Tribalism: The Vile Curse of South Sudan

By Wani Tombe Lako

February 14, 2013 (SSNA) — In the nascent Republic of South Sudan (RoSS); the system of governance is Tribocracy instead of Democracy. Tribocracy is a rule by a tribe or groups of tribes who monopolise all institutions of governance in a country like the RoSS. There are some ministries in the RoSS which look and sound like tribal gathering venues; for some tribal rituals to be performed therein.

This author has written extensively on the evil of tribalism in the RoSS; and he has been vilified for doing so. Others accuse him of inciting revolt in the RoSS; and some think that he is against them as members of particular tribes that abuse leadership in the RoSS.

The fact of the matter is that; tribalism is as dangerous as racism. A tribalist will do all types of evil things to another human being that a racist does to another human person. A tribalist will discriminate against another human being because of his colour; tribal marks; language; culture; faith; and all those immutable characteristics that a human person is born with because he is human.

Tribalists in the RoSS take lives of other human persons just because these poor victims do not emanate from their tribes. In legal terms; this is an organised killing; and upon proper legal analyses; fits all legal requirements for the occurrence of the crime of genocide. Therefore; in fact; and at law; in the RoSS; there are genocides taking place almost every day! Consider the extermination of the Murelly tribe in the RoSS; and you have the crime of genocide staring you in the face. This is the work of tribalists.

The RoSS is proving ungovernable because; all formal institutions of governance in the RoSS have been transformed into informal institutions of Tribocracy. Modern governments are premised on the concept of meritocracy; however; Tribocracy and meritocracy cannot just go hand-in-hand. They are arch enemies; to the extent that; once Tribocracy has taken hold as in the RoSS; meritocracy must die a natural death, if not; a brutal death as is the case in the RoSS.

Tribocracy is very suited for the administration of subsistence modes of production; whereby; the economic anthropology of these modes of production; dictate that; decisions are taken on the basis of kinship affiliations; within this realm of economics of affection.

Governance based on Tribocracy lacks the capacity to identify; nurture; develop; and sustain formal talents, and comprehensive value systems, acquired via formal educational processes, and various graduations; for the creation of pools of technocrats; needed for the purposes of formal governments and governance; saturated in meritocracy, for national and sovereign interests.  

This lack of capacity within the remit of Tribocracy is due to the fact that; tribalism as a system of socio-economic and political mobilisation; inherently lacks the formal selection and recruitment mechanisms of formal institutions. Tribalism has different recruitment and selection criteria which put emphasis on different indices not akin to those found in formal institutions. Therefore; since Tribocracy is a function of tribalism; it is thus imbued with the same incapacity found in tribalism.

For example; in a Tribocracy; loyalty is to the tribe not to the nation or sovereignty unless if the sovereign and the nation coincide intimately with the interests of the tribe (s) controlling the state; run on the basis of Tribocracy as in the RoSS. The reason why the violation of human rights of the human person; in the RoSS is so commonplace; is due to the fact that; tribal militias, in the form of police; security personnel; and the army; have taken the law into their own hands for the protection of tribal interests within the crucible of Tribocracy. This means that; any person not agreeing with the acts and omissions of rulers in a Tribocracy is an enemy. He/she must thus be eliminated. The concept of prison for arch enemies is lacking in a Tribocracy. Enemies have to be eliminated forever.

In a Tribocracy; a thinking mind is dangerous. Tribal rulers detest active brains that want to contribute positively to the advancement of humanity. Tribal rulers only want to discover new methodologies of how to entrench their evil rule and how to further monopolise all institutions of governance in the state as in the RoSS.

In a Tribocracy; the wealth of the nation belongs to the controlling tribe (s). This is the tragedy that has befallen the RoSS. Close analyses of all the names and personalities accused by the President of the RoSS as having stolen four (4) billon dollars from the peoples of South Sudan (PoSS); indicate that; the majority of them come from almost one tribe. This is the tragedy for the PoSS. The PoSS must themselves stop this from getting out of control. This system of Tribocracy in the RoSS is not the future the PoSS have been promised by the rulers of the RoSS. This system of Tribocracy is leading the PoSS to their comprehensive doom.

In a Tribocracy; the concept of provision of goods and services to the populace is not in the vocabulary of the ruling elites. For example; when the ruling elites in Juba pretended that they wanted to buy maize for the PoSS; the ministry of finance there released funds into the hands of those whom they knew were not actually going to provide the maize. The money ended up being looted.

In a Tribocracy; the concept of public procurement is missing. All procurement is private but using public funds. Ministers travel abroad in order to procure goods and services. This is almost unheard of internationally. The reason is due to the fact that; cultural norms are applied when dealing with formal government procurement decisions; and thus; issues get mixed up to the extent that; some of the elites in the RoSS fall back on their cultural anthropology to run the affairs of the state.

In a Tribocracy; smooth and peaceful transfer of power is almost impossible. Since loyalty is to the tribe; any attempt to change leadership is seen as a colossal threat to the very existence of the tribe hitherto controlling comprehensive power and wealth in the state like the RoSS. It does not matter whatever methods are proposed for the transfer of power including elections. It is always seen as a threat to the lives of the oligarchs controlling the Tribocracy. This means that; the PoSS have to decide once and for all; as to whether; they want to live under the yoke of tribal oligarchs or there must be a change for the better?

The choice of Tribocracy as the system of governance in the RoSS is extremely dangerous. The tribalisation of all institutions of governance is counterproductive; and smacks in the face of the claims of modernity vis-à-vis the nascent government of the RoSS. Making the PoSS to identify with the tribe as the source of comprehensive securities is dangerous. This undermines the nurturing of the values of nationalism in which; all the PoSS are supposed to identify with the nation.

The RoSS has very much started on the wrong foot. The worse is yet to be seen in terms of comprehensive instability and chaos consequential upon the entrenchment of Tribocracy as the system of governance in the RoSS. Various African countries are falling apart due to the promotion of tribal interests at the expense of national ones to the extent that; nations disappear and you are left with tribal groups murdering one another in a cutthroat struggle for the control of power and wealth.

This curse shall not just disappear in the RoSS. There must be positive steps and sincere intentions by all those who love human stability to fight the abuse of the concept of tribe and its misuse as a weapon of mass destruction; within the remit of modern political discourse and practice in the RoSS. Tribocracy is a ticking time bomb that cannot be anymore ignored. This venom ought to be neutralized before it destroys everybody in the RoSS.

Those who are bent on the promotion of Tribocracy ought to know that; the length of domination of others notwithstanding; there shall subsequently come the time when this evil effigy shall come crumbling down with disastrous consequences particularly for its beneficiaries. History is awash with examples of demises of tribes who basked and paraded in the glory of tribal might founded on misconceptions of greatness. It does not usually take years for such a system to collapse.

The general unity of other tribes against the supposed tyrannical tribe always see to it that; such anarchies masquerading as governments do not last forever. The PoSS ought to quickly put together a functional strategy as to how to liberate themselves from the evil of Tribocracy so that; they can then set about laying the foundation for a sound governance for the benefit of posterities. It is a crime to allow those few others to lord over the majority of the PoSS simply because; they control power and wealth; and translate these two values into security threats against the other PoSS. This must stop in one way or another.

The author is Professor of Social and Rural Development and Lecturer in Laws. He can be contacted via [email protected]

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