Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Twic East County needs leadership and a serviceable system

Reuben Garang* 

"The newly formed leaderships created at urban centres still have no clear powers, and the same politicians are in charge. It is best for gracing public events in Juba. The diaspora’s leadership does not have the capacity as well. It also suffers from the culture of quick cycles of elections that see people coming in and leaving without achieving much.  No one knows if their organizations in the diaspora are community associations, political theatres, or arenas to cultivate hate.  It is worth mentioning though that the people react to situations and always want to help. However, these organizations have no long terms goals as their structures change with the election cycle." 


Reuben Garang.
Photo: Author's Facebook Accoun
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Like many other counties in the flood-prone areas in South Sudan, Twic East County is entirely devastated by floods.  For three years now, the county has remained submerged under water. Cultural sites are eroded, life-supporting animals killed or displaced, farmlands destroyed, and as a result, majority of the locals are in displaced or refugee camps or forced into the urban centres. These socioeconomic and environmental changes are affecting county leadership capacity to make critical decisions on the direction and the future of the county. It is also adding problems to the dire situations created by long civil wars in South Sudan        

 In many of his public speeches, Twic East’s paramount chief, Manyok Ajak Majok, repeatedly pleaded for help. He appealed to Twic politicians and Diaspora leaders to help decide the direction and or the future of the County. He needs help.  In the past, it was people in position of head chief, sub-clan leaders and elders who used to make critical decisions.  This is not the case now.

Why? Well, apparently, the chieftaincy powers in South Sudan are rapidly declining or blunted.  Modern governance structures overshadow customary systems, including the chieftainship though the former is not working to the expectation. In addition, the principal chief Majokdit and his fellow chiefs are among the displaced persons making them ineffective to govern. They are powerless and cannot decide on critical matters affecting their scattered community as they used to do. They have nowhere to begin, let alone to decide.  

The Members of Parliament (MPs) representing the area are suffering from the same diseases affecting all the country's politicians. Public institutions under which they operate are seemingly dysfunctional.

The newly formed leaderships created at urban centres still have no clear powers, and the same politicians are in charge. It is best for gracing public events in Juba. The diaspora’s leadership does not have the capacity as well. It also suffers from the culture of quick cycles of elections that see people coming in and leaving without achieving much.  No one knows if their organizations in the diaspora are community associations, political theatres, or arenas to cultivate hate.  It is worth mentioning though that the people react to situations and always want to help. However, these organizations have no long terms goals as their structures change with the election cycle.

The commissionership is a leftover of the colonial structures that no one knows why in the first place the SPLM has adapted it. I have no idea if it was the Turkish or British people who introduced this one-person institution. It never had been adequately integrated into local government structures at any point in the history of the region. Although a decent citizen now occupies it, the position was not designed to provide an inclusive grass root leadership. Therefore, our county at the height of all the calamities experiences a leadership void.

What is then possible to change this leadership deficiency at the county level?  For the short term, it is the commissioner to lead using the bottom-up approach and remains not as relic of the colonial system. To impact change, a decision taken at the Payam and/or Boma levels have to influence decisions taken at the State level and federal levels. Villagers' inputs should count. So there must be better ways of seeking inputs from the clan systems than what exists now. The current system of  acë lueel rɔɔk (the decree or orders come from the town /court centre) has to stop. Luel rɔɔk by who?  Who is that from the town centre that decides on behalf of the masses?

 It is possible the commissioner, with local leaders, can decide the future of the county and just seek assistance from the state and federal levels.  A local-grown or informed solution will only work. Therefore, to make a drastic change, the current commissionership occupant has to dare to create this new thinking to change the community mindset.  A time to make a bold decision about the future of the county is overdue. We cannot wait the water to recede without a community-blessed plan for the future.      

If the county waits for politicians and Diaspora leaders to decide for her future, it will be waiting for mom ke yeth, as one of the Twic idioms goes.  Politicians in Bortwon and Juba as well as   diaspora can help, but with implementation of a locally driven and led plan.

There are many good ideas floated on social media from community members on what to do to steer the county in the right direction at this critical time. The community has discussed the idea of building one town in the area to consolidate services.

