January 6, 2014 (SSNA) — There are two things that should make us gravely concerned. When this crisis is all over, we’ll still be governed (ruled actually) by the same leaders, who brought us into the heat of this crisis. And the gravest of all worries for South Sudan is that the young generation has taken after the old tribal dirt. (Watch my Video message to young people in Diaspora)
If young and educated people, 15 – 40, rally around their tribal, conceptual supremacy and only talk about atrocities committed against their kinsfolks, then you know South Sudan present state has been destroyed and its future is a destruction waiting to happen.
Something has to seriously change!
Sadly, at the end of this crisis, South Sudan will remain the way it was before the war started. Some optimistic South Sudanese would say that this crisis will change South Sudan forever, for better.
We have to remember that South Sudanese only got what I can call a conceptual independence. The substance of independence and liberation fruits were only restricted to politicians, their relatives, friends and foreigners. Average South Sudanese were left in the cold and even treated like dirt (second class citizens) in their own country. There were reports of Ethiopian, Kenyan, Somali and Indian businesses employing their fellow nationals as South Sudanese youth remained unemployed.
So how can we get out of this crisis? Not an easy question to answer and not an easy process when the crisis is all over.
Ministry of Tribal Affairs or Directorate of Tribal affairs
South Sudan is a country of tribal nationalities. This is a basic and bitter reality we have to deal with. For centuries, this has been the case and will continue to be so. We can’t change tribal realities but we can change tribal mindsets. No South Sudanese leader has ever tried to make sure involuntary inter and intra-tribal exchange of ideas, traditional politics, norms and traditions are given greater emphasis and resources allocation.
Chiefs should be given structured, funded Tribal accountability Models (TAM) within that ministry (see South Sudan Ideologically). The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has a superficial role that only helps to foster individual tribal traditions and cultures, however, it doesn’t actually make prominent, the interaction between and among tribes.
This calls for a Ministry of Tribal Affairs to play a greater role in making sure South Sudan understands itself, tribally. The pros and cons of tribal practices could be discussed openly.
TAM should be strengthened and clear modalities put in place to make sure different tribes learn from each other on regular basis. Tribes in South Sudan don’t know that some of them have similar norms, traditions and ethnographic origins.
This would give tribes power over leaders; making it hard for power-hungry leaders to take advantage of tribal differences.
Proper Education and Investment in Nationalistic Attitude of Young People
Properly educating and sensitizing young South Sudanese is the only way of reducing fanatical tribonationalism. Young people who are not well educated about the affairs of the country are easy to mislead. We’ve seen that feeding young ones with tribal nonsense that they’ve been marginalized fuels the growth of hatred. These young people grow up with the general feeling that their education and ideas will be geared towards freeing their tribes from external, dominant, tribonationalists: both conceptual and real!
Many young South Sudan are getting educated, however, fanatical tribonationalism will destroy the future of South Sudan. The current crisis has exposed the danger been nurtured both at home and abroad.
If highly educated young people come out only to be fanatical tribonationalists then something needs to change if a prosperous and peaceful South Sudan is to be realized.
If South Sudan invests in proper education of the youth, it’d be easy to shape young South Sudanese into helpful nationalists rather than fanatical tribonationalists.
A few western educated young people who’d want to maintain seeds of tribal fanaticism will be told off by educated South Sudanese with credible inter and inter-cultural knowledge base.
Institutions, Governance and Policy Making
Dr. Marial Benjamin, South Sudan current minister of Foreign Affairs, is fond of saying that South Sudan has functional institutions. We can understand Marial’s position as he’s ready to protect the president and government at all cost; even at the expense of South Sudan’s future.
We all know that South Sudan has organizations and department, but to call them functional institutions is a disservice to South Sudan; a path to its destruction.
The police, the army, the security services are all a mess. They are undisciplined and tend to see their role as the protection of individual bosses rather than allegiance to the nation.
Financial institutions, the National Parliament and Judicial Services have no sense of independence as they feel they owe their existence to the president.
The security services, financial institutions like Central Bank of South Sudan, Judiciary and the national parliament need to be set to be independent and free from executive manipulation.
These institutions need to be professionalized and set in a manner that makes them free from executive influence and manipulation; and be free to give checks and balances to the executive.
As things stand now in South Sudan, all these ‘institutions’ (if you could call them so) are conceptual rather than functional. They do what the president says and this is a marked failure of institutional function in South Sudan.
