The unfortunate death of Garang and its implication on South Sudan

By Elhag Paul

August 4, 2012 (SSNA) — The malaise going on in GoSS more and more has something to do with the manner in which South Sudan lost Dr Garang in 2005.  The closure to Garang’s death was inconclusive especially given the fact that the circumstance of his death has not been explained sufficiently enough to the average South Sudanese to lay the matter to rest.  Was his death an accident?  Was his death a conspiracy? Why was the outcome of the inquiry into his death so hazily presented?  Why does it appear as if some parts of the report are kept under wraps? Many questions still remain unanswered to this day.  The search for the missing answers and the lack of assurance from the leadership in South Sudan may have unconsciously affected the collective psyche of the South Sudanese people pushing it into depression.

So in order to deal with the pains of this hurtful loss of Dr Garang, some South Sudanese latch onto anything, even if it is not the truth, which glorifies the late as acceptable.  In a sense some South Sudanese have not undergone the full process of grieving.  Hence, the denial of Garang’s absence in South Sudan’s political space remains open.  This is filled by bringing Garang to life via expensive adverts and his ever presence in form of portraits hang in all government offices in South Sudan.  Slogans like ‘father of the nation’ are then used to assuage the pain and provide comfort for the unfinished process of grieving.  For example, Isaiah Abraham in numerous articles in Sudan Tribune and South Sudan Nation asks South Sudanese to accord Dr Garang the honour of ‘father of the nation’ not because he deserves it but rather as a sign of respect for his contribution to the struggle.  Here one can see clearly that rational has gone out of the window.  By the same token is the argument that Garang is a separatist even when the late made it abundantly clear that he was a unionist and was fighting for a united Sudan.

One wonders how within a short period Dr Garang’s image was completely transformed from a poor manager, a never forgiving and forgetting person, a corrupt autocrat etc to a hero and father of the nation.  Please see the minutes of Rumbek meeting 2004.  Almost the entire leadership of SPLA/M in support of Kiir lambasted the late and painted him as a monster from hell in this meeting.  Yet now with crocodile tears flowing in their eyes this same leadership is doing everything within its power to reinstate the person they had verbally slain.  The reinstatement is now buttressed constantly by use of mass media to keep the story alive.  General Koul Deim Koul’s programme on SSTV is part of this campaign. 

There is an astonishing behaviour in GoSS in relation to Dr Garang currently.  President Kiir seems to find it difficult to be in his own shoes.  He appears to seek the late’s approval for many things.  This can be seen in the way that president Kiir frequently announces crucial decision at the mausoleum of Dr Garang.  What is the link and importance of making crucial decisions at the mausoleum?  What cultural significance does this behaviour serve?  Is it spiritual?  If yes, in what sense is it to the whole country? And why isn’t it explained to the people?  If not, why is it being done then?  President Kiir’s government needs to explain to the people so that they can understand these symbolic actions.

The failure to address grieving process positively can be damaging to individuals, families and/or society at large.  Grieving is a major contributor to emotional problems which lead to behavioural issues, especially when it has developed to the level of depression as it appears in the case of South Sudan.

As a country, South Sudan can be viewed as a society that has gone potty.  Experts of depression would have no problem in spotting the characteristics of depression disabling the country.  First, GoSS appears to have no motivation or sense of fulfilling its duties to the people.  The ruling Oyee party has proven that it is unable to make any programmes for lifting the people out of poverty.  As a result, people in many parts of the country are going hungry without food; dying from diseases without medicines; sleeping rough in open without housing; remaining ignorant without education; idling on the streets without work; dying from thirst without water; and defecating in open without toilet facilities and sewer system.  The first five elements which like the rest are not attended to in South Sudan are the very elements that Sir William Henry Beveridge (1879 – 1963), the British economist and social reformer pinpointed in his report, ‘The Beveridge Report’ of 1942 as the basis of service by government to citizens in any decent society.  The parliament in Juba is not only unable to legislate but openly manifests fear of the executive.  Instead of it holding the executive to account, the executive has relegated parliament to a procedural rubber stamp. 

Secondly, GoSS is intolerant of opposition political parties and critics.  Confused and unsure of itself, GoSS monopolises the political space and deliberately denies opposition parties and critics any room for participation in the political process.

Thirdly, GoSS time and again fails to make decision on pertinent issues.  The ruling Oyee party paralysed by the unexpected and sudden death of Dr Garang, could not make any decisions to advance the business of government.  This has had massive damage on the image of the country and also led to serious deficiency in its foreign service.  For example, the ministry of foreign affairs for a long time was an empty shell, with neither appointed staff nor competent structure for foreign service.  Party apparatchiks without credible qualifications self appointed themselves into ambassadorial positions which later got ratified by the system.  During the Panthou War in April this year, the ineptness of this ministry got exposed big time. 

