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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nations are not built by whiners


South Sudanese still have, by and large, a very long way to go when it comes to development of a unifying, enduring sense of nationhood or statehood. As things stand now, we are merely a collection of tribal nationalities with conflicting interests.  In the past, our only unifying factors were our common struggle against the oppression from Khartoum and the fact that we were enclosed by the same geopolitical boundary set by the colonial dividers of Africa in 18th and 19th centuries.
The gravest onus is now on us to create a sense of ‘South Sudan-ness’; an identity that’d make an Acholi of South Sudan identify more with Zande of South Sudan rather than with Acholi in Uganda. This is by no means an easy task; however, it’s a task we’ve neglected in vain search for tribal voice and hegemony. We’ve become a nation of whiners, who offer nothing by way of alternative solutions.

Whining, polemics and acrimonious writs have become our source of solace. We keyboard divisive pomposity and verbosity that make us feel good about ourselves but at the end of the day contribute towards the divisiveness the same writing was supposed to combat. With no doubt, this has become an oxymoron that typifies what it means to be a South Sudanese; an that’s a sense of self we wouldn’t want to be our defining identity.

Everyone in South Sudan has become a whiner!
The President of the country and his officials have become nothing but a bunch of whiners, who believe everything that’s wrong with South Sudan isn’t their incompetence but a work of some evil man called Riek Machar. The officials whine about international community favoring rebels, about UNMISS siding with Riek’s forces, about journalists siding with rebels, about IGAD’s impartiality, about the venue of the ‘Peace Talks’ and about everything!

Respectable leaders don’t just whine incessantly. They only point out all the obstacles and problems they face and then rush to suggest workable solutions and alternatives. If these whiners say anything as an alternative, it’s always something that benefits them. South Sudanese citizens only feature as pawns in the leaders’ quest for power and wealth.
The rebels, who present themselves as a clean alternative to the government, are nothing but another bunch of the same: opportunistic whiners. They whine about President Kiir remaining president, about IGAD’s partiality, about government atrocities while forgetting their own atrocities, about Nuer marginalization when Nuer still stand next to Kiir and fight against fellow Nuer who are part of government’s forces, about dictatorship when they were part of the same system they just left…etc.

If the rebels think they are a formidable alternative to the government then why is it that we only hear the problem stalling the talks being the issue of power-sharing? Why is it the question of who’s to have what powers that’s the problem? Why’s anything in the interest of the citizens taking back stage?
We’ve seen so far what the rebels are! They’ve whined their way from complaints about internal reforms within SPLM to their claim on South Sudanese echelons of power. For the rebels to be seen as credible voice fighting on behalf of South Sudanese citizens, it has to be clear at the talks that they represent the people.

And South Sudanese tribes have mastered the art of whining. The Jieeng whine about Nuer being prone to violent rebellion and Riek Machar being the ultimate killer while forgetting the atrocities committed by a government controlled largely by Jieeng men. Jieeng’s self-righteousness has a lot to do with everything that’s wrong in South Sudan.
Nuer too complain about being marginalized by the Jieeng while Nuer officials still hold senior positions in both the government and the rebellion. The third most powerful man in South Sudan, Magok Rundial, the current speaker of the national assembly, is a Nuer. While hundreds of Nuer civilians were brutally massacred in cold-blood by government’s forces in Juba in December, it’s always prudent to remember that Nuer forces, let by the notorious White Army, have also committed atrocities. There’s respect in accepting one’s wrongs before labelling accusations on others.

One of the arguments always floated around by Nuer is that the Nuer in Kiir’s administration are mere puppets and don’t have a voice. Well, it’s not the fault of the president if they allow themselves to be used like puppets. Where are these people’s morals?
And to top it all, ‘Equatorians’, as a sociopolitical collegiality for all the tribes in the three southern states of the country, whine of having been marginalized by the Jieeng and the Nuer despite the fact that the second most powerful man in the country is from Equatoria. The cabinet affairs minister, Dr. Elias Lomoro, is the forth in government hierarchy after the Vice President, the President and the Speaker of the national assembly.

And now many Equatorians, even the Vice President himself, believe that the question of the VP position in the transitional period is an attempt to marginalize Equatorians. And the VP argues that it’s not about his job while he’s repeatedly warned that he’s not going to resign this time around for the sake of Riek Machar. Using Equatorians to safeguard a job is base!
I don’t want to sound naïve. I understand that there are junior Jieeng officials in Kiir’s administration, who are more powerful than some senior government officials from other tribes. However, we have to remember that the problem lies with the officers, who allow themselves to be subordinated by subordinates. Why see oneself as a subaltern in an administration in which you’re not? Why can’t these officers confront the president? Why can’t they speak on behalf of South Sudanese and straighten things out? Why are these officers afraid of the president even when what they would say would benefit the country?

There’s a clear difference between whining and criticizing the government. Whiners are fond of badmouthing without offering any workable alternatives. Criticisms are excellent mirrors to conscientious leadership, however, to merely whine without offering alternatives and to show the government that the current path is wrong, is a waste of time.
Many non-Jieeng officials subordinate themselves. They see Jieeng officers make bad decisions and applaud them only to claim self-righteousness when they are out of the government. It’s with no doubt that there are many well-meaning leaders from Equatoria and among the Nuer in the current government, who can stand up to President Kiir (behind close doors) and advise him in good faith to help rescue the country. However, they are too timid and only think about their positions rather than their constituents and the nation.

We keep on blaming the Jieeng and the President but how about this: Why can’t all the Equatorians and Nuer officials working in the government threaten the President with resignation if he doesn’t change the country for better? The government would collapse in an instant if they resign on masse. However, they will never do that because they, like all South Sudanese politicians, care more about their jobs rather than the interest of the nation and South Sudanese citizens.
So stop whining and see into it that what would change this nation isn’t vacuous whining and foul-mouthing but procurement of workable alternatives!

Twitter: @kuirthiy