To parliament: Align public spending with national priorities

Enhancing Transparency: The necessity of aligning spending with national priorities

An analysis of the 2018/2019 financial year budget

 

 

A Presentation to the Specialized Committee of Finance and Economy in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly

24 July, 2018

Blue Room,

National Legislative Assembly, Juba.

 

By Mabior P. Mach[1]

 

Overview:

South Sudan has been in the grips of brutal conflict since 2013, just two years after independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced from their homes. Inflation is high and government spending on public services and social welfare is limited, given that most of its allocations in the previous budgets had been to salaries and operating costs. With the improving oil prices and a new emerging chance to improve collection of non-oil revenues, can the parliament bend the arc towards a better day for the ordinary citizens by investing in its people through peace and social welfare programs?

This presentation gives an appraisal of the key political and economic decisions behind the draft budget of the financial year 2018/2019 and provides suggestions about how funds can be redirected to areas of public concern.

Introduction:

Honorable MPs, top civil servants and country men,

It’s a pleasure for me to share views with you on this financial year budget. This attempt to subject the budget to public hearings is commendable. As a journalist, I covered the parliament since 2008 until the resolution on independence was passed in 2011. During this time, I rarely heard of public hearings on budgets. Hon. David Mayo and his team are showing some sort of bravery to listen to whatever kinds of appraisals that will be made. It’s a good break from the past. Thanks to the committee and the Ebony Center for Strategic Studies.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Salvatore Garang Mabiordit and his staff for the budget proposal. They have done a tremendous job. My role is to make a constructive critique of some allocations and provide suggestions as a means of collectively looking into the future of our nation. The discussion of the budget proposal comes a few weeks after entry into the new financial year, but it’s not very late.

There are many issues plaguing our country: conflicts, economic decline, mismanagement, geopolitical interests and food shortage. As such, my comments will cover a few themes as below:

  • Removal of subsidies:

 

The budget proposes the removal of a major welfare policy of subsidies. The Minister passionately makes the appeal to do so:

“Critically, this national budget renews our commitment to limiting deficit financing from the Bank of South Sudan. The Council of Ministers had approved the removal of fuel subsidy and I am appealing to the August House to endorse their approval. If we succeed in removing fuel subsidy in 2018/2019, we will not be operating in a situation of budget deficit. We will have a balance budget and sufficient funds to make timely payment of salaries and state transfers.” Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, in his budget speech in Parliament, 20 June, 2018.

 

We all know that the policy of fuel subsidy was introduced to try to protect the people from the adverse effects of government’s own decisions, including devaluing the pound. Is it the intention of this budget to expose the people to the same problems they should have been protected?

Prof. John Akech has done a research about this, focusing on the winners and losers of removing fuel subsidy.

However, the analysis of the data from this research is deeply flawed that it can’t be a supporting evidence to remove the subsidies.

  • His argument is that the beneficiaries of the subsidies are not those targeted, but the well connected. His research focused on public transport drivers in Juba, 31 percent of whom, according to the research, were getting subsidized fuel compared to 48 percent who weren’t. While I don’t have the reason to dispute his figures, the recommendation of that research took a purely activist instead of an objective approach. A government works for the people. As such, an objective approach would seek ways to maximize benefits of the subsidy. Also, from the rationality perspective, there is no convincing reason to forsake the 31 percent.
  • It’s important to note that it’s been a long path through bungled social welfare projects to land on the policy of subsidies. It was a policy for grain reserves; it turned into the dura saga. Then came the auctioning of the US dollars; it turned into a mess. It was the LC system; it was mismanaged. Then we came the devaluation; it failed. All these failed undertakings had direct impacts on the citizens. Their chances to receive government services were denied. Their purchasing power was reduced. Their salaries were not coming in time. As a sign of responsibility, the government maintained subsidies on fuel after devaluing the pound in December 2015. What the recommendation to remove subsidies suggests is that the government should make the people bear the cost of its own mistakes by tapping into the people’s own purchasing power. This is not something the people will welcome and I don’t expect you to approve it, because doing so means complicity in further exposing the people to suffering.
  • The research suggests that beneficiaries are the few in Juba who use PSVs. This is not correct.