Fourth, GoSS poor performance on it’s duties.  The government does not see that it has a duty to be fair in employment, provide service to the people and protect the public purse.  The failure to perform here has given a space for tribalism to flourish to the extent that it has now affected the social cohesion of the people of South Sudan.  It also has led to wide spread suffering among the people and the spread of corruption like wild fire.  The result has been catastrophic with the world naming South Sudan as the fourth failed state following Somalia, Congo, and the Sudan

Fifth, Goss appears not to have any interest in tackling serious internal issues such as security in the country.  The rate of homicide in South Sudan is shocking.  In Juba alone, an average of 15 persons are killed every day.  Some of these crimes are committed by members of the organised forces as admitted by both the president and the minister of Home Affairs recently.  In Jonglei state, cattle rustling have developed into an all out tribal war involving members of Murle, Nuer and Dinka tribes who are armed to teeth.  GoSS shies away from tackling this problem for no good reason.  On the other hand, a foreign rebel force of Lord Resistance Army from Uganda operates freely in Western Equatoria state without the government taking any responsibility to protect its citizens. 

Sixth, GoSS does not appear to be interested in engaging with other countries, friends and foes alike.  The government failed to educate the world about South Sudan, its people, culture and lands.  This inexcusable act became apparent during the Panthou War.  The world unknowingly thought that Panthou truly belonged to the Sudan when in reality it is part and parcel of South Sudan. The foreign service of RSS which comprised, unqualified Oyee apparatchiks had no clue of what their duties were.  They drove posh cars in Juba pretending to be diplomats when in reality they are just a waste of space.

The above six symptoms which I believe are not the only ones crippling GoSS, tells us that the depression gripping South Sudan needs to be addressed in order for South Sudan to begin to move forward.  The panacea for depression involves combination of medication and therapy.  As a country and since this is a collective depression, South Sudan can not take medication, but it certainly requires psychotherapy in the form of bringing the country to terms with the death of Dr Garang.  This can be achieved by the country being brought up to date with the circumstance of the death and the findings of the enquiry into the death.  This is important if South Sudan is to move on.

While the grieving episode is one side of the story, the other side is the brutality and oppression that the Arab colonialist meted out on South Sudanese during the 55 years of occupation.  The Arabs attempted to destroy the norms and cultures in South Sudan in their quest to Arabise and Islamise the South Sudanese.  This had been traumatic and destructive to the psyche of the South Sudanese people.  Unfortunately, when the SPLM/A (Oyee) came into existence in 1983, it failed to treat the people with dignity and respect as a true liberation force would do.  It behaved like the Arabs instead of liberators in many parts of South Sudan.  The Oyee organisation began by destroying structures of good governance, norms and practised cultures in areas under their control while replacing them with lawlessness and violence.  The history of the Oyee organisation on brutality and abuse of human rights is shameful and down right disgraceful.  No decent person in their right mind can associate herself/himself with such a barbaric organisation.

Frantz Fanon (1924 – 1961) the psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and psychopathologist of de-colonization would have had no difficulty in seeing the Oyee party in equal terms as the rulers of Khartoum, and he would have recommended people’s resistance to it as the panacea.  Oyee accuses Khartoum of corruption, yet it is the more corrupt.  Oyee accuses Khartoum of totalitarianism, yet it is the more oppressive and totalitarian.  Oyee accuses Khartoum of failing to provide services, yet it too does not provide basic services with causing citizens to die in tenth of hundred in Warrap, Unity, and Jonglie states.   If one looks at any accusation that the Oyee hurls at Khartoum, you will find that they too hold the vice in excess.  This is what psychologists call projection.  Throwing away what you hate in yourself at another person/object.  Soon the general masses will work this out for themselves.

Both issues combined (grief and violence) and the failure of GoSS to address them over the years has created a state of anomie in our society. In a sense South Sudan, has become crazy and irrational out of its own experience from unaddressed death of Dr Garang; and from Arab and Oyee oppression.  South Sudan now out of depression and its own violent past is drifting aimlessly without direction in a turbulent world.  This malaise that has gripped GoSS is serious but we seem to minimise the dangers we are now exposed to as a whole society. 

In drawing the curtain, allow me to say the Oyee party is not suited to address these problems that South Sudan is facing because it is part of the problem and it can not see the destructive role it has played.  This remains a blind spot for it.  Its refusal to let the country become a democratic state to be managed by competent and rational people chosen by the people as opposed to ‘one man, one tribe and one party government’ is another part of the malaise.  Ignorantly, the Oyee party is playing with fire.  It is pitting itself against the people of South Sudan.  What it is doing now is gradually pushing all the people of South Sudan to unit against them.  This is already happening in many parts of the country.  President Kiir can break this negative development by starting to release all the political prisoners; speaking to all the opposition parties, armed groups and civil society organisation in order to hold a convention of the people of South Sudan to form a government of national unity.  That government will be tasked with addressing the problems discussed in this paper and preparing the grounds for a credible general election within two years.  The ball is now on president Kiir’s court. 

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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