Managing a liberated society: 'Do you think your new nation is going to hold?'

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 09 June 2013 20:52
Written by Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr. The New Sudan Vision (NSV), www.newsudanvision.com
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JUBA, South Sudan - What would one say when one comes face to face with such a formidable question, especially from an uninterested old fellow: “hey, Rengo, let me ask you this question, do you think this nation [South Sudan] is going to hold?” I wanted to say yes, but I remember the face of the our army, grouped according to ethnicity identifiable through facial scarifications, I remember the faces of our employees in each government and Non Governmental institutions where it is conspicuous to identify which family or clan or tribe is in that institution.

I wanted to say yes, but I remember, our faulted rationale behind the regional grouping manifested through the regional conferences. I also remember the political wrangling between the Vice President and the President. I remember intimidation of the media, journalists and independent thinkers cum writers. I remember the in-born rebellions in our country. I remember the corruption with impunity epitomized by the collapse of the Nile Commercial Bank [NCB] where bigwigs drained all the money in the bank and left only the building.

I remember the dura saga where huge money was taken from the public coffers for buying dura for the needy but which dura was never delivered hitherto, the saga of the $ 4 billion shared among the Seventy-Five, the intimidation of an anti-corruption campaigner Deng Athuai, the expulsion of the Ethiopian-American advisor to the President, the amnesty to corruption and free movement of the public miscreants at-large, the deplorable revelation of the lost billions of money published in the Auditor General’s various reports, the lost monies from the president’s office. Perhaps, “who is clean in this country?”

I remember the politicization of the national reconciliation and healing process. I remember too, lack of democracy and pluralism in our politics. What was in our war manifesto? U.u.m, animals’ farms! I also remember that now it is clear there will be no the third SPLM National Convention this year to elect party leaders, and without an enactment and promulgation of the first independent country permanent’s constitution, probably there will be no election in 2014 or 2015. SPLM vehicle has no brake or reverse, thus can not take on passengers. It must continue with the few passengers on board or with only the driver. But where is it going anyway?

I also remember the discrepancies in the security sector, who does what, among and between the organized forces, national security, police service, the SPLA, and the President’s Guards? The organized forces slogan of “professionalism and Loyalty” is still an elusive goal. Public Security had to demise for a reason related to civil-military relations. President’s citadel was last week involved in a police work and made almost a showdown with a Major General and his body guards on Nisitu Road.

I remember the nation direly needs services, but a crucial ministry going almost for two years without the main minister, no upgrading the junior minister. Was there a trap? Was there a betting cast? Who is being put to shame behind this act, former minister or the incumbent deputy minister? Or are the citizens under penalty? Or is the ministry irrelevant?

I remember the withdrawal of crucial friendships from our convivial friends. What did we gain in voting for the Palestinian cause at the UN? How about the Gorgian issue? What was our National Interest at stake in those cases? Perhaps, our diplomats are never inducted about foreign policy or perhaps, deployment like it is in the general public/civil service is a wrong choice of cadres or professionals. Does the ruling party still have cadres anyway? Or have the opportunists, sycophants and infiltrators from different sources taken over the party that fought valiantly for our freedom and working it to its grave?

I wanted to say yes but I remember, the well intended federalism is almost becoming a liability. I remember it is meaningful federalism that John Garang called the “New Sudan” in his January 22, 1972 “Negotiation Guidelines” to Lagu. I remember the state of South Sudan was founded on a federal system but the buffoonery reactionaries have backtracked on this noble ideal and objective. With deliberate sophistry, they insist, it is a decentralized system. The nation is educated, yet there are people who still think that it is not. Why is it decentralization and not federalism? Was it not federalism that the Federal Party called for in 1958? Was it not federalism that William Deng called for during the 1965 Khartoum roundtable and which led to his death?

It is not federalism that encourages secession but the constitution and management of federalism.

I wanted to say yes we can hold but I remember no body is guiding the federalism. The federal system is left to organize itself alone. For example, the national government does not know how to relate with the Central Equatoria Government.

Those heroes who organized an honouring ceremony for Bona Malual Madut, Twic Mayardit Youths, not elders of course, wrote a message like this, it is paraphrased, that “Is regionalism the same as national unity? Our English is little. The “educated politicians” who organized these conferences must interpret and help us understand”. I must also ask, is regionalism constitutional? When Nimeiry wanted to divide the South into three micro regions in 1980s, didn’t we protest and fought? When Joseph Lagu published regionalization concept paper and presented to Nimeiry to support and effect it, didn’t it become a “kokora”? We wanted to remain one, South Sudan. Why too much emphasis on it? The army is already divided into three regional command zones. I have not heard the ruling party condemning the diverging competition into regionalism at the expenses of our common national unity.