In 2019 or 2020, diaspora leaders, Lual Bul Manyok, Deng Chol Riak, Deng Atemtiordit, and  a few members from the  community, put together a short plan titled Fostering and Upgrading Twic East Urban Roads and Economic ( FUTURE). This document was later sent to Twic Leadership back home. The gist of the letter is:

“We need to build a single mini-city (made up of five large estates), which will attract people, including non-Dinka. Our development agenda would be to use the Twic East County diaspora human resources to help to channel their resources into developing this city.

It is easier to defend a town and harder for raiders to attack a city of assembled villages. Agricultural activities can go on outside of the town (in Lok/ Aying areas as a part of increasing human activities in that area to deal with the double issue of addressing insecurity and food security). The development of this city may begin to boost economic activities, which contribute to an increased sense of security, and which attract people.

In this city, we will concentrate on running five good secondary schools, five good hospitals, five good housing projects, five good clean water projects, etc. If we formalize such a proposal and direct the energies of the diaspora toward achieving this goal, our people may begin to leave Kenya within a few years and return home. All the money we spend in Kenya will be rechannelled into Twic East County's economy in a few years.”

This proposal was made before the displacement due to the flooding.  No one picks it back home.    

There are many great ideas floating around that, if there is leadership, could be tried to shape the future of the County. Kuek Aleu Garang Dekuek, Duot Manyang Duot-Akech, Chol Kelei Chengkuo, and Deng Bul Garang, among others, have produced great ideas about the need to consolidate resources to shape the future of the County.   For Mr. Kuek, Twic has to come up with a 50-year-plus strategic plan that should include building one city for Twic to improve service and preserve fraternity. He has been advocating for this for nearly a decade. 

For Mr. Duot, it is his call every day. Those who are friends with him on Facebook know what I am talking about.  Mr. Duot wants people to think big and work together for a brighter future for the county. For Mr.  Chol, Twic will be no more in the near future if its citizens fail to work collectively at present to make a home attractive for the displaced population. With his economic ideas, among them, farming the land at small and large scales is the way to begin. Mr. Deng continues to post the question of “what would become a scattered Twic East” if nothing is decided now? Many community members including former Twic USA leader Bul Thuch Dut contributed ideas to answer these questions.

Things are possible if the leadership at the county level and people work together for their collective good.  We have seen those of Maketh Kuer Khoor, Chol Kuch Chol, and Deng Akuur Mabior, among others, with their developmental housing project in Kenya. They have successfully turned a vacant land into modern dwellings.  They have a very small group of people but with great ideas and pragmatic leadership.  We are not lacking ideas; we can also borrow from the experience of the world. We have scientists and researchers who need leadership and functioning systems to benefit from their expertise.  A governor Riny Tueny Mabor or Maketh Kuer type of leadership at the County level to change things. 

Twic East needs a compassionate, community-centered, and risk-taking leader, to mobilize ideas and resources and implement them.  As we speak, there is a lack of that brave and entrepreneurial leader to steer the ship. More worrying there is that no coordinated and accountable system to incubate and funnel community ideas resources.

 No one is accepting the challenges and taking charge.  An innovative and pragmatic leader is needed. A self-motivated leader who wants to change things for the good of the people. Twic East County needs someone who believes in themselves and the power of organized people. Someone to lead from the bottom up, not from top of the leadership ladder. Someone who is respectful but not an appeaser of elites. Someone with courage to keep peace with neighbouring counties.  

It may sound easy, but it is not.  It is very difficult to lead without resources and functioning system.  Therefore, we have to appreciate those in the position of power as they try their best to help their people. Nevertheless, someone must rise above all these challenges and lead with resolutions. Work with the people at the grassroots to devise a vision and mobilize resources and ideas. It should start with the establishment of a town like centre outside flood prone zone.  

 Who is or who will be that leader?               

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*Reuben Garang is the Executive Director - Immigration Partnership WinnipegHe has previously worked for the province of Manitoba as policy analyst and community Outreach Advisor. Garang holds a master degree in sustainable development practice from the University of Winnipeg. You can reach him at reubengarang70@gmail.com 

 

 

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