Vice President Gen. James Wani Igga’s folly

By Elhag Paul

September 23, 2013 (SSNA) — Gen James Wani Igga does not disappoint.  He lives up to his reputation of being a clown and a joker of the powers that be.  On 4th September 2013 Sudan Tribune reported that Igga had identified a strategy to promote unity in diversity as well as enhance peaceful co-existence and consolidate efforts to build the new nation ravaged by decades of conflict.  Sounds great.  Everybody in South Sudan is longing for peaceful co-existence and if Igga at last has truly found a solution, then this should be taken as a stride in the right direction. 

Reading the report further I found myself scratching my head.  I could not believe what I was taking in.  Basically, Igga’s strategy is premised on respect of the law and intermarriage.  He argues, “For us to unite South Sudanese, we must respect the rule of law.  Nobody should be jailed and released because he is above the law.  We must appear as equal citizens before the law.”  “Nobody should be released for killing somebody because he is above the law.  This is wrong.”  What Igga is saying here is something that each and every South Sudanese knows is wrong and this is why people seriously criticise the SPLM government. 

Igga’s words are weasel words.  He and his colleagues are responsible for the breakdown of law and order in South Sudan.  How comes he is now talking of law when his party knowingly failed to provide security to people in the country?  The previous minister of Interior Alison Magaya confessed publicly that the organised forces were/are responsible for the rampant killings in the country.  The current minister of Interior last month reiterated what Magaya said firmly confirming that members of the organised forces are responsible for insecurity in the country. 

Again, how can Igga talk about respect for law when they in the leadership of the SPLM Oyee fleeced the coffers of the state without any accountability leaving the masses to suffer?  Igga and the entire SPLM leadership have no moral standing in the country to lecture the South Sudanese people about respect of the law.  For three decades they have been practising and committing crimes against the people of South Sudan to the extent that even children in the country know about it.  Their greatest achievement to date has been in destruction of social norms and legal structures.

Tainted with corruption and crimes against humanity, Igga should be the last person to talk about the virtues of good governance.  If Igga valued freedom, why did he detain late colonel Martin Kejivura for years ending with his demise for no reason at all?  So far he has not apologised to the family, can he explain this contradiction?

It is open secret in Juba that Igga has acquired over 28 plots of land in Juba where he has built massive mansions costing millions of dollars.  How did he get his riches?  Did Igga respect banking laws when he and other Oyeeites siphoned the capital of the Nile Commercial Bank leading to its collapse?  Has Igga accounted to the people?

Igga had all the time in the world to put his strategy of unity in diversity and peaceful co-existence to action when he was the speaker of the parliament, a position more powerful than the ceremonial post of the vice president.  As you all know he invested his time with the assistance of John Luke in enacting a tyrannical Interim Constitution; sabotaging the enactment of necessary legislation such as the media bill and the anti-corruption bills which crippled the able and capable Dr Pauline Riek from doing her work.  So if he could not help then why should he be taken seriously now?  Do you see the politicking here?

Igga needs to stop playing with emotions of the masses on such a very painful subject of law and order that neither his government nor himself are committed to deliver on.  This is a foregone conclusion.  SPLM has failed the people of South Sudan in all areas of governance.  The vice chairman of the ruling party Dr Riek Machar himself has come to that conclusion when he told the politburo on 5th March 2013 that his beloved party and by implication the government is dripping with “rampant corruption, tribalism, economic problems, insecurity, poor international relations and the party’s loss of vision and direction.”

Although Igga is just playing politics with this issue, he is right to identify it as an important area to be addressed.  But addressing law and order is not simple and straight forward.  We need first to rebuild our broken society by changing the system in Juba.  Once we have done that and we have a new responsible government then we can put in place mechanisms necessary for realisation of a society at ease with itself.

Now let us turn to Igga’s second element in his strategy to promote unity in diversity and enhance peaceful co-existence.  Igga argues that “we must revise the system of marriage.  Makaraka should marry from the Latuko, Latuko should marry from (the) Kakwa and the Kakwa should marry from (the) Shilluk.  Why not?  This will unite us honestly.  If we don’t appreciate this, we will fall and end up seeing ourselves as tribes, instead of taking our national identity.”  To any reasonable person, this is just folly.  What national identity is the vice president talking about when South Sudan is not a nation?