A farmer in Maban, who uses generator to pump water from a river to his field of four fedans. He supplies the local market instead of importing them from Uganda. Photo taken on May 2018|Mabior P. Mach

 

Farmer in Maban. He uses generator to irrigate his farm. May 2018| Mabior P. Mach and would be affected by the removal of the current partial fuel subsidies. As Dr. John Garang said, we should use oil as the engine for agricultural development. That oil is in form of revenues from its sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A female farmer in Maban. She needs fuel for her generator to pump water from the river to flood her field. She would be hurt badly by the removal of fuel subsidies simply because no one is properly managing the policy. She is not responsible for all the decisions the government took to bring the country to this stage. Why should she be victimized?

Fuel in the black market in Wau. Photo: June 2018/Mabior P. Mach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fuel in those areas mentioned above come from Juba. Raising it in Juba means raising it in the country side – to essentially discourage such farmers. Therefore, fuel subsidy is helping support agriculture, as Dr. John Garang once said of using oil as the engine for agriculture.

  • In the budget proposal, the Minister says the funds from subsidies will be used to pay salaries. While the purchasing power of the people is being weakened, there is no pay rise. The fact is that removing the subsidies will increase prices, starting from bus fares. You may be aware of how Bongo buses and PSV taxis are helping in this endeavor. That means the government would like the civil servant to pay more money to the taxi drivers, who will then pay it back to fuel firms and Nilepet, and the same money comes to the people through the government in the form of salaries. They are effectively paying their own salaries. This can never be a suitable game from a people’s government.
  • Therefore, subsidies only need to be properly managed to achieve the desired outcome until it becomes feasible to channel the funds to a detailed, people-centered social service project in future.

As a takeaway under the removal of subsidies:

  1. Think of what it means to ask your secretary to pay more to go to the government office so that you can save enough money to pay him/her. In other words, it is the civil servant paying himself/herself. In effect, there is no government that is paying the salaries.
  2. Remember, the government cannot take South Sudan just as its business entity from which it can make profits. When others are busy delivering aid, the government should demonstrate its ratio of responsibility by mainstreaming social welfare into economic policies.

In fact, it is the government, in the form of Nilepet that is misdirecting the subsidies. This August House has the responsibility of safeguarding the public interest.

Private cars line up to refill at the Nilepet office in Jebel, Juba. The issue of fuel subsidies is not a policy failure, but rather the lack of will to do what is right. Why is Nilepet selling fuel to private cars? Worse enough, we want to formalize Nilepet’s indiscipline by allowing it to operate like a fuel pump by simply removing the subsidies. This game is not suitable for a responsible government to play. Photo taken in June| Mabior P. Mach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By addressing the abuse of fuel subsidy and redirecting it to the intended direction, this August House would have risen to the challenge our forefathers challenged us to inherit when they died while trying to set us free on the road to prosperity.

  • Constant salaries and more support for operations cost:

 

While the draft budget proposes the removal of fuel subsidies, which were meant to help the people, it is redirecting funds into operations cost, to cover medical expenses. There is an imbalance between what would help the people and what is intended to help the elites. Medical bills should be treated as an insurance embedded into the salaries and not as a stand-alone pillar on which to spend public money catering for foreign trips of a few well-placed individuals. Switch a large percentage of the allocation for medical bills to improving services at the public hospitals, eg Juba Teaching Hospital.

  • Supporting mismanagement:

“Salaries have not increased for the 2018/2019 budget. There is a substantial increase on operating budget for all spending agencies. Agencies need to allocate their medical services on Operating budget (Activity code 229) to cater for medical expenses rather than 214 (Social Benefits).” From the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning’s budget speech.