This fact in tend affects policy making as these ‘institutional’ leaders tend to work to appease the president, his close allies and the executive. Governance therefore revolves around the president, frustrating decision making and producing mediocre governance and policy.
National Constitution and Declarative Clarity
Breaking the national constitution is one of those unforgivable things in a country. However, when the person who’s supposed to protect it breaks it and warns people who remind him of that gross danger, then you know that the government is a situation run amok.
Decisions have to be made in South Sudan with clarity of purpose. In South Sudan, the president makes his decisions in form of ‘decrees’ that are read out on National Television in manner reminiscent of 1984 big brother decisions. The decrees are unquestionable and aren’t passed through parliament as always the case in constitution-respecting, democratic nations.
The parliament is a mere, timid formality of ‘yes sir’ men and women!
The president needs to explain the reasons behind his decisions in order to show that his decisions are for the interest of the nation and that he’s actually accountable to the people. Good leaders know that the people are the boss and if people resent certain decisions then the president has to either rescind his decision or kindly and conscientiously convince the citizens about the value of the decision.
Constitutional provisions need to be followed to the letter so as to set leadership examples. Breaking the constitution and expecting respect from the citizens is wishful thinking. The removal of Lakes State governor, Chol Tong Mayay, and Unity State governor, Taban Deng Gai, were all unconstitutional as the reasons behind the constitutional invocation were neither explained nor met.
National Army Integration and Transition to Non-military rule
South Sudan is a military state. The claim that it’s a democratic, civilian government is illusory. From the president, national ministers to state governors, all still go by their military titles. Remembere, they are not regarded as ‘retired.’ The president is not a ‘retired’ general but an active one. We saw that on December 15, 2013, when the president clearly flaunted his military fatigues.
Admittedly, South Sudan needs to move away from military rule and become a nation run by a civilian government.
Besides, the government has no proper way of integrating rebel forces into the national army. Some of these forces are included in the army conceptually but they remain under the command of their former rebel leaders in exactly the same place they used to fight.
These forces therefore still maintain their allegiance to their former rebel leaders instead of the national army leadership. To make it worse, these forces tend to be overwhelmingly or completely uni-tribal.
Way Out of the Current Crisis
It’s certain that peace will come back to South Sudan. It’s a question of when not if. The warring parties shouldn’t cultivate the thought that they are the ones who only have the interest of the nation in heart or that they are not to blame.
Without question, both sides should accept their mistakes and be practical about what they say. Civilians have to be protected and peace-talks have to be taken seriously.
South Sudanese government under President Kiir should start institutional reforms in readiness for peacetime and the way forward. Both President Kiir and Riek Machar need to draft ways in which path to inter-tribal truth and coexistence will be started and strengthened. South Sudan’s stability rests solely on stability of tribal trust.
We should also know that South Sudan’s stability will also be defined by the rethinking of Riek’s and Kiir’s political lives. Riek’s penchant for fall back to exploitation of sensationalized tribal fanaticism is a dirty mark on Riek capacity as a national leader. Without positioning himself clearly as a national leader and a person who hasn’t or can’t exploit tribal fanaticism, then the Addis Ababa talks will only be a respite in South Sudan stability not a long-terms solution to the crisis.
President Kiir should rethink his policy making, his governance policy, his speeches’ sensationalism and his role as the development leader of the new country. Kiir has failed to show humility and leadership in the last two years and this has brought us to the current crisis. It’d also be good to rethink presidential powers, the national constitution and the clarity of SPLM rules and regulations. Without any change in President Kiir’s attitude and leadership style, then South Sudan would descend into real tribal anarchy.
So in simple terms:
- Formalize cease-fire with international observers to stop the fighting
- Agree that violent ascendency to power is unacceptable
- Agree that things shouldn’t be business as usual and that serious concessions will have to be made
- The two sides have to acknowledge the wrongs done
- Be serious about holding perpetrators of the crimes to account
- Draft serious and long-term inter-tribal trust-building
- Funds for civilians displaced or affected by war
- Encourage new leaders other than Kiir and Riek as their presence is a psychological reminder of the tragedy
Not only is South Sudan in a crisis as we speak, the future of the country is also a crisis waiting to happen. Tribonationalism is the feel-good sentiment among the youth and this makes a cohesive future South Sudan bleak. A tribally divided youth is a warning of an unthinkable future for South Sudan.
Kuir ë Garang is an author of seven books including “South Sudan Ideologically” and “Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful?” For contacts see Twitter: @kuirthiy or his blog, www.kuirthiy.info.