January 19, 2014 (SSNA) — The leadership theorists in academia have been grappling with the question as to whether a leader is made or born, but not much has been academically debated on the question as to whether a dictator is made or born. In my book, a dictator is made and you can make one. This is hypothesis based on my own practical experience watching Kiir being made by some of our comrades who are still languishing in his brutal jails at the time of this writing. What goes around comes around! Dully made at the time when South Sudanese were preoccupied with transitional issues such as preparation for referendum and statehood, Kiir enjoyed the benefit of the doubt and seized more autocratic control of the state in the making. The circumstantial Joshua then got intoxicated with political powers beyond his intellectual faculties. In no time, he discovered some false wings on his shoulders to soar and became the Kiir he is today. In all fairness, Kiir, the veteran of national liberation struggle and the only surviving founding leader of the SPLM/A deserves better, but Kiir, the political leader made by tragic circumstance of Dr. John’s demise and groomed into dictatorship by his sycophantic surrounding has been a political disaster, to say the very least.
Cognizant of his humble background as a middle school dropped out and war made politician without conventional political credentials and charisma, Kiir gave it his best to emerge on the post- war political scene as an agent of peace and reconciliation, politically inclusive, a democratic leader governing through a web of consultants and experts. Beside some faceless consultants at home and abroad, behind the throne (in the kitchen) were also some self-made political counselors and sycophants. In a political environment like ours, dictators are always mad by sycophants and we have too many of them in South Sudan. Naturally, sycophants are self-serving servile flatterers and are often slavishly submissive to the dictators they want to build. Psychologically and socially, the dictator and sycophant need each other. For one thing, the dictator is completely dependent on the Sycophants to feed his sick ego, to feel important and powerful. The sycophant on the other hand is also dependent on the dictator who gives the sycophant social standing he/she otherwise would not have attained. In sum, the relationship is symbiotic. That was how Kiir made the people who in turn mad him. Countless songs were sung to his ego rallying the masses of people of South Sudan behind him to cross that stormy river to the promised land through the referendum which gave them political sovereignty and independence on July 9, 2011. In return, General Kiir promised the people of South heaven on earth: freedom, democracy, human right, multi-party system, equality, economic prosperity, zero tolerance to corruption, you name it!
Having drowned in deep sea of political oppression and poverty for decades, the people of South Sudan held tight to a ‘snake’ hoping that it could take them afloat throughout the transitional period. Unfortunately, by default, a narcissist dictator has been produced out of this war made political mediocre. The question that must be asked then is: "When did Kiir take on his megalomaniacal persona and became the dictator he is today?" The other relevant questions are: what is the dictator and when does a dictator becomes a dictator?" Dictators, like all human beings, go through stages of moral or immoral development. At some point in their lives, they were not known as the tyrants they came to be. In Kiir’s scenario, his true self came out when he began ruling by presidential decrees. The year 2013 will go down in the history of South Sudan as a Year of Rule by Presidential Decrees. Our seasoned young journalists like Rejoice Sampson of SSTV were mechanically programmed to excel in pronouncing: “I General Salva Kiir Mayardit decree removal of so and so and appointment of so and so”. Under the legal and political counsel of his soul mate, Mr.Tilar Deng, Kiir unleashed a reign of unforgettable political terror in the nascent state. In what seemed to be selective exercise of his constitutional authority, Kiir unconstitutionally dismissed elected governors and replaced them with his loyalist, some of who are grossly in competent just like himself. Among those is General Matur Chut of Lakes State who is functionally illiterate. From then on, Kiir became a full blown dictator if not the made mad man I would prefer to call him. Psychologically, Kiir began to show all clinical symptoms of a dictator. Like any pathological dictator, he misrepresents facts, opportunistically shifts positions, ignores data that conflicts with his fantasy world, is overly confident and acts as statesman when in truth, he is a mad man. Ultimately, Kiir projects himself to be above the law. One of our most accomplished journalists, Jacob Akol articulated that well in his article entitled: Why Kiir’s Decrees Are Scary and Assuring. In this article, Jacob articulated that Kiir is making the nation to take him for the law and the law for him.
