Ad hoc technocracy in South Sudan

By Martin Garang Aher

July 25, 2013 (SSNA) — Finally the push has come to shove in Juba. In a move that dazed many South Sudanese as well as international observers of political developments in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir Mayardit had on 23rd July 2013 bravely dissolved his government. It was highly anticipated but vulgarly engendered by poor government performance and the struggle for power within the ruling party, the SPLM.

The multiple presidential decrees relieved the vice president, 29 ministers, 29 deputy ministers and 17 brigadier generals in the police force. Another promised an overhaul of the government ministries while the SPLM Party Order, suspended the secretary general of the SPLM. The SG, in another capacity, functioned as the chief negotiator in the post independent arrangements with the Sudan.

As could be construed in these shake ups, all efforts seemed to have been designed to prioritize efficiency of the government. However, punishing dissent and rewarding supporters often go along with situations of this nature. It will be clear in the formation of the next government if all intentions were for the good of the nation or actions that are in circumspect disciplinary among the SPLM’s heavy weights.  The dissolution has already been believed by many as targeting the removal of the vice president, Riek Machar Teny, who had on numerous occasions, criticized the government while voicing his wish to lead the party into the next elections.

The president’s application of his constitutional prerogative was the second since he took power as the new country’s first bearer of the highest office after independence. He had reshuffled the same government in 2010, but with least panic from the streets. Many more were expected but did not materialize. As some residents in Juba confirmed, the situation had since changed. The city remained tensed; making the likelihood for a bang of any kind to disrupt the day. On the other hand, citizens who have been calling out for the government to do more are now shy of praise even though their wishes are being slowly fulfilled. The need for effective service delivery had been overshadowed by fear of violent reprisal from demoted government officials who might be left out of the incoming government; especially from the outgoing vice president and his supporters. However, I am of the belief that Riek Machar had done his calculations correctly and the presumptions many might have for him have something to do with his past, not his present.

Cognizant of the oil shutdown and the war with the Sudan in Panthou, South Sudanese see this second reshuffle as exceedingly bizarre but on equal terms with previous actions in which proper plans were reserved to be attempted afterward. The plan is now for the president to sit down with his advisers and do the mammoth task of selecting the cabinet while the government in Juba remains literally in the hands of technocrats in the respective ministries.

It was simple to set the pace of restructuring, but the enormity of the task at hand might likely require weeks to complete. That would leave a vacuum for possible unruliness.  The president must act fast and in the approved manner in his government formation.

Can the president be encouraged to be a little harder? If president Kiir is to be believed and trusted, he has to do a bit more. Whether internal party wrangling for leadership might have caused the dissolution, South Sudanese and the world are wishing to see that 75 officials whom he sent letters to return the stolen $4 billion must not show faces in his next government. Of course if the wells of the decrees have not run dry, expectations are that few remaining decrees must be channeled toward the formation of investigation committees to probe the whereabouts of $4 billion for the benefit of the impoverished citizens.

Martin Garang is a South Sudanese living in Australia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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