It seems like the Lincolnian government of the people by the people and for the people is in obsolescence. And nowhere is this obsolescence true than in South Sudan. This sociopolitical tragedy owes its emergence to what American novelist, Dalton Trumbo, once said: “The chief internal enemies of any state are those public officials who betray the trust imposed upon them by the people.”
It’d be naïve to expect South Sudan to institute all the required governance structures within a decade. However, it’s very dangerous for South Sudanese officials to use the ‘age’ of the country as an explanatory excuse for their failures. Admittedly, there are issues that are understandably excusable, however, there are issues whose preparatory parameters need neither money nor time. These issues are specificity and clarity of purpose.
Citizens need guidance and inspiration; and these should come from both national and local leadership. However, with no specificity and clarity of what national and local initiatives are, people become despondent; not necessarily out of the reality of things but out of political disconnect between the people and the government.
The government isn’t the government of people through speeches and professed, imaginary deeds. People need to be valued through demonstrable deeds. An uninformed electorate is a dangerous, moldable crowd. And people don’t have to be ‘educated’ to be politically informed. They just need to know what their government is doing for them and how it’s doing it.
For instance: What’s the government plan for the next 5-10 years? How’s the government planning to achieve such a plan? What are the expected outcomes: both bad and good? How much money is to be spent and how? Where’s the money coming from? What are the shortfalls and how is the government expecting to meet them? How does the government expect to remain transparent and how is accountability supposed to be assured? How can the president and his officials regularly keep in touch with the people? Town hall meetings? Weekly radio/TV address?
It’s understandable that every government has its plans; however, a government that doesn’t bring its plan to the people can’t pretend to be working for the people. People aren’t accountable to the president and his officials. The president and his officials are the servants of the people and they owe every single citizen explanations anytime major decisions are made; unless these decisions are classified information related to national security.
During his independence speech on July 9, 2011, the president outlined a 100-day plan. The promise was a great start to South Sudan’s independence. Unfortunately, neither the president nor the parliament thought it expedient to come back to the people for accountability! Was anything achieved with that 100-day play? If not, then why and what does the government expect to do about it?
When the government, supposedly of the people, fails to explain its national mandate and strategic plans to the people who elected it into office, then that government shouldn’t claim to be representing the people; and the government deserves accusatory fingers. Taking people for granted is treasonous.
In 2012, the government sent out a letter to government officials about 4 billion dollars of stolen public funds. It was a welcome initiative and many South Sudanese were appreciative. When the presidency flexes its muscle on behalf of the people about what rightfully belongs to the people of South Sudan, the people become hopeful. However, no one knows what became of the process, the stolen money, and the officials concerned. South Sudanese are now scratching their heads regarding the stolen money. As the case with any responsible government and leadership, the people are expecting an explanation they aren’t even getting.
A government that doesn’t take its citizens seriously, or lords its workings over the people is a government on its way to dangerous territories. While I don’t expect transparency to be at the same level of Canada or France, it’s crucial for South Sudanese officials to make sure that South Sudan moves forward with consistent transparency and promise.
No country is too young to put down a clear, people-friendly national strategic plan? No country is too young to distribute power equally to the three branches of government without the presidency usurping power. No country is too young to put its people front and center of its sociopolitical and socioeconomic plans.
Empowering South Sudanese citizens is as simple as letting them know ‘what’s happening and why!’ Take them for granted and the accusatory fingers point to the presidency and the parliament.
Kuir ë Garang