Inter-marriage has been happening in South Sudan since time immemorial.  All the tribes Igga mentioned have been inter-marrying freely in South Sudan.  For example, a royalty from the Chollo kingdom is married to a Kakwa man in Yei district and there are many Chollo people married to Bari speaking people.  Marriage based on genuine love is welcome.  People should be unconstrained in pursuing their happiness with whoever they choose to spend the rest of their lives with.  However, I am deeply concerned with Igga’s proposition.  What does he mean by “we must revise the system of marriage”?  It sounds as if he and the SPLM Oyee machine intend to force people to inter-marry to produce a new breed of South Sudanese to foster unity and peaceful co-existence. 

How is this going to be promoted?  It is crucial to note that there are 63 tribes in the country and the customs of marriage may vary from one tribe to another.  Are Igga and the SPLM Oyee going to standardise the customs of marriage? Or, will it be by rape as the SPLM/A has been doing for the last three decades.  If so, what would be new?  I guess the only thing Igga wants to do now is to legalise their criminal behaviour.  But I think what is missing in this proposition are the questions: why is there no unity and harmony among South Sudanese people?  What are the factors causing this disunity?  These hard questions need to be asked for the right solutions to be identified.  It is not just a matter of recommending intermarriage as a solution without studying and understanding the causes.

Social engineering will not provide solutions to disunity.  Even in families people differ and can become bitter enemies to the extent of killing each other.  Our problem lies in deeply rooted negative behaviour in no more than three tribes out of the 63.  So what is needed is the development of positive cultures and behaviours with respect that fosters unity and co-existence.  The responsible thing for Igga to do is to confront the one or whatever tribes destabilising the country by being honest and telling them that they must change for their own good and the common good of South Sudan.

From 1956 Khartoum worked hard to change the identity of South Sudanese from African to Arab through intermarriage.  The Ingaz government of president Bashir from 1989 took this policy to another level.  They promoted social engineering with massive incentives.  Khartoum openly preached to people in the north that if they joined Jihad in South Sudan and helped in Arabising the country through marrying South Sudanese women they would be rewarded with war booty including allocation of large pieces of land in south Sudan.  This policy saw the members of the Sudanese armed forces and the NCP militia flock to South Sudan in their thousands to fight. 

Each Jihadist or soldier was allowed to marry four South Sudanese women with or without consent.  In addition they were allocated the promised land to procreate.  Did this policy succeed in bringing unity and peaceful co-existence with the Arabs?  No, in fact the children of the Arabs by the South Sudanese women became the avid haters of the Arabs than the indigenous South Sudanese children.  Why was this?  Because, women are the transmitters of culture.  Although their children are fathered by the Arabs, their South Sudanese mothers transmitted South Sudanese cultures into the of-spring.  The same situation can happen with Igga’s proposal.  Why has Igga failed to reflect on this? 

Unity in South Sudan can not be socially engineered.  It has to develop organically and nurtured culturally.  On the other hand the disunity in South Sudan is essentially a result of poor interaction from people with predatory behaviours.  So any responsible leader in the country needs to acknowledge and understand this fact in order to address it.  Unity has to be allowed to emerge from a free people’s interaction and conversation in the social and political space.  Central to such development is the acceptance of values such as respect, honesty, empathy etc which form the essence of a true democracy.

Jan-Werner Muller, professor of politics at Princeton University in United States inspired by the work of the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas on ‘constitutional patriotism’ in my opinion provides better solutions to issues of unity in diverse societies like South Sudan.  In his book ‘Constitutional Patriotism’, Muller argues that in our ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse communities political belonging needs to be centred on universal norms enshrined in a constitution as opposed to 20th century ideas of nationalism which Igga wants to impose in RSS. 

