South Sudan does not need ‘strong leaders’!

Quote: “Wisdom is knowing when to speak up your mind and when to mind your speech!” Source: Unknown

By: Deng Riek Khoryoam, RSS

January 24, 2013 (SSNA) — Since South Sudan gained her independence from the mother Sudan more than a year ago, a lot of fascinating stories have been told over and over again, and I think we’ve had enough of such stories, good or bad. Since then, there has been a lot of cheap talk and political lip-service by the so called ‘strong leaders’ in an attempt to woo, (if not to confuse) the citizens so as to win confidence and trust. Needless to say that the contrary has been true! The leaders have one time or more promised to move mountains where there never existed any single mountain since ancient times.

It’s an incontestable fact that some leaders are known to have used the aura of democratization (however young it may be) to become kings to themselves without the slightest sense of accountability to any authority: all in the name of freedom. Yet experience has repeatedly shown that freedom with checks and balances is like claiming for rights without acknowledging the responsibility that goes along with those rights. The result could be anybody’s guess!

That brings to mind these critical questions: does South Sudan need strong leaders? Does it not need just strong institutions? You might recall that this was one of the key points of President Obama ‘speech in his keynote address to African leaders and despots, who overstayed in power for as long as nobody could remember. He said that “Africa does not need strong leaders but needs strong institutions of governance and democracy”. I may beg your pardon if I am boring you with my reminiscences of the past!

May I also add that South Sudan does not need strong leaders but strong institutions of governance; the kind of institutions that could nurture and grow our young and crazy democracy into a matured and real democracy, not what we see as camouflage to human rights abuses, killing and threatening of opinion writers, detaining and torturing of journalists and civil society activists/advocates – all in a desperate attempt to silencing of political dissents and public opinion.

What is and has been happening in South Sudan is sheer craziness and hypocrisy at best. If we took up arms against Khartoum for oppression, marginalization, underdevelopment, gross human rights abuses and all that we could remember, then how can our so-called liberators-turned-leaders behave and do the same sorts of things to the people they helped free from slavery and bondage under Khartoum? How can Juba suddenly go the Khartoum’s way in terms of not respecting the constitution and the rule of law? Are we not condemned to death by those who died in the struggle for justice, liberty and prosperity when we don’t do or practice what we fought for over two decades? How different is Juba-based government now from that dictatorship government in Khartoum?

I may conclude this piece by emphasizing that what South Sudan direly needs currently are strong institutions of governance deeply rooted in the respect for rule of law and good governance. It’s indisputable that leaders come and go and the nation or country remains. We need institutions that could hold constitutional post-holders to account for their actions and inactions! We need a country where freedom of expression and media thrives; the dream republic of South Sudan where nothing is left to the whims of the rulers, a nation where political pluralism is cherished and embraced! We long for South Sudan where the leaders are accountable to the people who elected them into those offices and get in touch with the common man and woman in the periphery. Currently, our so-called ‘strong leaders’ have lost touch with the ordinary people of South Sudan and I can tell you that this isn’t a good picture of the country we intend to build.

We envisage a South Sudan where corrupt and dictatorial practices done by now the ‘strong leaders’ are condemned and shunned by the civil society and the people of goodwill. We need South Sudan where the national parliament is not used as a rubberstamp and easy-passing of unpopular and useless policy statements disguised as laws. We need the national parliament that can play its crucial role of watchdog and supervisory and to reprimand the executive branch if it misbehaved in carrying out its constitutional duties and responsibilities. We want corruption to be minimized, if it cannot be stamped out completely. We want a decentralised system of governance, which should not only be written smartly in the constitution but put into practice by the state.

Decentralization system of governance cannot be mistaken for abdication of one’s responsibility nor is it synonymous with the misconceived ‘powerlessness’! It’s a strong ingredient of democracy and good governance. We need South Sudan where any dissatisfied group in the society can be allowed freely to go onto the street to stage a peaceful protest against any ill-intended decision or action by their leaders. We need South Sudan where intellectual discourse freely flows and the opinion writers are not threatened for speaking up their mind (s). We long for South Sudan where press freedom is guaranteed and protected within the parameters of the constitution and other legal bodies! Happy new year, 2013!

The writer is a former Chairperson of Fangak Youth Union and a civil society activist. He could be reached for comments at: [email protected]

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