April 11, 2013 (SSNA) — This article has been inspired by my fellow compatriot Jacob Dut Chol’s brilliant article which appeared in the Sudan Tribune online on April 8, 2013 under the heading of: “Kenyan Experience: lessons South Sudan can learn”.
“What lessons can Semi-Authoritarian South Sudan learns from Kenya”? The writer asked.
He then went on to say the following about his article:
“This paper aims to examine most recent advances in transition of Kenya to democracy, which was often considered to be one of Africa’s most ethnic-divided stalled cases”.
To make my personal comment, I would like to start my take on Dut Chol’s article by saying that although other commentators did criticize the article for being more of an academic research, on my side, I sincerely it as a great effort worth every one’s appreciation. The author did seem to have dedicated much of his lines to tell the readers what other academic thinkers think of the recent changes in the politics of the neighboring Kenya without making an equal effort to present his (the writers) personal opinion on the issue. But otherwise there is much useful stuff in that article and again I count on the author if we are at all to realize the new dawn of a democratic RSS.
On the other hand truly it would be a good thing for South Sudan to benefit from its Kenyan neighbours and learn something from their experience, but this can only happen when Kenya itself succeeds to redeem its internal, regional and international politics. My personal take here is that Kenya may not offer the best example for South Sudan to follow at this particular period in time. And as long as the country continues to be driven by the ‘politics of the belly’ and patronage, my opinion is likely to remain unaltered for a long time to come.
Kenya like many other African countries had since started its independence on both the wrong footing and the wrong vision. And it cannot be overemphasized any further that it’s now one of the continents breeding ground for tribal politics, corruption and favoritism, and if anything it can only make South Sudan another worse place.
At least for now there is no South Sudanese in their right states of mind who would like this new country to become another Kenya for the mere fact that the malign and exploitative capitalistic attitude of those tribal politicians continue to override everything in that country. South Sudan has since been a failed state in its own right, and it doesn’t mean it will have to add another country’s troubles on to what it already has.
The above observations may sound a bit on the negative side; unfortunately that’s the reality. Nonetheless in spite all those seemingly hostile introduction I would like to reassure Mr Jacob Dut Chol that I was still able to see his point and message very vividly. One thing which he surely haven’t given much consideration is the fact that there exist huge differences in the historical backgrounds of the struggles for independence in Kenya and South Sudan. As both countries come from different colonial backgrounds we are more than likely to encounter many mismatches.
Anyway let’s thank the Lord for at least the Kenyan politicians seem to have now come to their senses by reviewing their country’s constitution, devolving the government, and allowing for multiparty democracy albeit only after a bloodbath that could have been avoided in the first place. That being said we cannot pretend not to see the contrast in the case of RSS, where the tribally ruling SPLM is not only unwilling to initiate any of the things that were accomplished by the Kenyan people in the post 2007 turmoil, but rather it can be seen to be relentlessly working to establish an ethnically dominated politics. This is going to where Kenya was and not where Kenya is now nor is seen to be heading to.
In a stark contrast to the current situation in Kenya, people in South Sudan are patiently languishing under a totalitarian and an authoritarian regime. As I write now, South Sudan has no independent election commission, no independent judiciary, no free press, plus it has one of the most biased Political Party Acts in the world. The country’s transitional constitution, written by a hand picked puppets of the current leadership, the document is rotten to the core as it gives the president unlimited powers thus making him above the law itself.
With the so-called permanent constitution being controlled by a predominantly pro-the status quo group, we will definitely end up with a far worse laws likely to turn RSS into a one party totalitarian regime by default. Let’s just hope that some divine intervention will save the country from this inevitable demise.
Above all if at all RSS is going to have general elections come 2015, it is going to be under the above circumstances – and it will just be a repeat of the April 2010 experience, with SPLM harassing perceived opponents, and thus rigging the entire process.
Furthermore the 2015 elections and its aftermath in RSS won’t be any different from what Kenya went through in 2007. We will even be very lucky to reach the settlements and solutions so far reached in Kenya, when our own mess breaks up!
If we are to learn from the Kenyan experience, then we better start it now. The 2010 elections were messy enough to draw up eyebrows, and although a full blown rampage didn’t break out following the announcement of the forged results as the vast majority of the South Sudanese chose to put up with the disappointment lest they endanger the referendum, yet not all went well.
It was a result of that compromised 2010 elections that there is now a three year old rebellion in Jonglei State first led by the late George Athor and now being continued under David Yau Yau. Who can blame them when the only right ever freely practiced in South Sudan from a time long ago, is the right to rebel? If you want a proof, you just have to count how many former rebels are there in the current SPLM led government of RSS.
Thousands have already died in Jonglei State as a consequence of that rigged 2010 elections, yet it is unfortunate that nothing of the Kenyan type of settlement was adopted by the SPLM to rectify this political mess which it has inflicted on the country. Is it that the RSS leadership is waiting for another 2015 post-election violence to occur before the country can have an independent election commission, a true multiparty democracy with leveled playground for all the other political parties that challenge the status quo? You will be surprised to find out later that this could in fact be the case!
To sum it all up, it doesn’t bother me if some people may find Jacob Dut Chol’s article rather long and more academic to read through and appreciate, for I believe that those who read it to the end were able to come out with some valuable information, how little it might have been. It is my wish that some of you find the chance to read the article thoroughly.
As to whether South Sudan can ever learn anything good from the Kenyan experience and for that matter any other experiences in its search for democratic transformation, I have every reason to doubt the RSS leadership’s ability to what it needs to do in order to alleviate the sufferings of its masses.
For as long as the current RSS leadership is stuck with its mentality and political vision that promotes “authoritarian centralism” that awards unlimited powers to the president and the members of his inner circle, this country will not only fail to notice any of the many changes taking place on a daily basis the worldwide, but may not even see the need for any change for the better, leave alone that talk about benefiting from the so-called Kenyan experience.
You will definitely by now be tempted to ask the obvious FAQ: “Then what is the way forward? Well the way forward is by reshuffling the cards and redistributing them in a new political dispensation that realizes the irrelevancy of the current ruling party – the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM), and its’ equally irrelevant leadership which has throughout ruled the country with impunity. A new coalition of political groups in a form of a strong alliance is needed, first to relegate the current leadership to the dustbins of history to be followed by an immediate establishment of a new political order where democracy flourishes. In this way South Sudan would have found its own political footing at last!
Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General – United South Sudan Party (USSP). Reachable at: [email protected]