Contributor's Opinion

Opinion: Changing our society through the philosophy of our founding fathers 

By Majok Deng Akok 

The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, right, and Dr. Riek Machar, left, greet each other after swearing in ceremony in Juba, South Sudan Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. South Sudan opened a new chapter in its fragile emergence from civil war Saturday as rival leaders formed a coalition government that many observers prayed would last this time around. (AP Photo)

April 21, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) — All over the media, when I read most South Sudanese articles, there is a common thread that runs throughout their writings. Almost all posts on the media outlets related to the topic of leadership seem to regret the death of our beloved iconic leader, Dr. John Garang De Mabior.

There is nothing wrong with feeling the huge gap left in our country by his passing. But, how do the majority of us relate to this tragedy? To put it in perspective, it is crystal-clear that most of us argue that if Dr. Garang didn’t die very early, X and Y won’t be like the way they are now or wouldn’t have been done the way they were done. Or this and that would have been done by Dr. John Garang had he still been alive. There is no problem with this kind of thinking and mindset. It is what all human beings with emotions do when tragedy strikes. 

But what truly plagues and puzzles me is the indirect argument we don’t seem to realize we make. That is, we all appear in my eyes to be saying that we are a failed generation! A generation that thinks that there are no leaders at all and would only wish for the resurrection of our fallen leaders to come and fix our current problems.

We daily regret that if Dr. Garang were alive, he would have fixed the mess we’re in today. But, let me tell you bluntly that Dr. Garang is not going to come back to life, maybe until Jesus returns. We have to face our problems alone. That is reality! 

I personally think that the kind of mindset we youth, and South Sudanese citizens for that matter should adopt and embrace is to individually ask ourselves this question: “WHAT CAN I DO LIKE DR. JOHN GARANG DE MABIOR?” In other words, we got to ask ourselves “What lessons can we learn from the life of Dr. John Garang De Mabior and other founding fathers that will help us to rethink, reimagine and redirect our collective effort for rebuilding our society?”

In my personal opinion, there are so many important messages we can extract from a simple review of the lives of our founding fathers. But the sad tragedy is that history has proven that we never learn from history! In fact, King Solomon of Old Israel put it clearer that there is nothing new under the sun. What is now had been, and what will have already been seen in ancient times.

So, there is nothing any person can point his finger and then says, look, here is a new thing. Never! All these things had been there already, and truly, there is nothing new under the sun. The only problem is that we never take the time it takes to learn from the history, rethink and reimagine our society using the lenses and philosophy of our fallen wise men and women.

All throughout history, you can find the records of wars much or less the same as the ones our nations are raging nowadays. All throughout history, you can find the records of genocides and atrocities much or less the same with what we are witnessing daily among our nations. All through history, you can find records of bad leadership much or less the same with the kind of leadership problems we are seeing all around us today.

All through history, you can find records of great inventions, scientific innovations, among others, much or less like the things we are seeing today. All these happened to prove to us that anything can happen, and what had been may still be duplicated if we can embrace the same kind of thinking and actions that produced them in the first place.

It is a common saying that history repeats itself. That is right. But what does it prove? In my opinion, it proves that human beings never ever learn from history. We just keep on doing the same sad tragedies that our forefathers struggled with during the Stone Age.

Instead of learning some great lessons from their mistakes, we ignorantly go on taking wrong directions, which truly lead us to the abyss of miseries. Or instead of following their footsteps on what they were right, we diverge from their principles, and blindly take on the road that leads to destruction.

This is the saddest curse of our generation. A generation that doesn’t learn anything important about life! But the good news is that we can change this tragic phenomenon by changing our mindset and reimagine our way forward through the philosophy of our founding fathers. 

So, what do I have to say about this mess in our society today? Here are a couple of key thoughts to fuel your thinking. First, I want to caution you all to stop regretting the early demise (or whatever you call it) of our most influential leaders.

But on the contrary, we should strive to learn some important life lessons and strategies that can help us lead a good life and improve our society. In our South Sudanese context, we shouldn’t be focusing on the devastation caused by the death of Dr. John Garang, but should rather individually ask ourselves this question: “WHAT CAN I DO LIKE DR. JOHN GARANG DE MABIOR?” In clearer terms, let’s think of what someone like Dr. Garang would do in any given life situation, and after figuring out, let us act as they should have acted.

My second point is that we can be the second versions of our fallen and long-dead influential leaders. Believe it or not, we can achieve more and greater things than they had achieved during their time if only we can learn their philosophies and embark on implementing them.

For example, if we can understand the logic behind Dr. Garang’s philosophy of taking the town to people, then we can easily duplicate his thinking and move our society forward, and in the right direction. In the words of Fred Swaniker, the Founder of African Leadership Academy and University, we can be “that generation to fix African problems” if only we can learn to embrace and apply the philosophies of our forefathers.

In a sense, you can be the next Nelson Mandela if only you will believe and implement forgiveness, truth, and reconciliation, just as Mandela did in South Africa. You can be the next Dr. John Garang if you will only believe and implement the inclusivity of all people regardless of their race, gender, religion, creed, among others, just as Dr. Garang believed and did in Sudan.

You can be the next Kwame Nkrumah if you only you will believe and implement the ideas uniting African as one people, just as he believed and did try his very best. And the list continues.


We truly have a very rich heritage, and it is our sole choice to degrade it or use this privilege to change the shape of our society. Make that choice today in the direction that saves our nation. 

The author is a third-year Public Health student at Assosa University, Ethiopia. He is reachable via his email: amajokdeng@gmail.com

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