By Gai James Kai,
July 5, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — As Jully 9th is clocking, the 4 years of political freedom have not born much significance to the people of South Sudan. This is despite the fact that 3 years should, among other things, entail the intensification of South Sudan’s political will and its determination to unite the people of South Sudan, building sustainable livelihoods for them through the social and economic emancipation of the South Sudanese majority, and Africans in particular. The political power that was transferred to the black majority through inclusive secession in 2011 was never transformed into economic freedom as the majority of South Sudanese remain on the margins of society as unemployed, underemployed or discriminated-against in their employment, while those who held economic, social and political power since the interim period continue to enjoy economic, social, and professional privileges Essentially, the Government Of South Sudan (GOSS) which has been given an overwhelming mandate to turn political power into total economic emancipation, has in effect rendered the majority of the people a powerless majority by stripping away all revolutionary content from the political power it holds.
Salva Kiir’s government has maintained the Dinka-supremacist state, with the consequence that the majority, in effect, have become a voting, but powerless, majority. The conditions of the people are generally deplorabl and show no evidence of a liberated people. Most of the people of South Sudan have engaged themselves in mass action or service-delivery protests to receive attention from government; but all in vain. Some resort to criminal activities, and a majority suffer in silence with the hope that conditions will change for the better. But believe me, the current government will not change the conditions of the people for the better and is poisoned by the arrogance of Salva Kiir and the related sins of incumbency. Dinka government has lost its capacity to understand the aspirations of the people, hence deepening neglect and violence against the people, from the brazen abuse of power by political authorities and the sheer disregard of the voice of the people.
Within this reality, corruption has been institutionalised and, in many instances, legalised through the protection of incumbents from prosecution and investigation. Prosecutions have been selective and used for political vendettas and agenda, while billions of Dollars are redirected from the country to the self-enrichment and self-gratification of politicians. Politicians use ministerial handbooks and other forms of legislation inherited from the Arabs’ leadership, past to accumulate wealth and privileges for themselves as individuals. Politicians in high office and in big, private corporations are immunised from prosecution, and are almost always left to do as they wish, even when evidence of violating the law is available.
Political power in the control of the current government is meaningless, because it has not been used to win the battles that began during the wars of dispossession. Instead, the Juba government has played an active role in reproducing the inequalities and imbalances of the past by not doing anything to transform the economy, opting for superficial changes through South Sudanese economic empowerment instead. The neoliberal policy approaches adopted and embraced by the Kiir’s government have worsened the conditions of the poor, and ossified the structural unemployment and inequalities designed by Arab in South Sudan. Vestiges of tribal economic patterns, ownership and control remain intact despite the attainment of political freedom by the former liberation movement. Political freedom without economic emancipation is meaningless.
Salva Kiir’s government has weakened its capacity to provide services, drive economic growth and development. Virtually all functions the state should perform are being performed by the private sector and corporations that often collude to suck from the state the little resources at its disposal. The quality of services provided by the Juba government is less than satisfactory owing to the contract and tender system adopted by government, which often leaves private individuals empowered and dis- empowers communities.
It is important to highlight the fact that global markets have also penetrated the strategic sector (oil) of the South Sudan economy because of the neoliberal trade liberalisation and loosening of trade exchanges embraced by the current government. The nature of South Sudan’s dependability on the global economy is conspicuously not balanced and happening for the benefit of a few corporations and individuals, not the majority.
As a divisive/tribal-controlled political territory, South Sudan’s economy in the repressive years of Dinka-supremacist domination was positioned by the imperialist forces as a supplier of raw materials and a consumer of imported finished goods and services. This tribal feature of the South Sudan’s economy remains intact 3 years after the first inclusive secession. While politically liberated, South Sudan remains economically neo-colonial concerning the control ownership and orientation of the economy.
In May 2013, Statistics South Sudan released the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which indicated that, again, South Sudan’s official unemployment rate is 75.2%. In simple terms, this means that more than a quarter (0.68 million) of active and employable South Sudanese who are diligently looking for employment opportunities cannot find jobs.
