Opinion: South Sudan: A Potemkin state, a nation not yet liberated
By Polit Gok Waar
July 22, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – Countries can change for better. But outsiders cannot fix stat failure. Insiders are large as responsible for their recovery as for their decline since it is local politics, customs, and rules that overwhelmingly shape their choices and thus their destiny.
South Sudan is, at first glance, such a Potemkin State, with a pre-market economy, feudal in character, devoid of all bar the most basic of infrastructure, dependent on raw materials for export income, without necessary skills and with a volatile and fragile national identity, with a narrow sense of community among its peoples and the absence of modern out-look and a proper government in place.
South Sudan is a mess. Everything done by the presidency is a fiasco at the planning point. A few months a go, a road intended to move from Juba to Bahr-el-Ghazal region constructed by a Chinese construction company was laundered away by an overnight rainfall leading to a lost of millions of dollars.
The country is equally very militarized from the grassroots more than the government itself. Recently the government launched an impromptu removal of guns from the civil population but this is highly probable that it might not yield substantive fruits simply because there is no proper mechanism in place to make the civil population lay down their arms without further bloodshed simply because their security is not guaranteed.
To do this, the government should work hand-in-hand with the intellect youth, those on the ground carrying “illegal weapons”, community and religious societies. The communities are carrying out all these kinds of pogrom activities simply because war and anarchy are the only means of survival since there is a government in charge but not concerned.
The country is a theatre of corruption
Ignorance and prejudice blocks people from understanding certain concepts and consequently generates frictions and dignity. The South Sudan’s ruling circle lost control and vision accompanied by political shortsightedness and forgot that South Sudan belongs to all those who live in it and those who call it home.
Instead, the country is run by a cartel syndicate, created and run by a group of traditional leaders from the community the president hails. Needless to say, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Sudan who hails from the same backyard with the president is also an advisor to the president on matters country’s political.
The duty of the president and the presidency is to unite all the 64 tribes and out of them build a nation. The book by Prof. Peter Adwok illustrates the case of Juba International Airport Terminal project under the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) Ministry of Transport and Communication. The project began in 2006 with a budget of $40 million.
The contractor, an Eritrean national disappeared with the money, never to show up again. This episode of contractors running away with money was repeated twice, and still no criminal charges were launched by the public prosecutor.
The most specular case of corruption linked to senior officials in government is at the national and state levels was what became known as the “Dura Saga”. This fraud exposed the criminal nature of some South Sudanese leaders. As part of its food security policy, the GoSS Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning budgeted US $1.6 billion for the purchase of grains (dura and maize) to be delivered to vulnerable states in Bahr-el-Ghazal, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatorial.
The ministry of Finance paid out the money to contractors after state governors gave false confirmations of receipt of consignments. The lie was revealed when thousands starved in the aforementioned areas. A forensic investigation by the World Bank revealed that the GoSS paid 57 contractors linked to the president, including some senior ministers, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, then, and SPLA commanders, US $800 million for delivering no grain.
The GoSS minister of finance and economic planning could not persue the case because it involved the principle himself and his close associates, some of whom were very important personalities in Kenya and Uganda.
To my fellow South Sudanese, nations fail not because of religious believes, culture or traditions or some sort of voodoo. It all equates to who wields power. While ending conflicts is the first step to recovery, change requires more than that.
“Removing conditions that led to conflicts in the first place vest in people, governance and infrastructure. The path to this future and the metrics of advancement are more difficult and complex to discern”. There is hope.
From the Oracle’s Shrine
The author is a South Sudanese lawyer living in Kenya.
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