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Opinion South Sudan

Opinion: What the Government of South Sudan Should Know About its Responsibilities Towards the Citizens

By Juol Nhomngek Gec

Juba, South Sudan,

President Salva Kiir and the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, holding a meeting with the Deputy Chairperson of the Sudan's Sovereign Council, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, on September 3, 2020 in the capital Juba(Photo credit: Nyamilepedia)
President Salva Kiir and the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, holding a meeting with the Deputy Chairperson of the Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, on September 3, 2020 in the capital Juba(Photo credit: Nyamilepedia)

May 06, 2021 — Since the war broke out in 2013, South Sudanese citizens have never found peace inside and outside South Sudan. As human rights bodies such as Amnesty international, the UN High Commission for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have been reporting, South Sudanese citizens are constantly subjected to arbitrarily arrest, unlawful detention, torture and all kinds of ill-treatments in different towns in South Sudan. 

In the same way, rural communities in South Sudan are not at peace as they are experiencing one of the worst kinds of violence that has never existed in Sudan since 1956. The communal violence and all forms of insecurities affecting rural communities are the worst hells of all hells in the country. Moreover, the economy is not doing well as major roads are affected by insecurities and lootings caused by rebels and crimes which are the order of the day in different parts of South Sudan. These insecurities are witnessed along Yei River, Nimule, Jonglei, Western Equatoria and all Bahr el Roads respectively. 

All the major roads in the country are captured by criminals and some rebels who apply insurgent tactics of economic sabotage that have as a result affected trades and businesses in the country. It is unfortunate that even inside Juba city, criminals operate at day time as seen in the case of bodaboda robbers or snatchers of handbags, money and mobile phones. The lives of citizens are lost as we see how people are killed by water tanks like animals. In fact, the animals are even more protected than human lives in Juba and other parts of South Sudan. 

In addition, millions of South Sudanese citizens are displaced from their homes by war and insecurities to the internal displaced camps and to foreign countries. Those who are internally displaced are leading worse or brutish lives as their education and future plus quality of lives are at stake.  Some of those who have gone to neighboring countries are not even better. They have acquired foreign cultures which have in turn subjected them to cultural shock and have become non-productive and dangerous to the communities.

Apart from indirect negative impact on the culture of South Sudanese in foreign countries, South Sudanese citizens that have gone for refuge in different neighboring countries in Africa are being harshly treated as we have been hearing about their horrible treatments in Egypt, which has just been confirmed by the current video of the young South Sudanese boy on social media. 

That Young South Sudanese boy is trying to explain to us the horrific torture he and others were subjected to by criminals in Egypt recently. The graphic image of the torture we have witnessed through that young boy may even be better than some of the problems against South Sudanese that have not yet been brought to light.   

We have also heard about human and organ trafficking against South Sudanese taking in Egypt and other parts of the world, which have been dominating social media for a while now.  These narratives and examples I have just given are but tips on the iceberg of the hell of problems South Sudanese are facing today inside and outside South Sudan. 

However, despite the presence of these rampant problems facing citizens everywhere as it is being witnessed both inside and outside of South Sudan, the government of South Sudan, which is constitutionally mandated to protect and to protect the citizens, seems to be unable to address the problems by taking concrete and appropriate approaches. 

It is even quite puzzling to see the government to be incapable to curb the crisis and to establish law and order. The government has put politics above everything, even those things that matter for a nation such as citizens, population, the army, the government and economy. This is due to the lack of proper understanding of the importance of citizens and citizens, which is the reason the government does not attach any value to the meaning of a citizen and citizenship. 

For the issues I have just raised in the foregoing explanation, I have been thinking of writing an article concerning citizenship and how the failure of the government of South Sudan to clearly understand its meaning, might have contributed to the government’s reluctance to do more to protect its own citizens. 

Thus, this article came about after a long struggle to sit down to think and write something about citizens and citizenship to educate the authorities of South Sudan to understand the citizens and citizens in order to do more to protect South Sudan as a country.  The article is therefore intended to explain the meaning of a citizen, citizenship and duties of the government towards citizens and how such an understanding can reawaken the government to do more to protect South Sudanese wherever they are. 

Having stated that, the question that earnestly comes in immediately after the above paragraph is, who is a citizen and what is citizenship? The meaning of a citizen according to the Cambridge English Dictionary is a person who is a member of a particular country and who has rights because of being born there or because of being given rights, or a person who lives in a particular town or city. The citizen is therefore a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of that country.  

As provided for under Article 45 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 (as amended), the citizen is a person who, by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or naturalization is granted full rights and responsibilities as a member of a nation. The citizen by virtue of Articles of 45 and 46 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 (as amended) enjoys all rights and duties including the duty of allegiance to as well as an entitlement to the enjoyments of all rights recognized under the law of a country and the protection of a sovereign state. 

As a matter of law, all citizens are equal and are entitled to equal treatment as provided under the law. In that respect, we can say that the citizen is the person who is owing allegiance to a state in which sovereign power is retained by the people and sharing in the political rights of those people.  Having understood the meaning of the citizen above, the next part of the question is what is citizenship? According to T. H. Marshall, the British sociologist who lived between 1893-1981, citizenship is a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community. T. H. Marshall of the view that all who possess the citizenship status are equal with respect to the rights and duties with which the status is endowed. From T. H. Marshall explanation, the key elements that define citizenship are membership of a community (though this element is currently increasingly being contested), the rights and obligations that flow from that membership, and equality. 

