When President Kiir fired his entire cabinet and appointed a new one in July of 2013, many of us thought it was the advent of a new era of accountability. Sadly, as the subsequent series of events would prove, it was actually the advent of a gloomy era of serious flood of errors. Even for some of us who knew that Mr. Kiir was already an incapable leader as early as 2005, we didn’t know his incompetence would be this destructive and eternally damning. As he metaphorically and fatefully said when he assumed power after the demise of late Garang, the country is running with no ‘reverse gear.’ So it is easy to see why there is no stop to killings, meaningless decrees, economic deterioration, and political intimidation.But when the cabinet was initially named, a semblance of a democratic process was exercised with a nominal ‘vetting’ of the ministers. There was even a rejection of one of the president’s nominees. South Sudanese therefore thought the dawn of democracy was in the air. However, the acrimonious vetting process of Telar Ring Deng for Justice Minister soon revealed something sinister. Mr. Telar was the only one actually vetted as the rest of the cabinet wasn’t seriously vetted. Telar’s rejection was later understood to be ‘revenge’ as he was seen to be the power behind the president’s decisions.
Our democratic utopia was therefore dashed. The process was even aggravated when the president warned the parliament after they expressed desire to subject the president’s nominees for the speaker of legislative assembly and Vice Presidency, to scrutiny. The president warned parliament that there’d be consequences if they reject his nominees. It was the classic African preference of personality cult as opposed to democratic or parliamentary principles.While the president found it easy, or even necessary to do away with the vetting process to bolster his hold on the presidency and power, he can now see that the chicken are coming home to roost.
The constant defection of the likes of Peter Gatdet and Johnson Oliny is a result of not following due process in the institution of any given policy proposals. The incorporation of militia into the national army needs to be done in a manner that reduces any chance of such rebellion-prone folks to rebel. A government, or even the army, can’t just make decisions because they feel they are necessary at the time. Long-term effects have to be put into consideration before any decision is made.We all know South Sudan has become a totalitarian regime that has copied Khartoum’s theocratic totalitarianism letter by letter and word by word. The political atmosphere is stifling in Juba and any political opposition is treated with pious brutality. There are people who are in government’s controlled areas but they disapprove of the government. They just don’t see rebellion as a solution to the problems in South Sudan.
However, the government doesn’t take it seriously that the more they stifle the political breathing space in South Sudan, the more they drive the disgruntled minds toward rebellion. The SPLA and National Security Agents arrest people anyhow and detain them without any due process of the law. Ateny Wek, the presidential spokesperson, argues that the president doesn’t order such arrests. If the president doesn’t order such arrests then who has the authority to do so? Without doubt, we know such arrests are unconstitutional, so why doesn’t the president stop such arrests given the facts that he’s the guardian of the constitution, ideally speaking?
The government brags about having been elected; that it is a democratically elected leadership. However, the president doesn’t explain to the people—who gave him the mandate to rule—the logic behind some of the decisions he makes. He breaks constitutional provisions and finds it unnecessary to explain to the people the reason why. In what nation on earth, even dictatorial ones, does a president select the leadership and board members of the supposedly independent bodies such as media authority? Media authority is supposed to be an independent body that employs people of merit by subjecting them to credential assessment in their hiring process.Doesn’t the president have something to do, something presidential? It has come to the point in which the president is going to pass decrees employing janitors for his office and the parliament. This president has either been reduced to this level by those who’d want to see him destroyed; or he’s reduced himself to his level through incompetence. Either way, the president needs to wake up and salvage what’s left of his legacy. The failed Nigerian former president, Goodluck E. Jonathan, salvaged his legacy in the last minute. He’s going to be remembered for having conceded election loss and for having peacefully handed over power to President Muhammadu Buhari, rather than through his failures.
It’s time for President Kiir and Riek Machar to realize that time is up for them and that the leadership needs to go to a different, younger class of South Sudanese leadership.It’s high for the leadership in South Sudan to subject policies to verification and stern vetting mechanics. We know with certainty that cabinet ministers contradict each other day in day out because of lack of systematized verification process. Ministers have to consult one another before they go public in order not to reflect the government as confused and incompetent. The minister of foreign information says one thing but he’s soon contradicted by either the minister of foreign affairs or presidential spokesperson.
Transparency, information verification, respect for human rights and respect for democratic ideals have never harmed any civilians or leadership.
Kuir ë Garang is the author of “South Sudan Ideologically.” For contact, visit www.kuirthiy.info