THINKING ANTI-CLOCKWISE - South Sudan: So our government is now lean and clean?

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Monday, 05 September 2011 08:36
Written by John Penn de Ngong, The New Sudan Vision (NSV),
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(Juba, South Sudan) - Upon public uproar in reaction to the formation of the Government of Southern Sudan  (GOSS) during the interim period, President Salva Kiir 

Mayardit promised to form the post-independence government a pencil-thin one— clean and lean, like our Miss Malaika beauty babes on the catwalk. So it is! Or is it?

Unlucky me! I have not been 'uncled' in this government. Un/fortunately, I do not fully subscribe to the youth cliques of colleagues who have been baying, praying and/or even paying for ethnic representation of their communities; be them Greater or Smaller, whatever they call them.

No, the pressure that President Kiir is subjected to, and which he seems to have succumbed to at last; the pressure of 'clanizing or tribalizing' the government, irritates me.

Creating clan, tribal, regional or sectarian or partisan ambassadors to Juba in the name of broad-based government is as politically immoral (and costly) as some individual leaders getting away with millions of the peoples' funds in broad day light.

I have long dreaded that tradition of appointing leaders or employees on the basis of 'tactical know-who' but not technical know-how. That is why I have been tempted to touch politics this time since the days of my column in 'The Sudan Mirror'.

Well, there could be justifications for forming an all-inclusive government; one of which we fought the Arabs for, but is it cost effective?

Some philosopher once said, "I don't know the road to success, but the road to failure is trying to please everybody." So if we wanted to practice Lincoln's theory by making our government that of the people, for the people, and by the people, then we must have had more than 60 ministries according to our ethnic size. However, in this world where our immediate religion is money, you cannot make an action-based decision unless you first lay down a budget; a budget that does not rob others' of their financial allocations. This is called misappropriation of funds, one of the greedy children of corruption.

Therefore, lack of funds to service all the tribal and regional representatives justifies the critics prevailing against the political obesity of our government. I admit the fact that we must form the government of national unity, but on condition that it does not turn into a government of national disunity later in a year or two. This can happen especially when we allow these ministers and their mini-stars (deputies) and legislators to employ secretaries and deploy bodyguards from the same clans that bayed and prayed for their appointment.

In this way, the whole government will still look like the pre-independence one, with their 'unity in diversity': meaning some ministries lined from the top to the bottom with fellow certain tribesmen and women in the name of Government of South Sudan, anyway.

In the middle of this analysis (don't you call it criticism), for me, it is deemed worth declaring that the present government is neither lean (thin) nor clean (incorrupt). Apart from the government being forced to be bi-cameral, I have these and other reasons to believe in.

First, to arrive at the present post-independence government, (let me grossly nickname it GROSS: Government of the Republic of South Sudan), it is the very pre-independence government (GOSS) that has been arithmetically manipulated, that is, grossly multiplied by two.

It is simple: SSLA (South Sudan Legislative Assembly) times two; say, the upper house, now christened 'Council of States, and the lower house, now South Sudan Parliament. And the cabinet, too, by two, into national ministers and state ministers (deputies).

By the way, do not temper with the undersecretaries. Just wait and see. In short, the ministers plus the MPs alone redouble the number of constitutional post holders from around 1,000 of last year to over 2000 after independence. This is when we add the states' governments, and their trailers. Just imagine the cost, now that some departments are still running EOI (adverts) in the papers for quotations for cars ranging from range rovers, GXR V8 and the likes.

I thought since that president has shunned V8s and is now using different makes, MPs, ministers and governors would not advertize for them. No, not when the fuel price's crises are forcing the population back to riding in 'V2'  (on foot).

Needless to say all these new comers need directors, secretaries, drivers, just imagine how much the tax-payers will lose to their allowances (salaries being their constitutional rights) for travelling abroad, for footing medical bills, housing bills or hotel bills, school fees, cars, ladies, bears, etc. O my God!

And you accepted to redouble the government, Mr. President! Well, I will only forgive them not until they redouble their efforts in providing us with what we pay them for. This time, no swelling and swirling in wheeled chairs like persons with disabilities and ordering foreign companies to do the jobs the civil servants are already salaried for. To make it worse, they even do it at a blown-up cost.

As if that disappointment is not enough, why at this time did somebody decide to scrap the Ministry of Rural Development and Cooperatives? That is the most important ministry of our leader, the Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, of which he (and the SPLM of his days) had a vision: "To take towns to the people." There is no other miracle of tying Juba City in a trailer behind the truck and dragging it to Ramciel as now agreed or to my village if not by this deleted ministry. This ministry even still exists in USA, a country that is now forgetting words such as 'village', 'rural', 'slum', etc. in their dictionaries.

So now, we would just assume the slogan is being reversed to "Taking people to the towns". What is the use of the Ministry of Environment to replace the Ministry of Development when we are talking of taking towns to the people, beginning with Juba to Ramciel? That is why I have to repeat that it seems it is the ministry that is appointed to the minister, so that it appears Ministry of the Minister of Environment and so on.

Though we addressed the problem to the president, he is innocent. If he were not innocent, he would not be showered with congratulatory (aka application/appeasement/lobbying) letters for now having come up with the so-called 'government of regional balance'. So that is what we wanted: tribes, or so-called greater regions, the only piece of constitution of the Late Nimeiri's government (a taboo to call it Kokora) we are still stuck with.

