South Sudan needs leadership

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Saturday, 17 October 2009 16:44
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Akol Aguek
(Vermont, USA) - Wait a minute! I haven’t lost my mind. I am perfectly sane but feel compelled to speak out about what Southern Sudanese are missing from their own leader, President Salva Kiir Mayardit. If anything, I am not demeaning him or denigrating his contributions to South Sudan governance. I am pointing out what is lacking and how he can possibly find some ways to connect with his people in a very inspiring manner so that they can stick with him during ups and downs of the unknowns of the upcoming referendum in 2011.

Let me be clear! I am talking about charisma to do good to humanity because charismatic leader can also inspire people to commit heinous crimes against humanity, with Adolf Hitler being the prime example!

Nonetheless, the instances of charismatic leaders leading their people to victories are in abundance.

History has it that every time there is struggle for equality, charisma in “the anointed leader” is what keeps people rallying around him to fight for their own destiny. Leadership charisma is what keeps people from giving up when temptations to fall short are very compelling. People look up to their leader for charisma and unequivocal consistent message when it comes to addressing the issues they are facing.

Let me give you a handful of historical examples.

On November 19, 1863, then US President Abraham Lincoln spoke at the Battle of Gettysburg where the union army sustained 50,000 casualties. It was a testing time but with an inspiring and authentic 278 word speech, he rallied the union army to hold firm and remain resolved until they defeated the confederate army. He concluded the speech with the most inspiring words that keep Americans inspired even today. He said “It is rather for us to be here to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we hereby resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” The union army was inspired more than ever before and ended up defeating the confederate army. The slavery was successfully ended, and the US remained united as the United States of America to this day.

It was a clear charisma of a true leader who was dedicated to ending slavery, and keeping his nation remained united that inspired his people to stick to his message till victory was achieved. By the same token, President Kiir is yet to reach the souls of those he commands should the defense of referendum demands going back to war.

In 1990s, during the so-called dark days of our revolution, we can’t be lectured to on the charisma of our late leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior because his endowed stature kept his people united and committed to their liberation despite tremendous betrayals.

At a time when two opportunistic cowards and their accomplices “stabbed the Movement in the back to borrow Garang’s words”; at a time when Bor was laid waste; at a time when liberated towns through Martyrs’ sacrifices were given back to the enemy by those traitors; and at a time when a five year military plan to capture Juba failed, Dr. Garang never wavered or relented but remained upbeat, charismatic, and inspirational to his people more than ever before. He would talk of forgiving the [back stabbers] when asked about what he would do to those who betrayed people’s struggle and he did when they tiptoed back for Khartoum was Khartoum and as expected, was offering nothing. He would talk of the “other horse” or “building another hut” when mocked by Reuben White of BBC focus on Africa for his continued failed attacks to capture Juba as “the last kicks of the dying horse” or SPLM liberated towns having been retaken by the enemy depriving him [Garang] of bases to stage military plans.

It was Garang’s inspiring words and charisma that kept South Sudanese united for the common purpose of ridding themselves of subjugation by the Northern elites. Today, I would be mind-boggled to see the same in our current SPLM Chairman and GoSS President.

It was the charisma in Mahatma Gandhi that kept his people sticking with him during his non violent resistance against British colonial rule in India.

We know how charismatic Nelson Mandela kept upbeat for 27 years in jail and kept his people inspired to keep fighting to end the Apartheid Rule in South Africa until they succeeded in May, 1994. President Kiir must be inspirational and charismatic to keep the support of south Sudanese from waning because we never know how it is going to play out during referendum and all the way into the future.

Even in democratic system, charisma earns the unknown figures the trust of their people to elect them into the most powerful offices in the land.

The 1997 Tony Blair’s “New Labor Party” slogan buoyed by his charisma and inspiration earned him the Great Britain’s Premiership for 10 years and therefore ended decades long conservatives’ hold on British Government.

The 2004 inspiring speech by then Illinois State Legislator and US Senatorial Candidate, Barrack Obama, in which he assailed slicing and dicing America as “red states vs blue states” but declared America as “the United States of America”, touched the soul of the nation to think about electing him as the first US Black President.  He is in the Whitehouse today!

The same could be said of the then unknown governor of small state of Arkansas in the name of William Jefferson Clinton whose charisma put him at the helm of Democratic Party ticket and went on to beat a very popular US President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1993 to bring the Democratic Party back to the Whitehouse since 1980.

It was nothing but charisma that made those individuals won the trust of their electorates and earned them the most enviable leadership positions in the world. By the same token, President Kiir is yet to go on the campaign trail and speak to the souls of the very people he claims to lead because they need his inspiration.

At a time when the very same traitors who orchestrated the 1990’s dark days are eyeing President’s Kiir position with dubious agendas including playing into the hands of the enemy again, President Kiir must not take the support of his own people for granted. He must speak to their souls by making his case for why he deserves to be their leader at this time.

The times for contradictory messages and dry speeches with equivocation are over because his people want to feel connected and touched by his words. Otherwise, these electorates are up for grab by any articulate politician who may rise up from outside or within the rank and file of the SPLM Party.

Akol Aguek Ngong is a regular contributor to NewSudanVision.Com and lives in Burlington, Vermont, USA where he serves as Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Vermont.