Espousing the theory of ‘constitutional patriotism’ enables South Sudan to embrace its diversity without having to think of it as a bad thing.  We should be proud of our tribes and our diverse society.  That is what makes our country unique, beautiful and potentially strong.  Our unity must not be achieved at the destruction of our tribes, but rather it should be premised on protection of every South Sudanese by a democratic constitution in which we all place our trust. 

In Africa, Julius Nyerere promoted unity and patriotism in Tanzania along the lines of ‘constitutional patriotism’.  Also the post apartheid South African constitution arguably was hammered out based on the same theory and it is helping that country to overcome similar problems of disunity.

United States of America, Canada, Switzerland, Australia etc, all highly diverse countries with linguistic and racial differences are now trying to use the theory of constitutional patriotism to unite their highly diverse societies.  Patriotism, love for ones country becomes the element for bringing citizens together or to put it in plain terms it is the idea that everybody has a vested interest in the effective functioning of the state.  This then fosters a conducive environment for the citizens to develop an attachment and allegiance to the state through the constitution.  These countries do not need ‘national identity’ because they are not nations by the nature of their diversity.  Just like South Sudan which is not a nation but a series of nations.  This is evidence by the fact that we have 63 tribes many of which can be grouped into nations.  Therefore, we too do not need Igga’s call for national identity and social engineering.

Operationalising ‘constitutional patriotism’ is not a big problem if the will exists to promote a peaceful co-existence.  All the countries I have mentioned developed federal systems embedded in their constitutions to address the issue of diversity.  South Sudan could do the same but the SPLM Oyee which promotes the interest of the ‘born to rule’, would not like federalism because it is not in their interest.  Many South Sudanese have written extensively about the benefits of a federal system to South Sudan but all this fell on deaf ears.  It would be helpful if Igga could take their advice in order to re-build a real unity in South Sudan rather than latching on to hopeless, outdated and inhumane theories.

The down side of Igga’s obnoxious proposition is that he tries to use women as machines to engineer unity in South Sudan.  Sounds like the European racists with their eugenics in 20 century.  Seriously, Igga’s proposition is a refined form of eugenics and that is what makes it awful and unacceptable at any cost.  Such chauvinistic and misogynistic attitude which considers women as vessels without feelings is unacceptable in this day and age.  South Sudanese women should speak out against this reduction of their feelings and bodies to machines of social engineering to suit some patriarchal ideology of the SPLM Oyee.

We all have got daughters and sisters and they should be who they are, comfortable in their skin and making their own choices based on their feelings and likings without any constraint created by state sanctioned policies to suit short sighted personal interest of attempting to unite South Sudanese on proven failed patriarchal ideology.  So women should live as they want.  If they want to marry, they should be able to marry the persons of their choice without anybody or policy putting obstacles on their personal decisions.  Presently, it is absurd that a whole vice president is engaged in thinking that women are “things” or “tools” for promotion of outdated ideas hatched by naive men without their input.  Women bodies are precious to them as men’s bodies are to them.  Women as the prime transmitters and protectors of culture by virtue of their position in society should be appreciated as our equals and not be thought of and treated as machines for re-making society.

Has Igga asked South Sudanese women whether they want to be Guinea Pigs for realisation of his would be engineered unity in the country?  Why should this unity be engineered in the first place?  Are there no other ways of forging unity in South Sudan than using women?  Has he tried to explore what other countries have done to solve problems of divisions in their societies?  Is Igga afraid of pointing out the truth about why unity has been unachievable?

Social life is not simple.  You cannot tinker with society and think the outcome will miraculously be as expected.  There are issues of environment, social relationship, child rearing and cultures which all impact upon the outcome on individuals in society in different ways.  It is just sheer idiocy to recommend something without any evidence from either credible studies or experience and then talk about it as if it was a fact with certainty that it will produce unity.  What evidence does the vice president base his recommendation on? 

