“When will people stop criticizing the SPLM”? They keep asking

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

“Without freedom of thought there can be no success…….”
“Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom & no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech”, Benjamin Franklin.

June 7, 2013 (SSNA) — The heading of this article as can be seen is taken from responses of some SPLM members who have become so intolerant to the escalated  criticisms that have lately rained on the party as it is about to complete its eight years as the misruling party of South Sudan.

One such frustration was vented by a party diehard, though liberal-minded member who wished that those from the other political parties should rather be seen doing something to improve the situation, instead of continuously blaming the ruling SPLM.

However the truth be said for although one may be easily tempted to say that those openly seen as critic of the SPLM are members of the opposition parties, thus erroneously painting the true picture of the situation on the ground, there is also a bundle of evidence to suggest that SPLM gets criticised by its members at the grassroots level more than the eye can see.

Reading the above introduction one is more likely to identify with it than not, for it represents the classical relationship between any ruling party and those in the opposition in an almost generic fashion.

The situation in South Sudan remains to be exceptional though, for even the country’s official opposition party in the National Assembly is not officially being referred to as the opposition unlike the norm in the advanced democracies. Referring to the second largest party in the parliament only as the party of the minority, and not an opposition is no doubt a tactical maneuver to deny it its moral obligation to carry out constructive criticism of government policies, a role expected of it by the electorates.

For the benefit of those who want to see opposition parties doing something rather than being seen as neither continuously opposing the ruling party nor even critically analyzing the government it dominates and led, the logical response would be for such an opposition to quit politics all together.

As an opposition and a South Sudanese opposition for that matter, obviously you can’t afford to adapt the Muslim brotherhood’s charity style politics so as to win the hearts and minds of the people, given the non-existing resources needed to run such a huge project.

This is not to say that the opposition doesn’t have the capable personnel to solicit the funds for such kinds of work, but it is the strings that are attached to these  funds which tend to prevent any patriotic member of the opposition from going in that direction. So you see, you still have a responsible opposition who continues to hold the highest interest of the country at heart.

And for the opposition to practical roll up its sleeves and get down on tackling the country’s problems outside the parliament or away from the media, would be to over-ride the government of the day. Let me just then say this, what are we as an opposition capable of doing in the case of the $ 4 billion dollars that was stolen – or just say went missing, in line with the government’s way of referring to it?

We can’t possibly arrest those 75 suspects, for we don’t have the constitutional powers to do it. The only person who can do it is the President, for he has the powers enshrined on him by the constitution to seeing to it that it is done. What is lacking here is the gut!

It is no secret that many including me do write a great deal. Some of us are keen to oppose and also write critical of the government and the ruling party, the SPLM. But let me be frank with you, for in spite of all our criticism of your party we still do understand that not all SPLM members are involved in the widespread corruption that is currently eating away the very chances of the new nation standing up on its feet.

That being said, we cannot also deny that we all have duties towards our country and the least one can do is to talk and talk laud against any injustice being done.

At this juncture, we hope you will acknowledge that nobody is claiming that some non SPLM politicians are not corrupted. However in nearly all the cases if there is a non SPLM minister or simply any constitutional position holder who committed a punishable crime but was not brought to book by the system, then the fault lies with the government.

It is needless to emphasize here that South Sudan not only lacks strong opposition parties and civic societies, leaving aside the weakness of the ruling party which has already reached its peak, however each and every weakness can be traced back to the rotten government policies that denies citizens of their basic freedoms.

Without the freedom of speech, you cannot expect any political party or civic society or even individuals to contribute in the nation building exercise. South Sudan by all accounts is a police state; I know that for a fact as I have lived under similar type of governments before [Sudan under Nimeri – Uganda under Amin – Egypt under Sadat – again Sudan under Bashir – Ethiopia under Zenewi].

Again, some of us are not members of any parliament so that we can work with others to formulate good laws or pressure the executive to abide by transparency and uphold the rule of law at all times. There’s no way that an unauthorized individual from the opposition can investigate the mystery killings in Juba town that happens on daily basis.  They cannot also solve the other mystery of money in local and foreign currencies, disappearing in their millions even in the supposed to be most secured spot in the country – the Office of the President!

Neither can they [member of opposition] investigate the anti-corruption committee who found it difficult to investigate those accused in the theft that took place in the president’s office. Believe many of these people in the opposition are not even corrupt to know anybody in the anti-corruption commission or the state security apparatus in the first place.

Again most of those who criticize the SPLM, the President, and the chronic substandard performance of the SPLM-led government are simple men and women who don’t hail from the president’s village nor are they members of the SPLM Political Bureau to have easy access to the president even if they would have wanted to advice His Excellency!

The bottom line is that, should anyone from within or outside the SPLM [opposition or not] accuse your ruling party and its Chairman, it will not only be because something have gone wrong or is repeatedly being done wrong as it is the case now, but it may also be because Bigger Mistakes – some are in fact crimes punishable by the law – are never properly addressed.

The general population is aware of both your individual and joint frustrations because you’re by all measures good people; however it is unfortunate that you can’t do anything about the ailing condition of your party. But just remember one important point and that, your party being the ruling party, anything that goes bad in it is directly reflected on the general well-being of each and every citizen. And that’s why you always hear us complaining – because it always goes wrong.

All things happen for one reason or the other, and the way that everything in the country have been deliberately set upside down just to satisfy the ego of one person, is rendering it impossible for anyone to help. A simple case in point is what has befallen Dr. Riek Machar, for although he is still officially the Vice President of the country and Vice Chairman of the ruling party for that matter, when it comes to the issues discussed in the preceding paragraphs, he seems to stand the same distance as you and me.

At the end I would like to assure you that nobody has an inborn compulsion to oppose your party until it started messing up in the public arena. Unfortunately it can only be informed of its mistakes when we say it and say it clearly and strongly – this is a public matter. Never underestimate the old adage that,” The camel is not aware of its crooked neck”

What we do as opposition first, and critics of the RSS government, we do it voluntarily and at our own peril given how things work for critics in South Sudan under the SPLM totalitarian rule.  It is out of our love for our country, that we deny ourselves the luxury of joining the looters by not keeping quiet.

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General – United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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