By: Justin Ambago Ramba
March 12, 2012 (SSNA) — To truly qualify as a genuine multi-party democracy the new republic of South Sudan will have to do away with the undemocratic old practice of the pre-secession era where the two Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA] partners – the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement [SPLM] and the National Congress Party [NCP) enjoyed a free access to the public coffers to promote their respective party interests. This should now be regarded as a thing of the past as it only works to consolidate totalitarianism or at best a single party rule.
Learn Important Lessons from Older Democracies
It is equally important that the various political parties learn a lesson or two from other advanced democracies worldwide. Such lessons will become handy when it comes to address issues of finances, transparency and accountability. For as it can be seen in older democracies where pluralism is adhered to by the book, political parties by law are responsible for raising the necessary funds needed to finance their activities.
To start the first step towards the needed pluralism South Sudan must willingly accept to adopt a new era in which political parties of whatever standing shouldn’t be allowed to parasitize on tax payer’s money. A new dawn where such practices are deemed inappropriate is highly welcomed and much so if that dawn could only start today before tomorrow.
On the whole there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that the situation has long been made worse as widespread corruption became entrenched into the very soul of the so-called ruling party. It is under such circumstances that no citizen in their proper state of mind would be assumed to support yet another wastage of millions of dollars of the much needed money for development and services being misappropriated to finance the lavish lifestyle of what has become ‘a corrupt bunch of elites’.
Again given the fact that the nation’s financial management on its entirety is set to undergo radical changes in accordance with the declared austerity measures, one believes that irresponsible spending on all ‘good for nothing institutions’ need to be reviewed and reversed. It can’t be overstressed any further that for South Sudan to evolve as a thriving democracy, the President’s party which refers to itself as the ruling party will have to clearly stand separately from the state institutions [police, security, army etc…….]. a simple example would be to accept that being an SPLM is distinctively separate from being an SPLA, the country will never make any headway. As obvious as it might sound, we are forced to point it out for the millionth time to counteract the unfortunate day to day deliberate mix up of the two by people particularly enjoying high positions in the establishment.
Clear Alternative To Replace The Current Dependency On State Funding
Back to our core issue of financing political parties, we are here to promote one clear alternative to replace the current dependency on state funding. Like anywhere else fund raising is the main stay for financing political parties as such and being second only to the membership subscriptions that is mandatory and have to be paid by the members. Crucial here of course is the concern that in search for financial support, political parties shouldn’t be allowed become tools in the hands of the wealthy – individuals or organisations. This can only be safeguarded by laws which must be in place to control party finances. The entire state’s sovereignty may also be at risk if political parties or civil society organisations allow themselves to be manipulated by foreign sponsoring agencies in return for funding.
To put it bluntly, any politician or activist who depends on foreign financial assistances is likely to compromise positions on issues that threaten the interests of their financial benefactors and may at time come at the expense of their national duties. And when I refer to politicians or activists it should rightly be understood to mean anyone from the state president to the most junior party member in the remotest villages of the remotes Bomas or Payams as history has it. These issues need to be made explicitly clear in the laws that govern parties and organisations.
A Calculated Step From China’s Communist Party To Undermine RSS’s Multi-Partism
Of an equal concern are the many memoranda of understanding [MoU] signed between national parties and other foreign organisations here and there. These kinds of documents are more likely than not to tie down a nation into long term commitments and should have been subjected to the highest levels of transparency. It is in the country’s interest that foreign governments sign such memoranda with the relevant government departments and not political parties.
An issue at hand was the memo signed between the SPLM party and the Chinese Communist Party. This might be in favour of the Chinese given the fact that China is a one party state. That said, however given South Sudan’s multi-party status, the opposition parties see this particular move as a calculated step from the Chinese purely dictated by their trade interests and obviously at the expense of transparent partnership with the South Sudanese state. In so doing china has grossly undermined the multi-party status of the host country. By reaching-out only to the ruling SPLM party, the Chinese have willingly joined hands with SPLM to categorically alienate both the people and the state of South Sudan in what amounts to a classical example of political opportunism.
Nevertheless it still remains our join responsibility to save our country from the many evils that come with power and especially so when that power circles around money- how it is collected in the first place and how it’s thereafter spent. Under many totalitarian regimes worldwide of course including South Sudan today, there has been massive abuse of public money to promote narrow party interests. If we had the free money from the ‘No Man’s Oil’, today for all practical purposes we are no longer an Oil producing country and statements about tightening our expenditures only comes natural. But before we take any further steps in that direction isn’t an important part of the reflective learning process that we acknowledge the huge amount of public money [dollars in their billions] so far wasted by the current leadership on this white elephant called the SPLM party and its enormous structures and offices both at home and in the Diaspora.
The War Within: Is It True That Only The Insiders Know Who Ate What And When?
Between last year and this year we have already heard no less than two accusations of financial mismanagement levelled against the outspoken SPLM Secretary General Cdr. Pagan Amum. The first accusation came from the former Sudan’s Oil Minister Dr. Lual Deng and should be pending investigation.
The missing amounts are huge [hundreds of thousands of dollars] meant for constructing the SPLM party’s HQs. This was followed by a series of political uneasiness within the party the fact that it all came as a total shock to the grassroots. Again earlier this year, the ex-minister of finance in the first government of South Sudan, Arthur Akwen Chol accused the same SPLM SG of pocketing a total of $ 30 million dollars. As I write a court case is in progress as Cdr. Amum struggles to clear his name.
Since Cdr. Amum has already gone to court, he deserves to be congratulated for that brave step; however we are not that naïve to put all our trust into the local courts which lack the ability to operate independently from the political establishment. This said, the law must take its course and when it comes to accusations of theft no extra-judiciary settlement are allowed. While Mr. Arthur Akwen Chol keeps saying that he received his orders from above, we hope that the court will be able to establish that the above in question is not somewhere in the clouds.
Audit The Secretariat’s Finances & See An End To The State Parasitism.
As a nascent state and immediately starting on a weaning economy following the abrupt Oil Shutdown, and the austerity to follow, it’s only logical that such Para-governmental institutions like the SPLM General Secretariat be subjected to a through and back dated audit. There is already too much smell coming out of their kitchen, a thing worth investigating! This should have nothing to do with the SPLM’s SG court case, which is a brilliant idea for although our courts may not have the necessary independence in addressing such cases, yet it might offer an insight into the secret world of these two politicians and possibly expose the roles of more senior colleagues.
And while the court battles are being fought, “feet and teeth” a clear legislation on political parties financing and fund raising must come into being. No more of the current widespread parasitism on the public funds by the so-called ruling party or any other political party for that matter. If our people are not willing to abide by the rules and regulations to raise money for their party’s activities which is better done through the payment of membership subscriptions or other transparent fund raising procedures, there shouldn’t be any state funding especially where one party is favoured over the others. The law must also be able to confiscate all party properties which are purchased using public funds for they rightly belong to the state where every citizen can make used of and not a particular party.
Save us from the new SSU
This is the way forward and unless we change the old crude ways of running our affairs, we will soon find ourselves back in the old days of the infamous Sudan Socialist Union [SSU] where a self entrenched one party system with unlimited access to the state’s resources. What this breeds is a sense of living above the law and never ever heeding to the right priorities of the country. This should never be allowed to be our destiny. Not when many out there are able and willing to turn things around.
Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. He can be reached at: [email protected]@doctors.net.uk