Apart from the theory of ‘constitutional patriotism’, what about the application of cultural and behavioural approaches as tools to solve the issues of disunity and identity of the country?  Why did Igga not recommend this?  The answer is simple.  Igga is following the instructions of his masters without even thinking/studying the issue carefully.  It is unfortunate that he has now exposed his ignorance not only to South Sudanese but to the world.  The real problem with Igga and the SPLM Oyee is that they do not have skills in managing diversity.  They have no clue of what to do since SPLM Oyee itself is constructed on a foundation of tribal interest against the general common interest of South Sudan as a country.  Although the tribal beneficiaries will go bonkers on reading this truth and will attempt to complain about this piece, the evidence is overwhelmingly in the open and it is indisputable.  They delusionally think the rest of the people in South Sudan are blind.  Ironically they look to Khartoum’s racists policies for help, and hope that by re-introducing them in the country they will be seen addressing serious issues.  What a pity?

Addressing the plight for unity and other problems in our country needs an enabling atmosphere.  An environment free of fear where freedom of expression and freedom of speech allow vibrancy in growth of beneficial ideas for dealing with these issues.  In other words the people of South Sudan in their diversity need to freely interact discursively and socially among themselves to find that equilibrium of unity and co-existence. 

However, with president Kiir and Igga’s reign which curtails freedom in all its forms, it is impossible for genuine unity to organically develop among the people of South Sudan.  It is important for SPLM Oyee to know that development is not only about social engineering and the construction of beautiful mansions and buildings at the expense of others.  It is about “valorization of the people’s potential” that actualises the peoples’ ability to appreciate the importance of humanity above all as opposed to the fallacy of tribalism.

Because Gen. James Wani Igga is the Vice President, the Sudan Tribune report appears to promote his idea by writing “the proposal has received overwhelming support from the general public, as well as within academic circles, with some calling for the immediate implementation of the plan.”  The whole of this sentence has huge implications in promoting something that borders on eugenics in South Sudan.  This sentence is only based on the support of one Abraham Deng Kuir “who holds master’s degree in strategic studies, majoring in peace and conflict resolution from the UK’s prestigious Oxford University.”  Well the truth is that this topic has not been debated in the country and I do not know where Sudan Tribune got their evidence from.  Abraham’s fanatic support does not equate to “overwhelming support from the general public.”   

Igga has come up with this worn out idea to please his masters.  He knows that social engineering has always been the most coveted idea by the ruling ethnic groups and so if he sings it loud it will cement his position as the Vice President for a long time to come.

The challenge that the Vice President should actually invest his energy on is to take on the individuals or tribes which are the generators of disunity in the country because of the alien mentality that they hold and their wish to impose themselves offensively on the majority.  This is the real problem.  The new “cattle camp” imperialism.  If Igga is afraid of naming it to save his bread, we have now helped him to have a name for it.  If he is to be taken seriously, he should pick himself up and begin to address the real issue as his agenda in his new office.  Rather than placing the burden on the innocent oppressed majority, he needs to talk to his masters to: first accept a true democratic constitution; and secondly change their predatory ways for the sake of unity and peaceful co-existence.  Else he should just shut up and let the people struggle until these issues are solved by whatever means available.

To sum up, the solution to South Sudan’s problem of disunity must lie in crafting a truly democratic federal constitution that takes the concerns of every indigenous South Sudanese on board.  In this, Justice Peter Sule and honourable Dr Richard Mulla can be viewed as foresighted thinkers with the country at heart when they passionately argued against the current interim constitution before its enactment into law prior to the day of independence.  

Justice Sule led five parties which did not sign allegiance to SPLM Oyee at the time advocating for amendments of the proposed interim constitution to avoid all the current ills we are now seeing.  While honourable Mulla raised the issue at the first Equatoria conference in April 2011 highlighting the dangers only to be opposed by Mr Lawrence Korbandy.  

Sule and Mulla so to speak are the people who wanted South Sudan to be in peace with itself.  This unfortunately was opposed by none other than Igga, John Luke, Lawrence Korbandy and the majority of the rubber stamp parliament.  They preferred to have an absolute monarchy with King Kiir in place than a fully fledged democracy.  They are now reaping the fruits of their making and so Igga should stop thinking that he can use our daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces as tools or Guinea Pigs for a farcical unity to secure his position as vice president.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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