Flurry of Callous Negativity: An Open Letter to Mr. Alan Boswell

By Kuir ë Garang

September 1, 2012 (SSNA) — I’m always critical of the government of South Sudan because of the systemic problems the officials seem to either ignore or brush aside hoping they’d just disappear.

Even if some of these systemic problems can be blamed on the country being new, and SPLM transition to a political party understandably slow, there’s no clear indication that things will improve into the positive soon. There are also problems caused by the officials themselves: corruption, sine qua non decisions, tribalism and the issue of making some leaders cultic figures, almost.

However, this is something you’re already familiar with and I apologize for boring you with that paragraph.

My main question to you is this: Is your mission only to point out the problems in Juba so that things improve, or are you just there to paint the Juba leaders in the old western, anachronistic and paternalistic lenses?

We, as South Sudanese, need a neutral voice to corroborate our grievances with the rotten system in Juba; however, you need to position yourself as someone who’s actually out to help this nascent ‘democracy’; if Juba’s air can do any justice to that word. So far, you’re fixated on the negative devoid of any constructive sympathies. Oh, I forgot: you’re a journalist; a westerner in Africa!

You’re coming out as utterly insensitive and callously reminiscent of western perception of Africa and Africans. I’d want to believe that you’re what I think you are: an objectively-minded journalist (if that means anything). However, I wonder if there’s no any single story; positive enough for you to write about. You seem to be looking for controversial, demeaning stories. I understand that only negative stories make money in the west. We only see damning stories about Africa on TV; and that seems to be the very angle you’ve adopted without any qualm.

You have to remember that whatever you write doesn’t only reflect on the government. As a westerner, you have to be mindful of the racial and continental conceptualization of your ideas, methods and the procurement language. You risk offending the average South Sudanese with obsession with the African ‘business as usual.’ There’s also the risk of you falling in to the old-times-sake: "I don’t care much what they think or would think."

You’re preying on people who know little about how to deal with the beguiling western leaders, western capitalist predators, and the pretentious western journalists. Juba is making you famous and you’re basking in their unfortunate states of affair. The likes of Benjamin Marial speak without evidence and I bet you love that. The President has little if not nothing in the name of independent, personal thoughts about how to run the country; and that makes you love Juba the more. What Obama says is assumed sacrosanct, without argument, because it’s coming out of Washington. And many people would assume you’re saying the truth because you’re a western journalist.

As much as I love what you’re doing in Juba, I do believe you can do better by being a classy journalist not some Hollywood-type paparazzi out to bank on celebrity-type scandals. We want people like you in Juba; however, I don’t want you to be blinded by unexpected fame to end up blurring the line between the government officials’ incompetence, and subtle, unconscionable insults to the conscience and the minds of South Sudanese people.

Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese poet and novelist living in Canada. He is the author of the recently released novel, The Pipers. For contacts, write to [email protected] or Twitter @kuirthiy. For more information visit www.kuirthiy.info

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