What is holding down Development in Southern Sudan?

By Gubek-Mogga*


June 17, 2006 - Peace and security are prerequisites for development and all human beings aspire and deserve them. All people also aspire for happiness and a quality of life devoid of poverty and indignity. This is why the south went to war for the last 50 Years. Yet for the last 50 years, the south of the Sudan has hardly enjoyed internal peace and security.

The absence State power and the oppression by dictatorial rulers appointed by the North precipitated a prevalent culture of fear and silence which gave a semblance of peace in the south. The outcry of citizens over gross violations of human rights was minimized against the background of civil war which raged until the signing of CPA. The War was used by the both the Government and the SPLA/M to justify the tolerance of political and economic oppression and violation of the rights of citizens who dissented.

When the War ended after the signing of CPA rulers did not change. Leaders from both the government in the north and now the Government of the South are still authoritarian and still holding onto power tenaciously, dragging citizens into internal conflicts, wars and terror thereby diverting human and material resources towards the wars and internal security of those in power.

The following bottlenecks are making it difficult for any meaningful development to take place in southern Sudan a precondition for Unity.

South Sudan has suffered from lack of enlightened leadership and a bad style of political and economic guidance since the 50's. While southern Sudanese leaders before CPA could have excused themselves for being unable to protect their people from the exploits of northern Sudanese, they can hardly escape blame for allowing Arab exploitation which continues to reduce many of their people into paupers in their own country.

During the past decades, southern Sudan suffered lack of visionary and altruistic leaders committed to the welfare of their own people. They were persuaded to accept to work without vision or plan just following the directives of the north. There was no development budget, only salaries come from the north and were taken back for purchases of goods from the north by northern traders. Southerners were not able to save anything, and without saving there can not be development. This is the viscous circle of poverty. Southern Sudanese both inside and out side the Sudan looked towards the movement for solution to their situation, both political and economic. Come CPA and this is what they got.

Just before the signing of CPC, young southern Sudanese were sent for training in public service to south Africa and the U.S. to occupy positions later in the coming administration. Many of these recruits were politically naive and uninformed. Some of them (or their parents) were senior members of the struggle. Now that they are supposedly trained, they got jobs in the infant government of the south. Their employment into the prestigious southern administrative positions previously occupied by other southerners who did not join the movement was a manipulative ploy. It blinded them. They became corroborating students of the same SPLA corrupted leadership (Rumbek meeting) who wanted devotees of their philosophy and values to govern the new emerging nation.

So fluttered by the new-found power and prestige in their new southern Sudan, many of these southerners became sucked into a mechanism which facilitate the continued exploitation of southern Sudan and its African people. It is easy for the new rulers to be blinded with material wealth and privileges associated with wealth and political power because they are naive and inexperienced. This development is allowing the beginning of a small group of southern Sudanese elites who are in liaison with the rich North to continue the exploitation of southern Sudan resources while ignoring the fate of the impoverished majority the very people they claimed they went to fight for.

With this bad beginning, leadership the southern Sudan is becoming characterized by opportunism, personal advancement and enrichment at the expense of the masses (the building of motels by members of the leadership). The new liberators transformed into administrators and the bourgeoning elites are enjoying the same economic and social life-styles and privileges which the people they accused and fought against were enjoying.

The only difference between the two in terms of the objectives for the country is that the others were Arabs. This elite class is becoming accustomed to the privileged lifestyle which is impossible to sustain without continuing the exploitation and the oppression of the governed (having two, three wives, or keeping their families in others countries and sending them money every then)! The very people they fought to liberate. In addition, this is laying the foundation for the coming political, economic and social crisis in southern Sudan.

Our leaders are abandoning their people and are working closely with their counterparts in the north so that they could live as comfortably as their northern counterparts and enjoy the political and economic power and the privileges which go with it. If you talk to people in the south especially in Juba, or read on issues on the governance in the south, one can notice that masses are becoming disillusioned and are starting to agitate for better governance.

Unable to deliver a better quality of life to their citizens, our leaders are assuming totalitarianism and holding their citizens prisoners of their own struggle. That is why internal conflicts, such as that taking place in Upper Nile, Bhar el Ghazal are thriving. This is taking place with full knowledge of the North and the Government of national Unity.

With these practices of corruption, the citizens are rebelling and are threatening the very existence of the south Sudan nation state. South Sudan resemble a crumbling house from which both the owner and the onlookers scramble to escape with whatever can be looted. As a result, the civil society mistrusts and dislikes politicians and civil servants perceiving them as self-serving, greedy and corrupt.

Some few of our leaders who have demonstrated visionary leadership have been misunderstood and unsupported at the movement level due to naivety and ignorance about the political forces at play in south Sudan. So, many of our current leaders enjoy immense political-and economic power and control and indeed run southern Sudan as if it is their own personal property. They have invented divisive and manipulative tactics reminiscent of the Northern tactics of divide and rule.

Such is for example the on-going politically-motivated ethnic war in Upper Nile which has affected thousands of women many of whom are still internal refugees. Such tribal animosities between our tribes coming to the fore at this time of political liberalization and demands for democratic reforms for a region which continues to be projected as primitive and underdeveloped, it is easy to spread these misconceptions and misrepresentations to the international community and for the Arabs to accept that bad leadership is a heritage southern Sudan is incapable of escaping.

The abovementioned ethnic conflict in Upper Nile is a creation of political leadership rather than an age-old animosity over ethnicity and land. Properly guided, the southern Sudanese tribes would live together peacefully as they have done for generations and would negotiate over whatever differences emerge, now that certain resources like land are diminishing and as populations continue to increase. Negotiations rather than inter-tribal fighting would be their option.