These regions were organized along tribal lines, where Equatorians have seen themselves as one Big Tribe, Bhar el Ghazal region sees itself one Big Tribe of the Dinka people and Upper Nile region as a Nuer predominance because that community is dominant there. Just because the state system is seen to be loosing these grips and identities, the race is to abandon the state system for regionalism. Is our system an unthinking phantom?

Perhaps, John Garang and Peter Adwok Nyaba, blamed the failure of the Sudan’s unity on the failure of the Sudan to nucleate into a nation-state. You may also adopt the premise “nation-building” to ease your understanding. There are dangers when a nation remains merely a geographical state.

I remember no body is educating the public about the powers, roles, functions and constitutional prerogatives of either a national or state government or their relationships. That the national government can be allowed to have powers over our national security and all organized forces, all foreign policy issues, all crucial national resources such as oil, gold, etc, generic education policy, and land governance among others.

I wanted to say we may hold but I also remember that we do not have genuine national political parties. That we have former armed forces bodies that claim they are now political parties, is itself a forgone issue and archaic. Ahahaha…, euphemism! These parties including the SPLM, I am afraid do not have followers. We do not worship parties, we worship service delivery. Perhaps no party in South Sudan will ever celebrate a centenary or a half of a century steering a nation objectively. If any party does, it will be mechanical in ensuring its stay. Time will attest and vindicate this axiomatic expression. It may lay redundant here anyway.

I remember that even after the Council of Ministers passed a belated and tardy resolution, condemning and issuing order at the same time, that, the used of the word, “Excellency” which had and still has become almost a prefix and a first name to all the South Sudanese government officials of all hues, big, small, tom and dick, should be reserved or limited to the President, Vice President, Foreign Ambassadors, and I add, the state Governors, nobody up to now wants to relinquish that title. Excellence to them, insinuates cleanliness than the word honorable or professional title.

In the same way, that is how, our brigadiers refused to be called just brigadiers but brigadiers General as if the two terms hold different meanings in themselves. The margin of nuance between them may be zero. The difference has nothing to do with us. American army is headed by a General while the British army is headed by a Field Marshal. Thus our army is professly both American and British at the same time-a hybrid by default which is not very bad.

Now, shamelessly, in meetings as “Excellency” is thrown about carelessly, I have never heard anybody protesting that salutation or title sanctioned by the Executive body. It was only once. One army Brigadier, or Brigadier General, protested it and said, he should be called by his names or just Brigadier X. Perhaps, the resolution should be turned into an Act of the parliament and prosecution against its violation be erected.   

I wanted to say yes we will hold together but I remember it is hard to meet age mates or colleagues from other ethnicities without atmosphere of anxiety and suspicion. Which nation will I form or live without them? Which politics will they play without me? Our platforms, fora and social gatherings do not exist, why? We are paranoid of each other.

Our intellectuals, scholars and researchers are drawn into frontlines of ethnicity and enthnophobias. By getting fixated to the past or fear of each other, most are preaching parochialism, and jingoism which to them, is thought and meant to be a sophistry, clever and convoluted arguments aim at garnering advantage for one’s ethnicity over others. We all have common enemies, poverty, disease and ignorance. During our war with Khartoum, John Garang knew the enemy very well. He objected to the idea of people asking the Movement, “liberation from who, but liberation from what”. It means we were not fighting the Arabs or Muslims but Arabs oppression, Islamic oppression, African oppression, Deng oppression, Wani oppression, Gatluak oppression etc. Bad life regardless of its source is a threat to existence, peace and continuity as a nation.

I wanted to say yes we will hold but I remember that we are a new nation without a national culture and identity. If we can not find one in history, then we must create one. Everything, animals and plants find their identities when they are young. A child is taught a language, behavior, by the parents. A young seedling is planted, watered and pruned into a beautiful tree as it grows. A metal is shaped into something when it is hot. That is why it is said, “strike when the iron is hot” because that is the best time to do well.

Who will socialize our nation into what? Will our nation resemble whose character? Fascism of Benito and Hitler? The club of Omer Bongo, Gaddafi, Museveni, Nguema, Blaize etc? Somalia of Farad aided, and al Shabab? The unstable francophone African nations with recyclic revolutions? Or UK’s and American’s democracy? What do we want our nation to become? There are all choices of our nation becoming a dwarf of Africa, a thief, a lazy and unproductive new African child, a schizophrenic, amnesic and slumbering society, a democratic nation which knows rights of others and its own rights, a lamenting society, faschist and aggressive society, a corrupt nation, a failed state, a fragile society and so forth.

Who shapes the character of a nation or who socializes a nation? The President is number one significant person, then executive, legislators and public administrators.

