In South Sudan, Things Went So Wrong Right after Independence


OMAHA— South Sudanese made huge contributions during the CPA era–from January 2005 through July 2011–an important time period during which then-semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan was feverishly preparing to split from the Sudan. The contributions came in various forms but none was as crucial, in my opinion, as the contribution of those who brought us a wealth of experience after creating and maintaining online information platforms that sought to inform a post-war generation. A lot could be learned from the information in some credible news websites, news blogs, and in social media such as Facebook pages, YouTube videos as well as government official websites. During that 6 year period, the once marginalized and oppressed masses were intent on creating a different reality from the one they had known for decades. People were sharing the great work behind the founding of their soon-to-be republic. They were sharing ideas, and giving advice on how to avoid pitfalls associated with new nations. And they were so close. Some of the best and aspiring writers were putting out works on experience and sacrifices made during the liberation struggles for the world to see. South Sudanese, including their leaders, were on the same page as to what direction the country was supposed to take. So when and how did South Sudanese get it so wrong?


Well, the only information that the general public seems to not have yet fully digested in all of these online webinars is how everything went so wrong right about the time of the independence of the Republic. Some people may be surprised as to why anyone would think that everything was wrong about the independence of the republic. While all of us may admit that July 9, 2011 was a big day, it is a day that came with both the good and the bad that is inherent with freedom. Some overjoyed citizens of an hour old sovereign nation at that moment of opening remarks would have argued why anyone would associate that day with bad.


But as many well-informed and farsighted citizens including social scientists, military strategists would agree, the majority of our population had already been cornered or were using that very day to launch their strategic planning. Some were planning on how to go about building their inherited legacies, wealth, identities and political futures, while the pure hearted patriots who fought with no reservation celebrated the independence with joy and giving thanks to God for a new born nation. Although the pure hearted populace returned to their daily activities the next working day with hope, commitment, and obligations to serve their new country, the opportunists and the tribal inner-circles were already, in their hearts and minds, far down the trenches and bushes of division; they were already digging the widest and deepest tribal holes. It is so true now to conclude that many were not planning to bury tribalism in those holes, instead they were digging those for use as those holes quickly became the very containers of the stingiest, toxic and poisonous tribal chemicals and tribal odors. Those deeply buried containers of tribalism exploded in mid- December 2013. Their explosion was loud and the tectonic forces shook the whole political foundation of the new Republic. And the smell of tribal odors polluted the political atmosphere and blinded the visionary leaders; they defected and joined their parochial majority.


Looking back, you may now realize that everything went wrong soon after the independence of the Republic. Leaders began to reconnect with their tribal advocates, and the immense parochialism in the citizens began to threaten the political culture as well as political opinion, and cohesion among citizens and politicians. As a result, anyone who well knew about the previous struggles of the country began to put on his or her political telescope and began to scrutinize the position of the Republic with extraordinary attention and high level of suspicion. Now, you may be alert! The freedom our heroes and heroines fought for is under attack. And soon or later, you may lose your rights and later your country. How? You may ask. Well, others are already trying to figure out how they may remain part of a magnificent world’s newest and Oil rich Country.


Still waiting for answers? My fellow citizens, building a new nation requires collective responsibilities. We as the citizens of this new nation need to recognize that our roles in combating tribalism may ease how we look at ourselves as tribes, clans and sub-clans. We ought to disown our tribal loyalties and promote universal understanding of issues than grouping based on tribal lines. Our leaders need to abandon their local ways of dealing with public issues and reinvigorate their thinking neurons to be fair minded thinkers, and champions of a well articulated, scrupulous and inclusive national agenda. For a new country to flourish, it takes a quick and critical, rational, ethical, and charismatic leadership. Our leaders should move carefully but swiftly to rescue South Sudan from the brink of collapse and against unfolding tragedies. South Sudan is not very different from other nations that had made it to top list of good governance that currently maintain supremacy. So what are my claims or observations? South Sudanese need to overcome what social scientists call new Nation Building Crises. These crises are identity, legitimacy, diffusion of powers and services,/fair participation with respect with to equitable distribution of powers.


