Oyee! Why not? After all, mission accomplished. Beled tala kalas. It is time for feasting. The rest of us who care about the welfare of the people and country can go hang. This is of course expected from a person who goes to New York with per diem of one million US dollars for only 10 days. To mask this mismanagement, it has become vital for the ‘Oyee party’ to shout loudly, ‘We are starting from scratch.’
Economically, since the British left the Sudan in 1956, South Sudan has been starved of economic development. The Arabs did not see any reason to develop the South economically because they wanted to totally subjugate it. The trick was to make South Sudan totally dependent on Khartoum which of-course worked but it fuelled resentment toward the centre. The centralisation of all activities in Khartoum created what late Dr John Garang articulated as the centre-periphery theory which may have been the source of all ills in the then Sudan. We now in South Sudan are in danger of replicating the same mistake. What a paradox for Col. Dr John Garang, the founder of ‘Oyee party’? As I write there is not a single plan for encouraging local development in the various regions of the country in order to halt the movement of people from villages to the cities. In Juba, one can not miss to see the hundreds of uneducated, skill-less men loitering around in the town doing nothing. Most of these are relatives of the big shots in power. No wonder, crime is on the increase in Juba. This crime is not only limited to these unfortunate unskilled people but also their benefactors. Although, no research has been done on the issue, it seems reasonable to assume that the massive corruption going on in the government is partly fuelled by the need of the government officials wanting to meet their obligation of feeding and maintaining their relatives and families.
With this background of a country slowly sliding into the abyss led by wrong doers, corrupt, mendacious and visionless leaders, one would have expected that the SRSG of UN in South Sudan would have used her participation in BBC’s Hardtalk to highlight some of these issues to the pretend leaders in Juba. Ms Johnson now influenced by the toxic ‘Oyee party’ and Dinkocracy is unable to look at things objectively. In spite of the failures of the leaders in Juba to make good on their pledges she appears to have hope in them. I could not believe what I was hearing when Ms Johnson asserted that GoSS now consults with the people and there is improvement on the system. I just few weeks ago, president Kiir contemptuously ignored consultation and inclusivity on the issue of the permanent constitution, what does Ms Johnson say about this? It would have been better if Ms Johnson did not say anything rather than to promote an abusive and tyrannical regime. The yard stick with which Ms Johnson measures things in the RSS needs to be carefully reviewed because it appears as if something is seriously wrong with it.
Now, there is a new threat from the non state actors in Jonglei. They have issued another chilling warning to commit crimes against humanity in Pibor. What is the UN under Ms Johnson armed with section 7 mandate of Security Council and the GoSS going to do? Will this be a repeat of what happened in December 2011 and beginning of January 2012? Or will it be a real protection of civilians this time? Or will it be another excuse of lack of structures as Ms Johnson said in the Hardtalk programme? Whatever happens there needs to be an investigation of the entire failure of governance in Jonglei. Heads need to roll. The governor of Jonglei must account for the breakdown in law and order on his turf. It is no good for him to sit there in military uniform as General when he can not stop unruly kids wrecking havoc all over the place. If the authorities in Juba can not see and understand that the behaviour of this so called White Army (composed of Nuer and Dinka) in Jonglei threatens the very credibility and stability of the RSS, then I rest my case. This group effectively is turning the RSS into an ungovernable country and therefore a failed state (although to a certain degree it already is). Alternatively, Ms Johnson needs to call in the ICC to investigate. There is nothing called we are starting from the scratch. Serious crimes are being committed in Jonglei and these need to be firmly addressed. When the Sudan was united, this kind of nonsense used not to happen and there is no reason why it should happen now.
Taking the phrase, ‘We are starting from scratch’ into consideration in decision making distorts the realities and leads to chaos as in the case of the looting spree of the government coffers, massive corruption, massive mismanagement, police brutality, failure to protect citizens and the list goes on. In addition to this, it distorts the realities of our history and this is not good for the future generation. The only beneficiaries are the tribalists, the economic and political rapists, and criminals hiding behind the phrase and you know who they are.
Finally, if I may repeat the words of the decent and honourable lady at the beginning of this article: ‘What have we done to deserve this?’ Surely, we deserve better and it is time to face our realities and let us weed out fiction from facts and chaff from wheat by saying loudly – enough is enough. Stop. Stop the rape of the RSS. Stop it!
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan; he can be reached at [email protected]