Let me illustrate this point further, the late Dr. John Garang influenced his people in many ways. For example, when I was a young soldier in the SPLA Red Army, my colleagues, Dinkas whose names were Garang went enmassed and got baptized with the name John. In the Red Army at the end, there were so many John Garangs. Today, there is another emulation of John Garang; many of our people think Dr. John Garang was a successful soldier in managing the Movement because of his PhD education. We are in unannounced race now for PhD in order to be like John Garang. Riek Machar is another leader who has inspired many South Sudanese with his PhD qualification.

Many people think Pagan Amum talks like John Garang, that when one hears his voice without his physical presence, you might think, it is John Garang talking. Amama Mbabazi in Uganda talks like President Museveni. I once witnessed President Kiir standing on a podium delivering a speech exactly the same style John Garang would do, pushing one-leg up under the platform. It was John Garang styled to talk for long hours, exhaustively because he had to educate his people on various issues. Majority of our politicians talks for long hours, a culture typical of our late father.

It won’t be long to see many of our people wearing cowboy’s caps in future or leaving a long beard uncut. Are our leaders doing their best to socialize our nation by their lifestyles and practical examples? Let me declare what I have longed held in my chest. The so called corruption in our country is not the conventional corruption per se, rather it is revenge. People are doing it because they have seen their friends having done it without consequences. For example, when a minister employed his tribe men and women, many of them outside the normal recruitment process, what do you expect other ministers to do? At the end of the day, everybody will be red handed and no one will hold the other corrupt or accountable because we have done it all. A grown up corruption will not be easy to fight in the future. No law will find a level ground in future; interests will override the legislation process. The time is now.

President Beshir has socialized his people into rhetoricism, propaganda nation, fundamentalists and racdicalists due to lack of restrains, diplomacy and vision of a society. He is a hero of suppression. Ugandans of Obote’s times, 1960s were made to believe that South Sudanese were imperialist mercenaries because that was what Milton Obote had believed. As a pan Africanist of the OAU era, imperialism, colonialism, secessionism, their conduits and artifacts must be fought. Obote established relations with Khartoum and that led to the death of Father Saturnino Lohure in Padibe in 1967 and Father Anywar. Then Anyanya foreign advisor was arrested and handed over to Khartoum. President Museveni reversed that order and socialized Ugandans to take South Sudanese as brothers even when Garang died in a Ugandan plane, South Sudanese looked at the situation differently, with some restrains and mildity. Hah, Uganda could not do that. Kenyans would call us, “Garang [s]”, everybody including women.

I know the SPLM and SPLA leaders know much about Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, and Chairman Mao Zedong, and their writings. I have never been to a communist school but I have read some of their literature as part of my political economy, foreign policy and comparative politics [political systems] studies. Some of these leaders gambled with almost known sector in life, political ideologies, political economy, religion, science, society, culture name it, just because they wanted to shape the affairs of their societies. A leader must be a lecturer, a farmer, a politician, a philosopher, a scientist, a student, a inventor of an idea and a preacher, etc and articulate, charismatic, and be unprovoked speaker to his people on almost on daily basis. A society should never be left to guess or to rumour over national or society issues.

What happen when the nation is socialized badly from the start? When a new nation is left without a culture or national identity? It is built on the unbaked clay feet. It took Kenya almost fifty years since its independence 1963, to successfully write her own independent constitution. Kenya had been using a colonial constitution until 2007. They did not do it early when it was good to do it. May be, their energies were taken up by a wrangle between Kenyatta and his vice president Jaramogi Odinga, Kenyatta and Tom Mboya, etc.

At the time of independence, many people grasped lands and property. Along the way, some people became tycoons and influenced politics and legislations financially. Some ethnicities like the kikuyu, because they are the majority, they had many people in crimes. They had to spill over to the Kalenjin lands because they are too many to remain in their ancestral cradles. When legislation is proposed to tackle an issue, it meets resistance from the many interest groups with vested interests; either Kikuyu defending their rapists against any legislation proposing castration of the culprits, or the Delameres or Kenyattas, opposing land redistribution policy. I am just giving examples.

I wanted to say yes we will hold, but I remember that our constitution is never subjected to popular process of ayes and nays. It is a work of one political party with unscientific assumptions of having majority support from legislators and the masses. I wanted to say yes we will hold, but I remember that our constitution has no defined term limit. The clause that says “the President may stay in office as long as he or she wins the election” relegates us to democratic uncertainties. It is the putting a new wine into an old broken gourd. Perhaps, the French kings have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. That clause has been a source of problem across Africa.