People may quickly say that the crises I have just mentioned above have been tackled or written about! Except that they bear repeating, I may add. My people, the first hurdle and worse hindrance to a nation building is identity. We have long been singing praises about our ethnic identities. We have always rushed to identify and divide ourselves along tribes, ethnic groups and regional groups even long before the independence. Many wars had been fought along ethnic, tribal, and regional lines. And many more wars are still threatening our country’s future tranquility as I type this article. I bet you have written a line or read any news about the consequences of what happened on 15 of Dec 2013. Tribalism has finished us. It is time to turn away from closed-minded thinking and start to think of ourselves first and foremost as citizens of a nation. Doing so would help our country recuperate from tribal, ethnic and regional allegiances and there could be no room for division. It may not happen easily, quickly and automatically but we sure may get there. Many of you including Political scientists and Historians understood it very well. Many wars in the so-called Developed Nations and even in some Developing countries were fought because of the identity. Yet, those nations overcame the nation building crisis. We need to overcome the nation building identity crisis by working as one people, employing collective responsibilities and band together as citizens of a nation.


Legitimacy is another nation building crisis that has impeded our country’s progress. Legitimacy has never and will never rain down on a country. It requires a confluence of involvement from the government and from the citizens. Our government officials must inspire respect and willing obedience of the people; the contagious feeling among citizenry that the regime rules are worth obeying. South Sudan’s government officials must come to their right senses and recognize the importance of a legitimate government. A legitimate government respects universal rights, public funds, and public laws; thus the public would in return respect the government and begins to obey its laws. Let’s face it our country is a million miles away from those practices. South Sudan is a country which has long been dodging simultaneous loads of heavy and worse political, tribal and economic punches. At the moment only few individuals are running the country; and other individuals or political parties are not given a chance. They are instead chased around political arenas, running and maneuvering between political potholes till the break their political wheels; it is one of the things that brought about political unrest in the country. All the above practices have already revealed that our current government lacks legitimacy. But do our leaders have to be cynical and bitter to a degree when the country we all love is called a failed State? Perhaps, yes or no! It actually depends on their perception or definition of “Failed” state. In fact all empirical facts and statistical tools that are used by the Developed nations to rate countries’ successes or failures have concluded that indeed South Sudan is a failed state. But some of us careless about what the world and other advocates think on that realm. And that is ok. Our prime focus as a country then should be taking practical steps for infusing our government officials with a mentality of discipline. Developing strong systems of accountability for measuring activities and results would alleviate our political sorrows and would restore our idealistic hope. It is also our collective responsibility as citizens to hold accountable all the knuckleheads who have violated our fundamental rights and cheated our systems with cheap tricks. If we team up against those who run our country like their backyards and do not defend based on tribes or ethnic groups, our country may recover from legitimacy deficiencies such as corruption, nepotism and many more.

The third nation building crisis that will conclude, because the rest of the nation building crisis has been touched in a way is the diffusion of powers and services. Our country’s governing system has never been inclusive. Instead, powers and services in all levels of government are distributed according to who you know but not according to the qualifications or merit of commitments. Only scores of individuals are controlling key positions in all sections of institutions. Those who are in power should employ trenchant ratiocination than just indulging in a Tusker driven reasoning and cheap talk. A system of powers and services that start from the bottom up would be an ideal choice in a country like ours. South Sudan government has never advocated for a flow of ideas to craft a system. The top elites are the decision makers, law enforcers, state representatives and even chiefs in the villages. They do what they can through orders and commands. And these practices have discouraged some intellectuals and willing citizens to an extent. Thus many of our competent citizens have watched helplessly the political and tribal storm now ragging in the entire country. They can’t do anything but put their palms on their chins. And there, is the whole picture of what is wrong with South Sudan.

Nathaniel Paul Awel is a concerned South Sudanese. You can contact him via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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