Sunday, December 13, 2020

The dissonance between what leaders say and what they do (Part I)


President Kiir and FVP Riek Machar.

Photo: TRR World 

By Kuir ë Garang (Editor)

One of the main problems with African leaders, and South Sudanese leaders in particular, is the dissonance between what they say and what they do.  Anyone paying a close attention to their public speeches would agree with me that there is value and truth in what they say when it comes to the people. But the value and truth in their statements remain where they utter them: at the podium

Since he was sworn in as the First Vice President of Sudan and the President of the autonomous Southern Sudan on August 11, 2005, President Salva Kiir has been speaking up against corruption. He even reminded the leadership of the SPLM about the reasons for which they took up arms to fight for the freedom of South Sudanese people. 

The president, however, has not put down any preventative modalities that can ensure that corruption is either eliminated or mitigated. Fighting corrupting and building South Sudan have remained matters of rhetoric. During his 2010 election campaign, President Kiir told residents of Juba that 'If I am elected back, I think things will be different from what has been happening these last five years.'  It has been ten years since that statement was uttered but things have not only remained the same, but they have also become worse. 

But like President Kiir, SPLM officials have not faired any better. They are good at pointing out problems and complaining not knowing that the solution to the South Sudanese problems is in their hands. 

When they spoke up against the loss of vision and direction by the SPLM on December 6, 2013, many South Sudanese applauded them because they were saying what South Sudanese have been saying since the region was given a semi-autonomy in 2005. Unfortunately, the leaders did not come up with solutions or possible solutions. They only gave the president an ultimate to call the political bureau meeting first and postpone the scheduled national liberation council meeting.  But these leaders knew very well that President Kiir is neither a strategist nor does has have the creative means to make a decision that could solve the SPLM internal problems. He has a knack for an easy way out or postponements of the problems until they become too big to solve. 

Now, the same problem is plaquing the leadership in its attempt to make the government of national unity functional. The problem in the country has become more about what leaders want and their inability to solve their problems than it is about the future of the country and the welfare of the people.  When these leaders speak about social justice or the welfare of the people, they only pay lip service. 

One of the five Vice Presidents, Madam Rebecca Nyandeng, recently acknowledged that the leaders have failed. Speaking at an event meant to end child marriage, Rebecca said she "will not shy away from admitting that many of us leaders in this country have failed to empower our population particularly the youth." However, acknowledging the problem is one thing but making sure that there is solution model put in place to solve the problem is more important than the mere acknowledgement of the problem. Without a solution model, a rhetoric becomes part of the damaging political culture. 

While I don't ascribe to the argument by some scholars that SPLM leaders had no interest in developing South Sudan, I believe SPLM leaders became overwhelmed by the enormity of state-building problems that most of them retreated to their survivalist or tribal enclaves. In retreating to this survivalist mode, no one was left to the state-building task. 

What these leaders failed to note is that no matter the gravity of the problems any leadership face, there is always the first steps at correcting what has gone wrong. 

It is therefore prudent that South Sudanese leaders, especially SPLM leaders, realize that state-building start with primary fundamentals. And these fundamentals start with the establishment or the strengthening of institutions that function based on institutional regulations and the constitutions. Institutions should not be run on the whims of the leaders that lead them. The president had no been respecting the constitution. 

Another fundamental is the issue of planning, implementing the plan and accounting for successes and failures. There has been no single national project that has been completed since 2005.  President Kiir has made many promises but he has neither been held accountability for his promises nor does he see it important to freely come to the people about his promises. He acknowledge that South Sudan has failed but it is not his fault.  Why exactly is to blame if the president of the country is not to blame! 

Current projects like the Juba-Bor and Juba-Rumbek roads constructions have been untaken without any sense of transparency. South Sudanese citizens need to have access to how the projects are being funded, where the money comes from, how it is spent, how the companies building the roads were chosen and what the contingencies for the future are. 

I think it is time for the leadership in South Sudan to put the people at the center of their plans. It's been more than 15 years since the South was given a semi-autonomy and nearly ten years since South Sudan became independent. The years of 'we are a young country' are gone! There need to be a congruence between what is said [care] and what is done [destruction/negligence]. 

 In part two, I will address some of the fundamental issues the leadership needs to keep in mind to ensure the centering of citizens and social justice. 

Kuir ë Garang is the editor of The Philosophical Refugee. He's currently a PhD Candidate at York University. Follow on twitter @Kuirthiy 

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