By Kuir ë Garang
February 5, 2017 (SSNA) — There are many South Sudanese who talk of ‘public opinion’ or ‘popular view’; but how do you gauge that such a view is actually an unsolicited opinion which people hold without fear of retribution? In a nation where holding a contrary opinion is considered a national security threat, it’s dishonest to say that there’s such a thing as a public opinion because the available ‘public opinion’ is conditioned into existence by the vicious political class. Those who oppose some of the government’s ridiculous, aimless decrees and actions on civilians, have either been silenced, killed or threatened quotidian.
This leads me to this unsavory question: In whose interest the government of South Sudan governs? Admittedly, the government isn’t governing in the interest of the people and we still wonder why there’s so much inter-tribal hatred and rampant rebellion. When will SPLM and the government actually listen to the people? Apparently, never!
In June and August of 2012, the SPLM and government of South Sudan carried out a study (survey) to gauge ‘public opinion’. It was no surprise that, while the people were somehow hopeful about the future, they were categorically dissatisfied with how SPLM was running the country. This should have been a wake-up call for the SPLM leadership to start listening to the people.
SPLM ignored this honest and valuable ‘voice of the people.’ The 2011-2013 South Sudan Development Plan was also a good development document that could have addressed all the grassroots grievances. Again, it was ignored!
There’s nowhere in the world where people can rise up against a government, which listens to the people and addresses their concern.
Are Nuer, who support SPLM-IO, fighting the government because they love to fight? Are folks in Equatoria fighting the government because they love to kill people? Are Shilluk fighting the government because they love to kill president Kiir’s tribesmen? The answer is obviously NO!
These people are fighting because of the failure of the government to address their grievance. SPLM, coming from a militarized governance mentality, feels that force is the appropriate manner in which such grievances should be addressed. Another flawless method is to appease some people by offering jobs without actually addressing the underlying causes of the problem.
Molding opinion by coercion or appeasement is dangerous in the long run.
Rebellion, insecurity and inter-tribal feuds will continue in South Sudan unless the government actually talks to the people and addresses their grievances in an honest and comprehensive manner. For instance, a fact-finding mission to the Fertit would find out their grievances and then the government can work closely with them to come up with a method to address their grievances for the long-term. Offering their leaders jobs without actually making sure that the people are ‘happy’ with the fashioned solution is a myopic leadership fancy.
Conditioning people to sing government praises in Juba doesn’t get rid of the actual sentiment people hold. You can militarily force people to surrender but you can’t militarily force them to like, with emotive honesty, a government that’s oppressing them. If there are things that make it hard for the government to perform some duties, then it needs to be honest with the people so that people don’t assume things.
Juba is not the only South Sudan and the residents of Juba are not the only population of South Sudan. The zombified (knowingly or unknowingly) people of Juba can’t be used to gauge the actual ‘public opinion’. South Sudanese have fled to Sudan, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda; and some are living in displaced camps inside South Sudan. Yet, some of us have the audacity to say that there’s an overwhelming, positive public opinion of the government!
GET UP! WALK THE COUNTRYSIDE AND TALK TO THE PEOPLE! Without that, we’ll be in a perpetual state of war, insecurity and inter-tribal bloodbath! LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE! This is our only way out!
Kuir ë Garang is the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically.’ For contact, visit www.kuirthiy.com