When the constitution empowers the President to remove elected leaders, particularly state Governors and legislators, and to dissolve a state Legislative Assembly, elected by the people, what differences does this make from autocracy? Elected leaders must be impeached through vote of no confidence by their parliaments or recalled by the electorates. The President has all the powers to come through the electorates. If the electorates do not see anything wrong with their elected leaders, where does another person get legitimacy to intervene? ‘Even though removal is submitted to the condition of “a crisis in the state that threatens national security and territorial integrity” the door is open for abuse because the President would be the only one to decide if and when this condition is fulfilled’.

I wanted to say yes we will hold but I remember how our leaders, politicians and financially able people have left the country with their families to foreign countries where some of them have bought expensive homes or renting in the most revered places in those countries. Their children are put into international schools there. School fees, feeding and utilities bills money is sent from South Sudan. They work in South Sudan like expatriates or refugees. Kuol Manyang, the Governor of Jonglei, though was violating individual rights to work and choice of school for children was compelled to give a moratorium and an ultimatum to all people working in his state whose families and children are studying abroad. He said, “Return your children to schools in Jonglei or leave the government.”

A friend of mine narrated this story to me. In his words, a senior government official frequents US to pay taxes and utilities bills. When he was asked why he continues to pay such huge taxes in the US when the country is now independent. More over, he works in the government in South Sudan. The response went like this, “do you think, there is security in this country?” Here I was asked whether this nation is going to hold or not.

Schools and medical services are sought in Singapore, India, South Africa and Kenya by the leaders of the country while the Juba Teaching Hospital established in 1928, the only and only national main hospital in the country stands as a monument of derision, dilapidated, rusted and stinky, under-infrastructure, congested, name it. Doctors who complain of poor working environment and lack of motivation have left for private practices.    How much money goes into cars in Juba, particularly government’s spending? Will the nation hold without the basic services?

I wanted to say yes we may hold, but I remember the leadership of our society is increasingly getting clique sized, kleptoparasitic by stealing from the public coffers and oligarchic, plutocractized in the name of pursuing self-aggrandizement in unprecedented manner. Go behind these companies such the foreign banks, network services, contracts awarding and you will be shocked of how the nation is sold or exchanged with secret payrolls or extra percentages for contract approvals. For example, through a street rumor, viva-cell network is tax-exempted for thirty-years. It is not a government network. It is tax-exempted. Where does the government generate its revenues from if such multinational corporations are exempted from paying taxes, yet how much profits are they making in seconds? Some senior South Sudanese government officials must be standing behind them?

In one of the CPA celebrations before the independence, I was told that President had queried publicly, “Why do these people become millionaires and billionaires within a short time? Where do they get these money, yet it must take a minister to work in several governments for a good duration in order to become rich?”

The Vice President during the Red Army’s thanksgiving ceremony in 2011 criticized the murky contracts awards and management in general. That brings back to my mind a comment I heard from a friend who told me, ‘the word bribery is no longer in use in this world; it has been replaced by the term “facilitation fee.”’

Now, I remember how citizens have started doubting whether patriotism and nationalism exist in our society. Patriotism and nationalism do not cease with the end of the war. But this is what seems to be happening; the chapter of patriotism and nationalism has been closed with the chapter of war.

I wanted to say yes we will hold together but I remember how the national Universities such as University of Juba, University of Bhar el Ghazal, and Upper Nile University are getting regionalized. Their administrations must come from those specific localities. Our system does not look at these institutions as the primary institutions to socialize, develop and unite our nations. If the nation needs educated people, then we must produce them locally in quantity and quality and overhaul our public/civil service. Capital City Council and mayorship is also sent regional.

I wanted to say yes we will hold together but without a genuine policy on land issues in our nation. “Go back to your land” is the biggest threat lurking in our society. There are so many people who say, they are buying cars in Juba because they can not invest when they can not acquire land. It is also a lie. Juba is not South Sudan. One can still move out of Juba to other states to invest. But the problem is you must be a citizen of that state to get land for investment in it.

I wanted to say yes we will hold together but I remember, despite our richness in resources and population for taxes and markets, we have chosen to depend on oil. We have shown our enemy our weakest point that we can not live without oil.  At leisure, the enemy has held us hostage. Oil has become our Achilles’ heel. How I wish it remains under and be watched over by Saturnino Lohure, William Deng, John Garang and others. We have allowed the foreign nations with interests to play paternalism with us and our resources. Then I was asked, will your nation hold?

Has anybody read the book, “Frankenstein”?

My mind raced through all these issues as I was thinking on how to answer that question. I later discovered I did not give any answer, negative or positive. As my reader, how would you or Barnabas Marial answer that question, “Do you think your nation is going to hold?”

Rengo Gyyw Rengo, Jr., is a socio-political critic, and a columnist for The New Sudan Vision. This is his inaugural post on the website. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..