Do we still need Kiir’s leadership?

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

June 29, 2013 (SSNA) — No way can South Sudan continue to have Salva Kiir as its president, and still hope to catch up with the rest of the developed world. This is a politician who already has enough problems within his SPLM party. And if anything, he is only working hard to weaken the very party that saw him to power, by relentlessly emptying it of any democratic values, if any ever actually existed?  Once he succeeds in privatizing his political party, then he will of course turn to the country and that’s where we all as South Sudanese must be concerned and vigilant.

The President should never dream of another term in office, not even a single extra day once his present tenure runs out. The past eight years are more than enough for anyone with a bit of gray matter in the brain to pass such a simple and straight forward judgment,  since it isn’t a rocket science to see where the “herd mentality”,  is leading this country. There is no talk here about the type of legacy the president wants to leave behind him, for this article is here to say it all.

No one can deny the attempts by SPLM Bahr al Ghazel to manipulate the public opinion and possibly misled the voters in South Sudan, when it declared its support for Kiir’s candidacy for the 2015 presidential elections. However based on common sense and taking into consideration the latest events of December 2012 in Wau city, and its suburbs leading to loss of lives, you can see why the regional conference’s resolution could have been more of an expression of wishes, than readily becoming an early campaigning exercise.

Still on the recent political developments, one particular game changer is undoubtedly the controversial dismissal of the two top ministers and the media exchanges that followed (more on this in a separate article); one cannot see why President Salva Kiir won’t be rejected by electorates from a well-known section of the Bahr Ghazel voters. He too risks falling off with an overwhelming majority of Equatorians where his popularity has now hit its all-time low. Talk of the Greater Upper Nile, a secured political backyard and an ethnic  stronghold for Kiir’s arch rivals, Dr. Riek Machar, Cde Pa’gan Amum Akech and Madame Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior and you know that “The Man in the Hat”  stand no chance in these parts.

While everybody is concerned about the ailing condition of our new country, it is absolutely necessary to unearth all the dirty tricks that President Kiir and his top SPLM leadership are bent to use in order to remain in power.  The declared power greed, tribalism, nepotism and herd mentality are undoubtedly asphyxiating Africa’s new born.

The SPLM has not yet run out of ideas; nonetheless it has definitely run out of good ideas. Whatever the apologists say, the beautiful baby needs to be rescued from Kiir’s fatal grips. For with his hands all over the place, blocking any chances of term limits, even when he has already run out of ideas, he can surely smother this nascent country, should all of us suddenly cease to be vigilant. As blank as he is, let me warn you that, in his current state, he is just the ideal candidate to metamorphose into yet another lethal,  totalitarian,  undemocratic and most ruthless tyrant ever, should he be given the opportunity.

Furthermore there is really nothing so especially good about President Kiir’s leadership to warrant the contemplation of yet some weird ideas that involves a secret deal to amend the current transitional constitution solely to extend the current transitional period and satisfy President Kiir’s ego and greed for power.

While we hope for a peaceful and secure South Sudan, we call upon all citizens to take their national duty to rid the country of Salva Kiir and his imminent totalitarianism very seriously. Fixing our nation’s future through a new     popular choice come 2015, must be   everyone’s highest patriotism. For the minimum we as a nation stand to gain by successfully carrying out  this exercise is to initiate and institute the new culture of peaceful transfer of power within our political parties and equally so at the nation’s  highest level, the country’s  presidency.

You have heard in the past it is said that,” practice makes perfect”.  But let me tell you this, practice in fact makes permanent. Whether what you practice a good or a bad thing, practice won’t change its nature, but only makes it permanent. If what you practice is a good thing, you are likely to become permanently a good person. But if what you practice is a bad thing, there is no way that you can become a perfect individual. All that practice does is to make your habits permanent.   Good or bad, practice only makes them permanent. 

There are dozens of examples where longer terms in the presidency had gone bad for those countries. The current talk amongst Africa’s elites is that, African leader’s tenure in office must be limited to two terms regardless of their popularity or the success of that regime. History has shown that the longer a ruler stays in office, the more there is a tendency for him to become corrupt and develop dictatorial tendencies as he begins to see the throne as his personal property and makes every effort at consolidating  his power and position.

What we are seeing in Africa today is a lack of vision. No one is born with presidential qualities; they are almost all acquired skills. Besides a president does not operate in isolation, he works in partnership with others. It means therefore that anyone can do the job. If Presidents Salva Kiir and his next door neughbours – Museveni of Uganda and al Bashir of Sudan, want to go down in history as great leaders, they should bow out now and let others take over. Lessons should be learned from great retired leaders like Nelson Mandela, Jerry Rawlings (Ghana) and Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana.

Without sounding too personal and disrespectful, President Kiir is not just a disgrace to South Sudan or his own people in Warrap State who are trapped in a viscous circle of hunger and disease and continue to die from them, but he is indeed a big disgrace to humankind. Apart from indulging in his usual foolish rhetoric, what has he done to satisfy even the most basic needs of his people – not to say those in his immediate backyard?

If you are visiting my own country (South Sudan) now, it is only the foreign NGOs and a few of the international institutions such as the World Bank (yes, the World Bank) could be seen attempting to help our people through various (although understandably unsuccessful) initiatives. Our own "leadership" is busy enjoying the trappings of power and blaming his colleagues, or Khartoum.  The West which in all practicality remains to be the only one source of survival since the country squeezed itself into a self-imposed, some kind of austerity measures by choice.

It is also my firm belief that the amending of the constitution by some power-hungry leaders so as to prolong their undeserving stay in office is a troubling trend that should be condemned and curtailed. If such crookedness is left unchallenged, there is no doubt these leaders will plunge their countries back to the era of dictatorship. It’s therefore critical that the international community at large puts its ubiquitous influence of these leaders so that they leave office gracefully. Africa has enough dictators without the "new African democrats" putting their names to the list.

Someone out there may for argument sake say that the determining factor in this kind of matters is better left for the level of contribution an individual African president has towards the development of his country.  If the president has made a tremendous impact on the lives of his people, they will want him to stay in office for as long as he is good to them. The downside to this argument is that, left unchecked these heads of states soon turn dictators. Again there are very few African presidents out there, obviously Salva Kiir excluded, who apparently can rightly   claim, that their long stay in office has actually impacted positively on the people. Statistics however show that it is in fact the opposite.

Once in a while, we may also want to look at a president who finds it difficult to part office from the African perspective where phased out a leader is likely to face “survival dilemma”. Traditionally, the power structures of many African communities was/is a "chief" or "tribal" model where the ruler holds power until he/she dies and then passes it on to his sons.

Perhaps this is, in a small way, why African leaders cling to power. And we should not judge African democracy by the same standards as European democracy, not because it is inferior, but simply because it is different, another apologist will add. But then in a setting like South Sudan, how many paramount chiefs do we have and is this the contract that our citizens from the 100+ ethnicities have entered into within themselves on one hand and the government on the other?

At this juncture one would like to assume that the same members of the international community who have all through helped South Sudan throughout the last three decades will continue to lend in help for us to finally embrace democracy and the rule of law. By this it can go as far as to put and sustain maximum pressure on President Salva Kiir, to hold to the principle of democratic transformation, and make sure that the new country’s first ever elections are indeed a multiparty exercise of the highest standard and must be help on time, no later than January, 9th 2015, for this date in President Kiir’s own words, “is always sacrosanct   in South Sudan’s politics”.

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

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