The same concept and elements of citizenship are also found in Articles:  45 and 46 of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 (as amended). In these two articles,   citizenship can be understood to mean the status of a person recognized under the law of South Sudan to have an inalienable right to enjoy South Sudanese citizenship and nationality and  which is the basis of equal rights and duties for all South Sudanese whose citizenship is recognized under the law of South Sudan. 

It is only when the national law recognized individuals to be a citizen of that particular country, that is when the  international law can refer citizenship to belong a membership of a sovereign state or a country.  It should be noted that international law does not allow a person to be without citizenship. This is why the persons displaced are resettled in the countries that are willing to accept them.

 Having clearly explained the meaning of who is a citizen and what citizenship is in the context of South Sudan, the question is, does the South Sudan government have the duty to protect the citizens?  The answer is yes for the following reasons: The oldest and simplest justification for government is that the government is a protector of the citizens against harms that the citizens may create against each other, among themselves or any other harms that may affect citizens externally. 

It is for the above reason Thomas Hobbes in his work entitled, Leviathan describes “a world of unrelenting insecurity without a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign foes. This is true today as we have seen in South Sudan where the government has failed to protect the citizens in which horrors of little or no government to provide the function of protecting citizens against each other and against external threats proves to be dangerous to the lives of citizens and residents of South Sudan. 

The chaos of war and disorder are everywhere in the country, which have made the country dangerous for citizens to live in. These have made some citizens prefer despotic and fanatic governments should come with brutish force and harsh punishment in order to safeguards their lives and property in different states. 

It is the same idea of government having responsibility to protect citizens, the government is the sole body which is tasked with the right to impose taxes on citizens with the taxable capacity in order to raise money to fund its activities such as training and equipping organized forces such as national army, secret security agents and police force besides building courts and jails where criminals should be kept in safe custody and to protect the citizens and population against crimes.

The same duty to protect citizens is the reason for the government is able to conduct elections or appoint the officials (such as the Parliament, Executive and Judiciary) to pass and implement the laws that citizens must not break. The government has the duty to protect the citizens against foreign or external threats. Hence, the government, which is tasked with the responsibility to protect the citizens is allowed to buy different types of weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous weapons to boost its capacity to protect the nation and citizens against belligerent groups or governments as well as going into a treaty with friendly governments for the interest of the country. 

In the same line of argument, the government also has the duty to provide for goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves. On this premise, the government has been defined as the solution to collective action problems. The government in this respect, is the medium through which citizens create public goods that benefit everyone. 

The same concept of duty to protect and to provide services for the citizens, impose the duty on the government to make sure that it provides the means of physical travel, such as roads, bridges and ports of all kinds and the recent developing concept of virtual travel such as internet or broadband. Where the private entities provide this infrastructure, the government has the duty to intervene indirectly in form of price regulations in the market.  If the market fails to follow the regulations, the government has the ultimate and direct duty to take over the market in terms of nationalization, which is rarely applied today.

The citizenship requires the government to protect the rights of the citizens by the government providing social welfare to meet the needs for the citizens that are not able to provide for themselves. The social welfare is most cases applied to the vulnerable citizens with the conditions of youth, old age, sickness, disability and unemployment due to economic forces beyond their control. The most important duty of the government and which is important for the future of a country is the brain development through education. 

The better future of any nation depends on the type of education citizens receive at an earlier age. Thus, for the country to achieve desirable human and infrastructure development, it has to invest in the entire infrastructure of child development from pregnancy through the beginning of formal schooling, including child nutrition and health to ensure parenting classes so that the child is able to understand its rights and its duties to the nation which is translated to the duties to their neighbors.

Lastly but not least, the better future for any country depends on the foundations of protecting and providing the citizens guided by the strong policy calculated to protect the agreed interest of the nation. As Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan describes the primary duty of the Government is to protect citizens against the violence and from the worst vicissitudes of life.

In conclusion, in reference to South Sudan, the reasons the government has greatly failed to understand that it has the absolute constitutional duty to protect as well as to provide the citizens with basic services is the reasons we see leaders of South Sudan are fighting over power without realizing that the power is acquired in order to protect citizens not the power in itself perse. 

It is the premise that the government has the primary duty to protect which is translated under the UN Charter of 1945 in form of the state responsibility to protect. The government has the primary responsibility to protect and if it fails the international community has the residual duty under the international human rights law to intervene in the country. The situation in South Sudan unless it is arrested earlier it may justify the international community responsibility to protect. It is my argument that it is not too late for the government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) to reduce politics and take up the challenge by concentrating on some contentious issues to concentrate on restoring law and order in the country.

The writer is the lawyer by profession and the human rights consultant; he is the member of the SPLM-IO and nominated MP representing Cueibet County residing in Juba. He can be reached through email:  nhomngekjuol@gmail.com; Tel: +211922772165.


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