Even those who penned our Transitional Constitution of South Sudan with the CV (experiences) of CPA and liberation war, have the guts to describe the Republic of South Sudan as divided into three 'Greater' Regions, whatever that comparative adjective means. Call them Greater Bahr-el-Ghazal, Greater Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile!

Hii! Uncles, come on...! Where are they— these so-called Greater something – in our transitional constitution? So that you based your government on them instead of on states, where are they in our geography? It seems 'we' are governing this country by histories and stories from the olden theories.

That is why I call this government neither lean nor clean. It is not clean because the president of this Republic, with the backings from our community professional lobbyists, has recycled the old guards, including those who were caught off guard by the law in the previous regime.

Apologies for referring to that rumour, which seems as fictitious as the lobbying lists according to USA and World Bank, the cabinet list according to Dinka Group, another list according to Equatoria Group, Nuer Group, name them. All these ghost cabinets are apparently to blame for the political obesity of the government, characterized by recycling and interchanging of some individuals in the government behind which the line of qualified waiters looks like that of our referendum voters.

Anyway, recycling is encouraged in this world of dwindling resources and twinkling climate, but why for God's sake do we avoid purification before recycling?

It is like taking our Juba waste to the sewer and channeling it back to our houses the way we sent it!

What our parliament just did recently is exactly just that. Examining the appointees after announcing them on the national TV and Radio, which then relayed them to our copy-and-paste private media is, methinks, pure political postmortem.

So what the honourable deputy speaker and his crew did in that house by the end of last month (August) has no base to be criticized. Of course, who would waste time accusing a doctor for examining and not bringing to life the bodies, which have spent a night or more in the mortuary?

If not Jesus, then who else can make such corpses resurrect?

I mean can the parliament dismiss, for example, my favourite one of those ministers after he even was allowed to inspect his office and start receiving applications for office managers and secretaries from his kinsmen?

Who will dare tell a person to step down after enjoying communal congratulatory messages in our 'yes media'? I mean, who will ask the President to lash out with another Mighty Presidential Decree i.e. No. 31/2011, relieving of their duties the ministers or their deputies who were rejected in the parliament for one thing or the other?

Not only that, but how politically and patriotically pure are some of the new comers brought in by Tribal Decree?

I like one commentary by my fellow bystander, Elhag Paul, published in the Sudan

He wrote, under the heading, SPLM's political tricks: appointing crooks to the cabinet", and under the sub-heading: "Opportunists in cahoots with Arabs: First there are the Muslim-Christians of Tourabi who have had their bums stamped with the Muslim Quranic verse, ‘No God but God’. This group made up the membership of NCP before our referendum in 2011. They sold out to the Arabs to enjoy privileges of the regime that most abused South Sudanese. When Bashir was murdering South Sudanese such as in the Juba massacres of 1992, they were in cahoots with him and the NIF. They distanced themselves from the people’s struggle in the South. As a result, they were made ministers and governors during all that time."

Ok, I thank him for not mentioning some names of the last year's NCP unity campaign team of Southerners who are now ministers in Kiir's government. However, if you want to infer some names, I refer you to that website to see more than that political taboo I have just recycled.

After all the bickering over the exclusion or inclusion of some individual ministers who are considered of questionable integrity, I do not think we are convinced that the ministries themselves are lean. Just by omitting only the three, that includes Minister without Portfolio (minister without job), and renaming the rest of the 29 does not guarantee that the baby nation has leaner government.

Basing on the president's independence day promises, we were made to expect the size of the government somewhere between 18 and 22. However, from the look of things, critical analysts can conclude that Ministries are appointed for ministers, and not ministers for ministries. This means some lobby clique just sits down and crafts a ministry so that so and so is not left jobless and idle, since idle minds, especially the political ones, are the real devil's workshop. I can bet by the name of Gen. George Athor and Peter Gatdet if you are my Thomas!

And if not that for that or the other reason, then why for Heaven's sake is there a Ministry of Electricity and Dams vis-à-vis the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation?

Where on this planet do we have dams outside water, or forests without environment? It is just the same game of playing around with words and they think we would not know it, or even if we happen to know it, so what?

You can generate for yourself examples of rotating synonyms to create big titles in the name of ministries, as in Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Technology, Ministry of General Education and Instruction, Information and Broadcasting, Defence and Veterans' Affairs, Culture and Heritage, Sports and Recreation, etc., some of which existed before August 26, 2011.

I have no problem with Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary Affairs (which is not supposed to be a ministry if we wanted a leaner cabinet), etc. By the way, for your reminder, even cabinet of 12 ministers can still be broad-based i.e. representative if it is sincerely meant to be.

To conclude here, but not in the minds of yours and mine, we have just created for our economic burdens unnecessary bloated and gloated consumption bureaucracies in the name of democracy. I repeat, like the outgoing GOSS which was full of political goss (rumours), our incoming government, GROSS, is very gross (bulky): all in the pretext of broad-based government or something of that kind. So is it lean and clean now?

John Penn de Ngong is a Southern Sudanese journalist, a founding editor of The Younique Generation Magazine (a youth, fashion and art monthly printed in Kampala and distributed in Southern Sudan. He is also a poet (over 300 poems under one title 'The Black Christs of Africa') and an essayist. He can be contacted at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.