Concerning real economic transformation, the SPLM- juba dictatorial state has not achieved anything substantial owing to the fact that the economic-policy direction taken in the democratic-dawn years was not about fundamental transformation, but empowerment/ enrichment meant to empower what could inherently be a few South Sudanese’s aspirant capitalists, without the real transfer of wealth to the people as a whole. Empowerment legislation particularly South Sudan Economic Empowerment policies and various sector-transformation charters adopted by the dictatorial government dismally failed to substantially and sustainably empower the majority of the population, mainly targeted groups. It is important to note that even if all the objectives of empowerment charters were reached, South Sudan would still be characterised by high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, therefore rendering the approach taken a wild goose chase.
The South Sudan government had intended to redistribute 30% of land by 2015 in Juba, but in 2012 only 8% had been redistributed. The consequence of this landlessness of the majority is that citizens on farms especially the natives of Central Equatoria remain slaves denied basic human rights that most people take for granted. City workers and labour tenants are overworked and underpaid, Shame on the laws made by the Salva Kiir’s government. Land owners live in fear and insecurity because of the paternalistic relationships with land grabbers, who are often violent. Between 2006 and 2013, Dinka farmers and officers in Western Equatoria and Juba respectively evicted more than 100; 000 farm workers from their own land. Evicted farm workers now populate the mushrooming squatter camps on the outskirts of townships.
The economic-empowerment and upliftment model adopted by Salva kiir’s government has predominantly been passing non-binding empowerment charters in various sectors of the economy. The majority of these charters should have reached their targets and goals by 2020, but none of these charters have reached their goal and targets and are unlikely to do so by 2020. Instead of decisively acting to correct these anomalies, the South Sudan government has shifted the goalposts to 2060, thereby continuing to promote the policies that made South Sudan under Salva Kiir Mayardit fail in the first 9 years.
The majority of historically disadvantaged individuals who substantially and durably benefited in the past 9 years did so either because they held senior government (yes-men) or corporate-sector positions (through employment) did contract work with the state (tendering), got co-opted into established corporations as shareholder capitalists, or redirected funds meant for other purposes into their own pockets (corruption). There have been very few or no historically disadvantaged individuals who, in the past 3 years, engaged in real industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurship and economic development, which could have rightfully empowered them and created job opportunities for the majority of the people of South Sudan.
Despite all these terrible conditions and realities, the SPLM government consistently failed to define what really constitutes development. Since 2005, South Sudan has misconstrued development as simply meaning the provision of free services such as houses, education, healthcare, social grants, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While these social-welfare aspects are vital in South Sudan, they do not constitute the core of development realised by all developing nations in Africa, particularly those that realised massive economic development from the mid 20th century onwards.
If the realisation and attainment of these important service delivery measures is real development, then countries such as Kenya, with unparalleled access to relatively healthcare, education, social welfar services, low infant mortality rates and a longer life expectancy, would be the most developed territories in the Africa. South Sudan should, concurrent with the provision of essential services, pursue this kind of economic development to create sustainable jobs.
The current government’s naivety and the need to be seen to be doing right in the eyes of neoliberal powers, has seen South Sudan adopting neoliberal policies that lowered tariffs, removed or neglected the protection of infant industries and agriculture, and lowered trade exchanges, which could have absorbed a large section of the country’s labour force. Heterodox economists have perfectly illustrated the reality that virtually all developing economies that imbibe and naturalise the neoliberal policy prescriptions of the international financial institutions (the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) have and will never realise real economic development, as witnessed in all developed economies.
The neoliberal policy fundamentals adopted to please the international financial institutions, which found expression in the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR), and the National Development Plan (NDP) will never solve South Sudan’s development problems and will instead continue to expose it to unfair global competition, which will result in the strangling of potential economic activities in the country. The global economic crisis will also further worsen the economic conditions of South Sudan, which is heavily dependent on exporting primary commodities.
Gai James Kai; is an independent writer and a Law student at Nkumba University-Kampala. He can be reached through, firstname.lastname@example.org