Australia, April 13, 2014 (SSNA) — Despites the death of Dr. John Garang de Mabior, the founding President of South Sudan government and historically First Vice-President of Sudan who passed away in July 2005 after 23 days as head of South Sudan government and first Vice-President of the Republic of Sudan. The people of South Sudan were with hopes and expectations that a nation will be born and the birth of this nation will end the long suffering of South Sudanese in the hands of their oppressors. The birth of this nation was assigned to General Salva, the current President as a senior midwife in the ward. The only trust bestowed to General Salva Kiir Mayardit, by the Southerners is his loyalty to the Movement and he also served as John Garang Vice Chairman during the struggling and assumed the Vice Presidency of South Sudan government in 2005 immediately after the CPA was signed. Kiir took over as President of South Sudan and Vice President of the Republic of Sudan as stipulated by the agreement signed between the NCP and the SPLM after the chair of SPLM felt vacant.
The nation was born as expected. But, what matter is how the political realm of President Kiir leadership immediately after he took over as the result of demised of Dr. John Garang was and still being dominated by a section of Dinka, particularly from Salva Kiir home backyard, Greater Bar el Ghazal States. Many South Sudanese seen Kiir as man who misused his mandate and circled himself with individuals group who neglected others. This group with President ears comprised, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, the Interior Minister, Telar Ring Deng, the Presidential Legal Advisor, Paul Malong Awan, Governor for N. Bar el Ghazal and Akol Kor Kuc, the Director for Internal Security and the former Deputy Speaker for SSLA, Daniel Awet Akot. They top leaders and close allies of President Kiir undermined other leaders from other ethnic communities and terming them as “non-conforming Dinkas”, the term referred to non-speaking Dinka. The others contributors in tearing the country apart are his notorious Presidential Guards. Their non-condemned actions around Salva Kiir turned the nation born with hopes and expectations as a graveyard for our people. Not to forget in the list is the Minister for Information, Michael Makuei Lueth. Hon. Makuei is considered as risk taker who always takes hardest options of leadership through gossiping and hatred speech to secure his position in the government. As a Minister of Information of a country that is involved in finding a solution to the conflict, one is left to wonder the rationale behind these unfortunate and misleading comments always given by Machael Makuei. The people of South Sudan believed that Kiir and his government had failed to steer the Country to prosperity and was now bent on silencing alternatives voices including the media, non-governmental organisations opposing to his style of leadership. The degree to which President Salva Kiir and those around him dominate political life in South Sudan was all too apparent back in 2012 with the push to overturn that part of the constitution which limited presidents to two terms in office. It was clear throughout Kiir’s first term (2011-2015) that he wanted to stay in power beyond 2015.
In my analysis, the South Sudan I see, grow up and lived in it for 22 years is far from perfect. The problems the country is facing have been well-documented and there is little need if any at all to dwell on these issues. What has become apparent however in South Sudan is that we are increasingly becoming a society that would rather focus on the problems without necessarily discussing or offering solutions to the myriad of challenges we face. What’s needed is definitive leadership that would outline in broad strokes the path the country should take in navigating its way out of the dilemma it presently finds itself in. South Sudan is a nation of many ethnic and religious groups; and for this, governing the society is an enormous job. Given the presence of politically assertive ethnic groups, the stability and survival of the present democratic politics depends on how the leader controls the potential ethnic disputes that would result. Leaders have duties to unite people in regardless of their political affiliation. John Gardner, a British writer has pointed out that the “task of leaders is to help societies understand the problems that all must face, to aid in the setting of goals and priorities, to work with others in finding paths to those goals chosen, maintaining public morale, and motivation and nurturing a workable level of public unity". Leaders must activate existing institutions in pursuit of the society’s goals or, when necessary, help redesign institutions to achieve that result. Leaders must also help people know how they can be at their best.