The draft budget is confirming, yet again, an unrealistic approach. An MP, for example, gets 9,000 SSP monthly. If he does his duties so diligently that he spends most of his time at work and thinking about government business and the benefits accruing to his constituency, then maintaining this official salary scale is a sign of lack of transparency. Can 9,000 SSP, at the current market prices, feed a family for a month? Where do government officials get the extra cash to make their living, fuel and maintain their fancy cars, and send funds abroad? What about that civil servant who has no second job or access to free cash? By approving the budget in the current form, we are formalizing mismanagement. I don’t think any honorable member here would like to be associated with this. Raise the salaries for all workers, from the top to the bottom and slash operations costs. At the end of the day, more government money is spent in one way or another without following the right procedures. It’s better to spend honestly.

  • Funding the East African Community Secretariat:

 

The government has taken the political decision of joining the East African Community. There is no debate around that anymore. But the South Sudanese people are not getting any benefits and are destined to get nothing from it in the foreseeable future. Why? Even stable economies now look at regional economic integration in terms of sharing benefits. South Sudan has no commodity of her comparative advantage, because we don’t have a functioning economy for which we should seek an expanded market. We, in fact, are offering ourselves as a free, easily accessible market just to gain nothing in the end. Committing ourselves to fund the secretariat while our people are suffering is a case of misplaced priorities. Why should South Sudanese pay to have Kenyans, Ugandans etc sell their goods inside South Sudan; to have the jobs meant for locals grabbed; to be outcompeted in business, etc? A suitable case is Ethiopia, which has now started partially opening up after stabilizing her economy. That allocation to the EAC secretariat can be used to pay bills for medical doctors and teachers at government hospitals, and to buy medicines. Visit al-Sabah Children Hospital and the Juba Teaching Hospital and you will hold your breath and decide to channel funds to this direction.

  • IMF recommendations:

 

There is a clear indication that the budget proposal is underpinned by a desire to suit the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund. Well, South Sudan’s situation is quite complex that it can’t be easily addressed using a “one-size fits all” strategy. IMF and the World Bank were designed within the context of Cold War, and it has been receiving negative appraisals since the 1990s.

Abdalla Bujra, in his paper on African Conflicts:

“The immediate effects of SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs) are now accepted, even by its authors, to have sharply increased poverty and economic inequality without necessarily improving the economic performance of the African countries.”

 

Barack Obama, the Audacity of Hope (p.316), 2006:

“Under the leadership of Washington, the International Monetary Fund, designed after World War II to serve as a lender of last resort, has repeatedly forced countries in the midst of financial crisis like Indonesia to go through painful readjustments (sharply raising interest rates, cutting government social spending, eliminating subsidies to key industries) that cause enormous hardship to their people – harsh medicine that we Americans would have difficulty administering to ourselves…

Indeed, countries that have successfully developed under the current international system have at times ignored Washington’s rigid economic prescriptions… The IMF and the World Bank need to recognize that there is no single, cookie-cutter formula for each and every country’s development.”

If this parliament decides to rely on recommendations of international institutions without customizing these advices to fit the local context, then we are in the middle of the selfish international political and financial contradictions.

  • Peace:

 

If there is anything people needed to have happened a long time ago, it is lasting peace. While implementing peace agreements and the National Dialogue need funds, lasting peace also come through development. Surprisingly, its allocation is just 3.7 percent of the “domestically financed” expenditure. South Sudan should extend its sovereignty responsibilities to bringing about lasting peace. Relying on others even on critical issues of peace is not encouraging. The allocation to the security sector, which stands at 40 percent, should be slashed to secure more for peace processes such as the National Dialogue. Now that the US administration, the largest donor to South Sudan, is reviewing aid to South Sudan[2], and now that the US has expressed serious doubt about peace under a government run by President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar[3], this parliament has one choice: either demonstrate the government can restore lasting peace – and push it to do so – by funding (and honestly) implementing peace processes such as the National Dialogue or …

There is no way peace can be allocated an amount similar to the contingency, as if lasting peace is a contingency and not a priority.

