By Dr Lako Jada Kwajok,
July 18, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — On independence day 09/07/2011, all South Sudanese wherever in the world, were in a state of ecstatic celebration. The jubilant mood was all over the country with people hugging each other, singing and dancing in the streets. It was like a carnival in the whole of the country lasting for several days particularly in the rural areas. It was quite understandable as South Sudan has come a long way through a protracted struggle and heavy sacrifices. Optimism was common place among the people and the message perceived was, ” we are free at last and now the sky is the limit to our dreams”.
Clearly there were plenty of reasons to justify the widespread optimism among our people. I would like here to explain some of the reasons and elaborate on some shortcomings:
1. South Sudan is a young nation with the majority of the population less than 50 years old. This stands in contrast to the ageing population that is creating a socio-economic problems in some of the developed countries notably Japan. With such a young population, lack of manpower will never be an issue in the short term. We have the most important tool to drive the wheels of rapid economic growth, improvement in health services, roads and education. On the other hand we do not have a significant ageing population that could be a burden on government coffers in terms of providing services for them. I must say, this would not pose any problems in the short term as our cultures relish the idea of families taking care of their elderly members.
2. We started as a country with no loans to pay back. We did not owe any country or international institution any significant amount of money. The attempts by the Sudan to drag us down to pay its loans were outrageous. Those loans were the result of arms deals and those arms were used to kill our people during the war. With the right politicians and competent negotiators, South Sudan would have outright refused to pay those loans. It was a shameful betrayal of millions of lives lost during the war. And by the way, why did our government refrain from bringing up the issue of division of assets. We have been a one country with the north for over half a century. Our people have contributed immensely to the building of the infrastructure and the economy of the north. There is no doubt in my mind that the north has looted our natural resources and still doing it either through war or through using government channels and third parties.
Look at what happened when Czecoslovakia split up into the Czech republic and the Slovak republic in 1993. The government assets were divided proportionately between the two countries even to the level of embassies. The same applied to Yugoslavia with assets being divided into four for Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro. In our case, rather than pushing for our fair share of the assets, Our government succumbed to being told to pay loans some probably go back 20 years before the birth of the Republic of South Sudan. We could have at least negotiated for owning the pipelines after all they were built with our oil money. Because of poor negotiating skills from our side, not only we lost the right of owning the pipelines but actually we agreed to pay the Sudan billions of US dollars in compensation for loss of revenue resulting from the secession. What a fallacy and utter idiocy from our negotiators to go along with that argument.
Did they not think the lost revenue would have been the share for South Sudan in the Sudan economy ( far less than what it deserves ) should there be no secession ? The fact of the matter is that the negotiators are not selected on the merits, but on loyalty and tribal background. At the end of the day you end up with top government officials who are no match or shrewd enough to stand up to tough foreign negotiators. The greed for the oil money was so great that it blinded the eyes of our poor negotiators from the fact that the north was at the brink of total collapse of its economy. The north was the side badly in need of the oil money than ourselves. Sadly our metal was tested when Salva Kiir blinked on the allocation of the portfolio of the ministry of petroleum and mining in the national government prior to independence.
3. South Sudan has vast swathes of fertile land and I can tell you, there are probably areas untouched by human beings since God created the earth. The oil revenues could have been used wisely to establish a modern and mechanised farming system and major agricultural projects. This would have made the country rich in the long term without total dependency on the oil revenues. In addition to that, the oil market is unpredictable and prices can drop due to geopolitical reasons. The glaring contemporary example is Russia which is a super power, yet currently going through economic crisis following the fall in oil revenues and the plummeting Rouble against the US Dollar. It’s all caused by too much reliance on the oil revenues a situation we could have started to avoid by now.
4. Our country is the size of France but in terms of population it is barely inhabited. We have vast untapped natural resources. Gold, iron ores and uranium are found in Equatoria, copper and other minerals are found in Bahr El Gazal. In Upper Nile we got the oil and it’s quite likely that the black gold is found in other parts of the country.