Like any typical African dictator, Kiir displays false modesty while sublimating aggression and grudges. What makes this career butcher even dangerous is his lack of consciousness combined with his high self-serving intelligence and likable personality that has fooled and outsmarted many in South Sudan. Toward the year 2012, the career military spy Kiir spontaneously exhibited his true persona. Politically, he began to be highly intolerable of criticism and would do any thing to eliminate his political opponents. Running his country in a police state model, General Kiir becomes increasingly controlling, brutal and tyrant. Whenever that control is challenged, he feels threatened and responds as if his very physical survival is at stake. He then abandoned his historical comrades in arms and colleagues and surrounded himself with local codependents, enablers and followers and if anyone of them challenges his authority, he would just discard him as if he never existed. Kiir rules through rumors mongers and street gossipers he takes seriously. My own psychosocial assessment as a student of social psychology tells me that like any pathological dictator, Kiir is a clinical case of a mental health disorder known as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). NPD is a syndrome consisting of a cross breed of the narcissistic personality disorder, the antisocial personality disorder as well as paranoid traits. Clinically, the sufferer of this disorder is an emotional vampire, cruel and sadistic and enjoys other persons’ suffering. Most of the serial killers fall in this category. Narcissistic dictators are self-seeking and insensitive to the plight of the governed. They take over and subvert key state institutions (civil service, judiciary, media, etc) to serve their interests. They are poor at governance given that good governance entails not only cognitive wherewithal but also the ability to compromise and bargain successfully with a plethora of competing groups.
Pathological dictators like Kirr fear civil political competition as they are impervious to reason with. The only voice a dictator listens to is his own voice. That is why political repression is the only effective weapon in the hand of the tyrant. Opposition parties in autocratic states like this one of Kiir in South Sudan are either outlawed or accorded very little political lee way. Using the state institutions of the police state, the key opposition leaders are often arrested, intimidated, hounded and even killed. Cowed into submission, some intellectuals in the opposition tend to switch camps to serve their bellies and ensure their physical survival. The bitter truth of this culture is that it depletes human conscience and dignity. It compels intellectuals to sell off their consciences, integrity and principles with cheap political appointments. As we have all witnessed in South Sudan, the pet aversion of all dictators is press freedom. Censorship is imposed; journalists, newspaper editors, and columnists are harassed and arrested for telling the truth. The very critical and stubborn ones are murdered like in the case of Isiah Abraham or bought off like in the case of my learned friend, Ateny Wek Ateny. Newspapers, radio and television stations that are critical of the despot are shut down. Typical dictators would go extra miles to hide their failures and the heinous crimes they have committed and continue to commit like in the case of the ongoing genocide in Juba. Free media is erstwhile enemy of the despots like Kiir as it exposes their lies, bloopers and incompetence. Dictators are terrible hypocrites. Being the only made man with testicles in the political space, the dictator like Kiir would shamelessly accuse his political opponents of corruption as he and his cohorts plunder the people’s treasury incessantly and live flamboyant life styles while his people drown in an abyss of abject poverty. Dictators are war-like and take refuge in extreme nationalism to divert the attention of their populace to external threats of their own creation.
World History and human experience have taught that the human breeds called dictators are interesting creatures. They are erratic and socially weird. I take more interest in the weird things they do at the end of their reigns. For example, the leader of the Burmese (Myanmar) gave government employees two days notice and hurriedly moved the capital city from Rangoo to a remote location deep in the jungle. Mobutu Sese Seko did the same thing by moving the presidential place to his remote birth village deep in Congolese Tropical Rainforest until the events in Kinshas over took him by surprise. Akin to all of the above is Kiir’s Luri cattle camp where the ongoing genocide was planned. Also, Just like Kiir Mayardit, Mobutu Sese Seko was predominantly threatened by his sophisticated advisers and highly educated colleagues. Hence, he only trusted the incompetent ones with limited knowledge to tell him what he wish to hear such as gossips within the military and who is planning what. Those who lived in Juba in the last three years would remember how many times rumors of baseless coup originating from “J One” were circulated until the recent disarmament targeting those who were perceived to be planning a coup within Tiger Battalion on December 15, 2013 sparked the developing genocidal war. Also like Kiir, Idi Amin Dada’s advisers were his drinking buddies and cronies, who tell him exactly what he wants to hear. This way, the dictator in question is bound to loose touch with the real world until the miserable end of his reign. Read all the books about the dictators and tell me a single dictator that stuck to his dictatorial guns and had a happy ending! The end of South Sudan’s dictator in the persona of Kiir Salva Mayardit will be definitely similar to that of Nicholas Chacisco of Romania and the rest in that class. Through his mediocrity, dictatorship and poor leadership skills, the made mad man has squandered his virtuous legacy as a veteran of national liberation struggle and leader who managed to unite his people and delivered them political independence. It is a gross pity that he will be remembered more for only pathetic things like his weird trade mark (the giant cow boy hat), his controversial presidential decrees, his boring speeches, political blunders, institutionalized corruption, nepotism, political tribalism, political incompetence, genocide and tyranny.
May God Almighty save whatever is left of South Sudan from this made mad man!!
Stephen Par Kuol is a former Deputy Ambassador of the Sudan to the United Republic of Tanzania and the former State Minister of Education in the Government of Jonglei State. He is also a researcher and freelance writer on academic topics pertinent to Human Right and Post-conflict Criminal Justice Administration.