Many have lost faith in our politicians and, more generally, the political system in its entirety. Just a quick glance at any of the local dailies paints a rather sad story; political leaders living in plenty, enriching themselves with impunity at the expense of the masses they claim to serve. This just shows how these political elites have lost connection with the generality of the people, and how bereft of genuine leaders our country is. Faced with these realities, one cannot really blame the people for their general apathy when it comes to our politics but blames must be directed to the President for his lack of clear direction. However, no matter how rich a nation is without the right leaders it is unlikely to progress. South Sudan has not made much progress because the country has been conferring undue respect to official titles without policies in their Ministries. The members of the National Assembly have been chasing the shadow of money, and some of them lack the integrity and knowledge to perform their basic duties. For our country to progress, we need leaders with good ears and an open mind, consistently truthful and approachable.
This however, is unfortunate as South Sudan is a republic which, by definition, is a State in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives. As such the obligation of charting the course the country should take is incumbent upon the political leaders who represent the people of their constituencies. When our politics fail therefore, the nation fails. Hard as it may be to take in, this is the fact. A dearth in leadership at the top will inevitably give way to a dysfunctional socio-economic system. When a sitting Member of Parliament makes unwarranted claims that the Country is suffered from corruption, bad governance with such potentially volatile pronouncements, one questions if the leader truly has the interests of the people at heart. When people jostle for power in messy internal politics instead of focusing on core issues affecting the well-being of most South Sudanese, it beggars belief as to how those very same people can claim to represent the people.
Name-calling and hurling of insults at each other hardly serves any meaningful purpose other than to divert the people’s attention from the real issues that are affecting them. Yet it seems this is what our politicians mostly excel at; shouting the loudest away from the corridors of power. Yet in the House of Assembly, where their voices matter the most, they are found dozing off instead of participating in constructive debate to shape the country’s future. Interesting too is how easily politicians can major in the minors by focusing on issues such as renaming institutions and monuments. While these may be noble undertakings, they are really not bread and butter issues that warrant the time and resources spent on them. The people need jobs, food on the table, access to better healthcare; matters that have a direct bearing on the quality of their lives.
Bringing the argument back home, there is a dire need for those who hold the reins of power to reconnect with the general populace and direct their efforts to protecting and to serving. The political elitism syndrome needs to be dealt away with as a matter of urgency. We are all created equal! Yes there are many who did not “fight” the liberation war, but that does not make them lesser human beings than those who “fought” the war. What all South Sudanese want is a functioning government based upon inclusive politics that truly have the people at heart. Frankly, there is no place here for self-serving politicians who are only visible in their constituencies when elections are drawing near. The cabinet has to be visible more than just on paper and be relevant by offering alternative policies and strategies and thereby ensuring a vibrant democracy.
As long as our leaders fail to uphold the true duties of their public offices, the republic’s perfection will be stalled. Our Country cannot be held to ransom by a select few people who further their own gains while the rest of the people struggle under economic hardship. The current crop of politicians, regardless of party affiliation, need to touch base with the true duty of service and realise that they are involved in processes and institutions that are bigger than themselves. They need to appreciate that the decisions they make have far-reaching implications and that they, therefore, hold the fate of many in their hands.
South Sudan is a beautiful land with untold potential. However, as long as our politicians continue on their current path this potential will never be realised. Of course, this does not hold true for all our politicians as, without the need to mention names, there are some who have served the people with distinction. It is commendable that this breed of leaders exists and they are to be emulated. Nations have risen and fallen as a direct result of the quality of the leadership and it is imperative for good governance and leadership to reign in this land if South Sudan is to develop. Furthermore, the present brand of “winner takes all” politics which in my opinion is at the root of the unnecessary political headwinds we have had to witness needs to be revised going forwards.
South Sudan as a country which suffered from marginalisation before because of Arab domination has rights to reject any leader whose agenda is to create bad blood between tribes and whose career is based on ethnic dichotomy. Where is the genesis of the conflict between these two hardworking tribes who should otherwise complement each other in nation-building? The Dinka community has nothing against the Nuer and/or any other tribe for that matter; and if Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar have their own problems with themselves they should keep the Tribes out of it!
Bol Garang Bol is a South Sudanese living in Canberra, Australia. He can be reached at [email protected].