5. We have a plethora of water resources that should make drought a remote possibility in South Sudan. With the presence of water falls and rapid rivers particularly in Equatoria, the potential for utilising the hydroelectric power is another source of wealth. In addition to that, it will be the vehicle to carry South Sudan towards modernisation. There will be no meaningful development in the country without the provision of electric power in abundance. There is also a huge economic potentials in benefiting from fisheries if the government adopts a policyof modernisation and well planned projects.
6. Animal husbandry is another untapped resource in South Sudan. In fact South Sudan has got animals in its territory by far more than the human population. However there are traditional and cultural issues hampering the economical use of this important resource. The government has to take the lead in devising suitable policies towards education and training of animal owners.
7. Forests occupy large parts of South Sudan. We can safely say there are no deserts in our country. Timber is available in abundance both in Equatoria and Bahr Gazal. Setting policies for the establishment of modern carpentry, woodcraft and timber exports would certainly be a good source of hard currencies.
In Upper Nile and other parts of South Sudan, gum arabica is plentiful. It is a valuable asset and one that could bring in revenue to the government coffers at a low cost.
8. Wildlife and Tourism: Often not given the attention it deserves. With the massive wild animal population we have, it could prove to be a valuable source of revenue. Here the government needs to fully secure the tourism sites, in fact the whole country. Building the infrastructure, provision of services and investment in good accommodation and hotels would be the prerequisite for success.
9. South Sudan situation was unique at the time of independence in comparison to other african countries. Many of these countries never had enough intellectuals or technocrats when they gained independence. Despite the high illiteracy, we were much better off than many of our african brothers. However as things played out, many of the intellectuals and technocrats could not find jobs because of tribalism and nepotism.
A person who is far less qualified or barely literate will be employed instead of you the degree holder because you are from a small tribe. The government of South Sudan is the only government in the world where illiterate people hold top government position. The obvious examples are the infamous commander of the presidential guards and many of the generals in SPLA, the police, wildlife and prisons.
10. There was wide support for South Sudan from the international community particularly the super powers, the European Union and the african countries. Even some procedural steps were skipped in order to expedite the process of South Sudan joining the UN.
Now if hypothetically you were the president of South Sudan and the first day you took office you had a portfolio with all the above, what more would you possibly hope for ?!
If you undertake a well thought strategy, good planning and clear policies, you never can go wrong. Alas ! Salva Kiir defied the conventional wisdom and plunged the country into the abyss.
He was clueless from day one. His shortcomings became evident even to the layperson as their livelihood was adversely affected by his poor policies. These can be summarized in the following points :
- Apart from the ridiculous decrees over SSTV, we have not witnessed any coherent strategies, plans or policies to move the country forward from the occupant of the presidential palace. To his credit, Dr Riak Macher once said he would like to see South Sudan emerge as the ” AFRICAN TIGER” comparable with the asian economic tigers. I must say this forward thinking alone gives the impression of a visionary leader.
- In almost 10 years in office, Salva Kiir has a big zero to his credit in terms of developmental projects, provision of services and improving the lives of the South Sudanese people. Even in Juba the capital, there is no running water for the overwhelming majority of the residents and no power supply except for specific parts of the city. The educational system is completely broken and the health services are substandard. The list of failures goes on and on. This is the situation in Juba, the seat of the government and you can imagine what could possibly be the state of affairs in the rural areas and at the periphery of the country. In essence they are left to fend for themselves with no or meagre government services.
- Appointments to government services are arbitrary and along tribal lines. We have seen in the diaspora how people were hand-picked to occupy positions. Tribalism and nepotism was quite evident and it became clear that if you are from a small tribe, the likelihood of getting a government appointment is zero no matter what qualification you have. The end results of these policies is an inflated and very incompetent work force.
