The Other Side of Presidential Decrees

By: Philips Al-Ghai

May 10, 2013 (SSNA) — For those whose sun ascend and set within the perimeter of S. Sudan, the fuss brought forth, often, by the presidential decrees is something one must come to terms with.  If you are one of those who make fantasies about change and future, hold your breath. Decrees are not going away any time soon. The three decrees issued in the last 24 days stand out. A few others might be on the way. You never know. Although one would feel, sometimes, that the word “decree” sounds archaic and too totalitarian for a modern society, much ado about recent decrees arise from the fact that most of them are thrown to the public in bulk. And in the process of breaking them down into consumable kind of convincing facts –that is the beauty of our cognitive processes, anyway; making sense from nonsense –majority of people run short of logic and, consequently, succumb to confirmation bias –firmly anchored in tribal school of thought. In spite of the ambiguity they present to us, does Mr. President always get his decrees right? Let’s have a fair look at the following decrees:

Withdrawal of powers delegated to the Vice President

This is where the body temperatures, of participants involved in the debate, soared at a 100°C plus in the last couple weeks. Whereas Mr. Kiir’s sycophants felt that their Nuer political rivals are finally brought to their knees, Dr. Riek’s disciples viewed it as a typical Dinka plot against the Nuer community that must be squashed at all cost. Both parties, however, appeared oblivious to the constitutional requirements, Article 105 sections (a) to (d), that allow the president to delegate and withdraw powers. That is ignorance at its best, isn’t it? It is no-brainer that this is an enshrined law that has nothing to celebrate or lament about. It does not present a perfect win-lose scenario, does it? So, if you considered yourself a winner: start clearing your head. If you felt hard done by the presidential decree: pick yourself up and move on.  In my opinion the president has a right to withdraw his powers when he deems it necessary. Whether he made the law himself is another question, but for now let’s assume it is within the limits of his constitutional powers.

Cancellation of Reconciliation Process and the creation of new committee

According to the article posted by Sudan Tribune on April 15th, there are two major theories explaining why the initial process had to be booted out with its organizers. One holds that it lacked “clear agenda”. The other suggests that the “vice-president wanted to use it as a political campaign project against the president”.  Well, let’s examine the validity of each claim. What “clear agenda” should underlie the ‘reconciliation’? Okay, let’s assume the ‘agenda’ is now defined. Why was Dr. Riek then removed altogether? Oh, hold on, we were told he “wanted to use it as a political campaign project ‘against’ the president”. Really? Does the vice-president operate in vacuum that he would make the “campaign project” out of it without the knowledge of the public? If he does, wouldn’t the public –that needs reconciliation –ask a question or two? Isn’t he accountable for the outcomes his duties before the law? Do you think these claims wouldn’t hold water? Maybe yes. Maybe no. I will leave that to you.

Meanwhile, if you have an illusion that reconciliation is a public muss that can be quelled with decrees, or a peace process that need biblical preaching from Bishops and Popes, think twice. Or forget it altogether. We are talking about reestablishing lost relationships and self-acceptance. It is about people sitting down, acknowledge mistakes on their parts, and convince each other why they have to bury the hatchet and move on as a unit. It is about bringing back the sense of brotherhood, not a mere cessation of hostilities. The difference here is that you don’t necessarily have to acknowledge your mistakes in a peace process. Therefore, peace is temporal and does not guarantee trust. Can you imagine the current S. Sudan, vacuous of trust, in the next two decades? Poor governance and social evils would only rife! The fact, and I would want to opine, that Dr. Riek has inscriptions in both dark and bright history of S. Sudan make him more relevant to reconciliation process than anyone else –including president Kiir. He has more to convince other tribes than Archbishop Deng and the company. Furthermore, ignoring the fact that Dr. Riek has an edge over others on both political and delicate issues concerning Nuer is a sheer hypocrisy and a blatant ignorance to the existing truth that anyone can think of. Let’s take the recent Nuer youth attack [or call it a ‘disarmament campaign’ according to ‘White Army’] on Murle, for instance. With the benefit of hindsight, someone can argue that the role Dr. Riek played would have been played by anyone else. But the naked truth is that neither the Jonglei State governor nor President Kiir himself could have stopped them. You and I know why. Both know too. Use of coercion wouldn’t have helped either. Absolutely not! Besides, if Murle community’s decline of Archbishop Deng as peace mediator last year, on grounds that he is a Dinka agent, is something to go by, then what does one expect to have changed overnight? In the wake of these, the recent committee is only but assigned the hardest task of their lives, and failure is eminent on the cards. Whether that appeals to your ears is one, the truth about it is another. In my opinion, this decree neither put into perspective the present degree of tribal tensions nor does it consider reconciliation as a necessity, at least, for the political future of S. Sudan. It is rather cockish and seems to substantiate the suspected political paranoia within the SPLM. Either the president or his advisors, blatantly, wants to justify the notion of “let’s see who is the boss” in the expense of national interest. Some issues need command, yes, others literally don’t. This is a political blunder, and might be regretted in the near future.

How about the firing of deputy Foreign Affairs Minister?

Well, if you never learned professionalism before being a professional, this is a great lesson. What is moral about working in an office during the day and gossips about it at night, anyway? I wonder why John Clement Kuc is never lauded for his patriotic action. He made, of course, a noble decision when he resigned to keep his hands clean from nepotism and corruption within the judiciary. For those who care about change and morality in public institutions, this is the best way to expose rottenness, and give the government something to think about. It is simple and less costly; just quit and let them feel the pressure. At least if they hire the next person a thing or two would have changed. Otherwise, some people need to shut it up and leave rumormongering to co-wives if they have no guts to stage a noble fight like Mr. Clement. We, the common citizens, do not need your gossips; we need someone with balls to stand up –in the face of adversity –for S. Sudan. In my opinion, Mr. President did a decent job here. Many are still around though, and a few more decrees might be necessary.

Whether the presidential decrees give you a bumpy ride or a smooth one, learn to cope. Generally. Romans do theirs in Roman way. This is the S. Sudanese way.

Philips Al-Ghai can be reached at [email protected]

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