August 16, 2013 (SSNA) — Let’s not kid ourselves that things have changed for better; however, South Sudan is starting to ‘grow up’ if it was ever a conceptual or situational child. The ‘vetting’ of president’s nominees for the cabinet is a start of democratic and due process of accountability in South Sudan. At least, that’s what I think; and for a long time I have something, just a little, to make me smile for once.
Or maybe not! As Dr. Lam Akol has pointed out, the function of the ‘vetting’ committee wasn’t well spelt out and presented to the public before they started their function. That means their mandates, constraints and terms of ‘vetting’ weren’t known until they started their work of ‘vetting’ the nominees. Like always in South Sudan, accountability is kicked onto the wayside in the process of trying to be accountable. But let me say they (MPs) are trying.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Telar is now a ‘victim’ of due process; and we know victims of due process are most of the time up to no good. Perhaps Telar is a victim of incompetence and lack of transparency. We know one thing though: Telar accepted the parliamentary vote so the MPs must have done something right…and that’s why Telar accepted it. Kudos to both Telar and the Parliament!
So, admittedly, South Sudanese national assembly has now started to do what it was elected to do; not some mouth-piece of the president and his cabinet. ‘Why’ is not a question I’m able to answer, however, ‘why’ is an unnecessary question now.
The questions we have to ask now are: ‘would they continue this as a political tradition in South Sudan? And will they also shake up the security services?’ A ‘yes’ to those questions would call for a huge celebration. Strict adherence to constitutional requirements and being the voice of the people is the natural function of the parliament. Additionally, the parliament is also there to put checks and balances on some of the president’s decisions.
If I’m not being too optimistic, or to some extent naïve, I’d say that putting everyone to account for one’s deeds should be extended to all functions of the government to make sure no one gets away with abuse of public office and public resources. The president of South Sudan, who has been given absolute power by John Luk Jok through the Interim and/or Transitional Constitution, will now (fingers crossed) know that he doesn’t have free reign as long as he does something contrary to the good of South Sudanese citizens, or the constitution.
Unfortunately, the South Sudanese Transitional Constitution and the government borrowed evil and undemocratic clauses and practices from the enemy we were trying to get rid of. Council of Ministers, Council of States and the National Assembly, as a structure, were borrowed from the Sudanese Constitution. Section 101 (r) which says the president can remove an elected governor in the event of a ‘crisis’ that threatens ‘national security and territorial integrity’ was taken from the Sudanese ‘Emergency Laws’. Beshir does it so Kiir does it! The use of decrees; mostly the favorite of dictatorial leaders, was derived from the Sudanese government: Abboud used it, Nimeiri used it and Beshir now uses it…and now president Kiir has adopted it. The censorship of newspapers and unwarranted arrests of journalists were borrowed from the Sudanese National Security. Nhial Bol and Alfred Taban will tell you that security harassment even gets worse in Juba than in Khartoum! Such state of affair would have made comrade Kiir (of 1980s) sad. But president Kiir now (of 2013) seems to be okay with it!
So, having patted the Parliament on the back, I have to stress that the parliament still has a long way to go and a lot to do for South Sudanese to see it as a strong, independent institution that cannot be manipulated by the president and people of self-interest like Telar Ring Deng. Telar was kicked out of the SPLM in 2008 so he used his closeness to the president to hit back; because someone helped the president kick him out. We know who that is!
The parliament should now ask to review the removal of Mr. Chol Tong Mayay as the governor of Lake State and Mr. Taban Deng Gai as governor of Unity State. Their removals are all unconstitutional as their states didn’t and don’t have any crises that are threatening our ‘national security and territorial integrity’. The only state whose crisis is threatening national security and territorial integrity is Jonglei State. This is the time for the parliament to make sure that whimsical decision making are checked to make sure they are in the best interest of South Sudanese.
Without delay, the parliament should protect people whose opinions and ideologies differ from those of SPLM. Members of the media should also be protected as some misguided political leaders think the enemy of the people are journalists. People who point out mistakes committed by government officials are the friends of the people. People who ignore performance faux pas are the enemy number one of South Sudan.
The parliament should therefore enlighten government officials and the security services in order to understand that no nation is built on a single point of view. Diversity of opinion, as long as it’s well intended and respectfully conveyed, is of paramount importance. People who show the government where it goes wrong give the government an opportunity for self-evaluation in order to find ways to improve service provision. If the government is not given an opportunity for self-evaluation, or challenged on how it’s performing, then such as a government can never produce any tangle dividends to the people it serves. It will always assume it’s doing the right thing even when it’s headed in the wrong direction.
There’s a long way to go and a lot to do but the ‘vetting’ of nominees is a start.
Kuir ё Garang is a South Sudanese poet, author and publisher living in Canada. He’s the author of the upcoming book, South Sudan Ideologically. For contact visit www.kuirthiy.info or www.kuirthiy.com