The threat of a more open political system and a strong civil society has disquieted our leaders and has forced them to encourage the brewing of tribal tensions the worst of which was the recent violence which ravaged the Nuer land. It is important to emphasize that it is not the tribes who want to fight, rather, it is the threatened elitist leaders who are using tribes to arouse ethnic nationalism as the only way they can continue to cling to political and economic power and the privileges which that power comes with.

Such leaders speak peace while they are planning tribal wars. This is not to say that ethnicity is non-existent or south Sudan will not have to address the problems of tribal identity and ethnic nationalism, and especially since south Sudan tribes did fight amongst themselves during the war. Nevertheless, the tribal agenda today has to do less with problems of identity and ethnic nationalism and more with the issue of political survival, and economic control.

Of course one cannot over-rule the presence of external forces and factors because, a weak, disunited and war-ravaged southern Sudan is even easier to control and exploit. Not to mention that there are still loose firearms in the hands of many people which can be turned against others?

This continuous frustration of the democratization process is a major bottle-neck to any developmental agenda. Southern Sudanese, like all other human beings, want to enjoy the basic freedom and rights. They want justice, equity, transparency, responsibility and accountability. They want respect and human dignity. They want a decent life and an opportunity to feed, shelter and clothe their families through honest, hard work. They want to create a strong civil society which can hold its leaders accountable and responsible.

Such leadership would create an environment which would facilitate creativity, innovativeness, self-confidence, persistence and progress. They want to sustain mechanisms of governance which ensure the security of the people rather than the security of heads of State. Incidentally, the recent power sharing in southern Sudan offers an interesting alternative for southern Sudan Everything notwithstanding, the dominant political culture of "winner takes all" was forfeited for national unity in an experiment which however, awaits the test of time.

South Sudan has enormous mountains to climb and it is prudent to see how they will accomplish the feat. Nevertheless, the traditional acquisition of absolute power and the control of national resources by "the winner'' is one major motivation for dictatorships in a coming African state. Those who supposedly "won", just by having been in the movement, inherit the land and all its wealth...literally! Therefore, they will make all efforts to retain that power, the privileges and trappings which go with it.

Corruption is a serious cancer in southern Sudan and it is eating into every aspect of life and into every socio-economic groups. The misery it brings to ordinary southern Sudanese and the opportunity it provides to the Arabs and the international community to mistrust us, making chances for independence remote is real. In the “City” of Juba for example, corruption has enabled the grabbing of open spaces by senior SPLA leadership. The government has even gone far to redefine the area of Juba. This is not to say that Juba is overcrowded, after all the houses in Juba are temporarily built and can be redeveloped .

With the coming of CPA and the belief that the south might become and independent state in 2011 everyone has been saying that the old era of old politics is over. The problem, however, runs much deeper and is far from being over. Garang’s death seriously calls into question the notion that a new enlightened age in southern Sudanese politics is here, and that more "New Breed" pragmatic, reformist leaders are waiting to sprout out.

The old guards like Abel, Lagu, discredited by corruption, incompetence and tribalism, could not mobilize the southern masses for the ultimate sacrifice (war), making them easy game for a determined guerrilla force of the SPLA. Without doubt the new leaders in power now in the south have a different style than the old but they don't have a superior vision.

Very few of the New leaders have come to power on a commitment to introduce pluralistic democracy. Or if they do, they're rarely living up to their promise. The old ethnic politics and reliance on tribalism still remain. There has been no novel philosophical movement that accompanied the CPA. The relations between the government and governed in southern Sudan is still one of the strong ruler and the weak ruled.

Symptoms of poverty and disillusionment are everywhere in southern Sudan and express themselves in form of lack of basic facilities like clean water, food, medical care, sanitation and infrastructure. It also expresses itself in the large number of IDPs, migrations, environmental degradation, sustained hunger and malnutrition, political instability, internal ethnic conflicts, alcoholism and diseases and low life expectancy.

All through the ages the southern Sudanese people have made efforts to deliver themselves from oppressive forces. It is important that a critical mass of southern Sudanese do not accept the verdict that the present leaders tries to push down their throat so as to give up and succumb. The struggle must continue. It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for southern Sudan.

This second agreement (CPA) unlike the first (Addis) made the south to re-kindle the spirit of self-liberation from Northern Arab powers. What we need to do is to promote unity among our people and to effect economic and social development. The war and finally the CPA is not the end in itself. It kicks in a more difficult agenda to de-colonize the mind and re-claim the cultural and spiritual heritage of southern Sudanese people. The present SPLA leaders are expected to address the last two objectives and free their people from fear of war and poverty. They are expected to give southern Sudanese back her dignity and self-respect.

Although we are facing new challenges and in a time unsympathetic to us, we have to advance from tribal "state" which are leaders are imposing on us to become a nation state. It is not an easy battle to fight. To overcome such a historical burden is an enormous task because the battles for liberation which started in the 50's have left us weakened economically, politically but especially, culturally and spiritually. The chains which still hold us in bondage are often the trappings of power, prestige and the comfortable lifestyles exemplified by but a few of our leaders. These trappings have destroyed our leaders and have left the south without vision and commitment to social, political and economic progress.

However, there is no giving up. There is hope. Generations of southern Sudanese have fought many violence battles against many gross violations of the rights of our people. The power of evil has repeatedly been overcome by the power of the intrinsic goodness of mankind. There are many examples to give inspiration, hope and a sense of pride. A people less endowed with the power of the human spirit would have become extinct and wiped from the face of this planet. This rich heritage should be the source of our empowerment. (End)










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