- The SPLA which is supposed to be a national army has become a tribal army under Salva Kiir. As if that was not bad enough, he even formed his own presidential guards exclusive to members of his tribe. The police force, prisons and wildlife are all dominated by the Dinka tribe. Even the police forces in states where the Dinkas are not the indigenous population, are overwhelmingly Dinka officers. Why should the chief of police in Central Equatoria state be a Dinka ?! The Equatorian police officers are far more qualified to run the police force in Juba than any groups in South Sudan. After all they are the sons and daughters of Equqtoria and they are not illiterate or carry fake certificates like many of the Dinka officers. And if we are to make a comparison, the Equatorian police officers are far more educated, law-abiding and civilised than the Dinka officers. Just look at their unruly behaviour and the insecurity they have created in Juba.
- It’s no longer safe to walk the streets of Juba at night something unknown to Juba citizens before the arrival of the primitive police force. As long as the Dinka police force is left to continue policing Juba city, insecurity will even get worse and Juba will never be a safe place to live in.
- You don’t have to be a genius in order to be a good president. The key is to bring closer to you the technocrats and to beware of career politicians whose advices are usually not devoid of personal gains. An excellent example is the late South Korean president, General Park Chung-Hee who formed a government of technocrats and managed to transform his country to one of the major economies in Asia and the world.
- Instead Salva Kiir surrounded himself with some shadowy figures and some are quite old with outdated and destructive ideas. The irony is that some of them have been in politics for over half a century with no single achievement to their credit in terms of helping their constituency let alone the country as a whole.
- Corruption is rampant beyond any imaginable degree. The culture of looting and stealing from the government coffers has become the norms. Consider the following scenario – it is a well known fact that Salva Kiir had written secret letters to 75 of his top officials asking them to return 4 billions US Dollars of embezzeled government money. In reality he was saying to them ” please return the money if possible”.
- Now where in the world a president would do something like that. The top authority in the country begging thieves to return stolen money to the government coffers!!! It is unbelievable and insane. What about the case of Arthur Akuen the former finance Minister who was imprisoned for embezzlement of 40 millions US Dollars. A group of SPLA officers from his home state released him from jail by force. Salva Kiir did nothing to uphold the rule of law, making it clear that Arthur Akuen and some Dinka people are above the law. We in the diaspora knew the case of that close relative of Salva Kiir when it was reported in the British media years ago. He was stopped by the police at Heathrow Airport carrying 3 million US Dollars in his bag. The man has been living on benefits in the UK, the question was where did he get that kind of money? The answer is obvious.
All the above are in stark contrast to what happened to a certain Equatorian lady who is the daughter of one of the living heroes of South Sudan in general and Equatoria in particular. This lady was harrassed about few thousand dollars that turned out not to be true. Now how plausible would a well educated and intelligent lady of good family background do something like that knowing it will damage her reputation beyond repair and perhaps put the legacy of her father in jeopardy. The move amounts to what I call a preemptive strike to tarnish the reputation of an eminent Equatorian female leader with the hope of preventing her from shining in South Sudan Politics. The good news is that the Equatorians know the facts and also they know where the thieves and looters come from. The dirty games of Salva Kiir and his Jieng council of elders will have no bearing on this ladies reputation or political future.
The last straw is that he allowed the killing of innocent Nuer civilians in Juba out of greed for power. From that moment he lost legitimacy as Commander-in-Chief. Salva Kiir can not walk away from what he did. The atrocities will continue to haunt him where ever he goes and in the end justice will be done.
I personally feel let down and betrayed and I am sure millions of South Sudanese feel the same. People gave Salva Kiir all the support and wished him success in leading the country to a better place. I even wrote an article in arabic language in his defence when the Mundukuru’s were belittling him as some one who was not up to the job.
Salva Kiir has squandered a historical opportunity to become one of the greatest african leaders in modern history. Instead he will go down in history books as the weakest president ever in the history of the world.
The author can be reached at Loku.firstname.lastname@example.org
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