Honorable members, some of us are providing you with the true feelings of your people. The decision is yours. But always remember every decision you take goes to a corresponding page as we write our history.

Thank you very much.

[1] Mabior P. Mach is an independent media consultant in Juba, South Sudan, and the author of the Broken Promise: The Legacy of War and Hypocrisy. He has written extensively on Sudan and South Sudan over the past decade, and, as a journalist, won media awards: the Energy Awards 2014 in Nairobi and the Nile Media Awards 2017 in Kigali. By asking the question ‘Where is the War?’ Mr. Mabior is privately researching South Sudan’s ailments that don’t easily meet the eye.

[2] Trump is assessing aid to South Sudan. Its government says cuts would be a disaster. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/11/trump-is-reassessing-aid-to-south-sudan-its-government-says-cuts-would-be-a-disaster/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.739a1179ab11

[3] White House Press Release, covered in the story: http://www.osundefender.com/white-house-expresses-doubts-over-south-sudans-president-and-rebel-leaders-ability-to-bring-peace/

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South Sudan’s blurring line between state and religion

For idealists, nothing else may be the clear indicator of loss of morality more than practicing the same things people consistently fought against over decades.

But to the realists, including me, that’s not anything to worry about.

A lot of lives have been lost in wars that partly sought to disentangle the Sudanese state from the grips of religion, particularly Islam. Fortunately, we ended up with our own state.

Surprisingly, we are fusing, once again, the state together with religion – again Islam.

For many years now, my President – my good President who I can’t criticize – has been enjoying his breakfasts and dinners with Muslims more than he would do with people of other faiths. He would donate to Muslims money, send them to Mecca for pilgrimage annually, accord them free airtime on the state television, and is now intervening on lands claimed by Muslims.

What beats my understanding is this blurring of the line between state and religion to the extent that Muslims will not have to follow lawful procedures to claim their allegedly grabbed land. In other words, they are becoming the state, moreover a state that is above the law.

I am not making this up, as one old researcher would always say. It is all in the press:

“President Salva Kiir has directed the Minister of National Security to recover Muslim properties that were grabbed by individuals in Juba. Speaking during Ramadhan breakfast with the Muslim community in Juba on Monday, President Kiir told the Muslim community that he will sit with the Minister of National Security to personally oversee the retrieval of the properties,” the Dawn newspaper reported on June 13, 2018.

In case you still want to doubt that newspaper report, this is the take by Eye Radio on the same:

President Salva Kiir has vowed to ensure that the Islamic Council is given back its grabbed pieces of land. The Muslim community has been complaining about its properties, especially in Juba town, Malakia, Konyo-konyo. President Kiir – who was addressing Islamic faithfuls during the Iftar in Juba on Monday – ordered security chiefs to address the issue. “I have promise you … the properties of the Muslim community that have been grabbed will be returned to them,” said Kiir. “I am giving orders even if those who are responsible for the implementation are not here, I will get them tomorrow in the office. But I know the minister of national security is here with us.” According to the Islamic Council, some of the pieces of land were grabbed after independence.

I am trying to make sense of how this has been turned into a national security issue. Why can’t Muslims seek redress through institutions by lawful means like providing evidence of ownership in a court of law? I still don’t have the answer.

But I know this is the reality idealists would oppose based on the old and waning principle of “morality.”

I am a realist. So I understand that “things” most often “fall apart” – As Chinua Achebe would say. Also, George Orwell taught me this realism with his perennial novel, The Animal Farm. So I am not worried about the growing link between the state, the rule of no-law, and Islam. it’s the rarity of this link in secular countries all over the world that’s alarming. But may be we are now an Islamic country.

Women dance on the independence day on July 9 2011. Ironically, we are now doing the same things from which we became independent.

 

It’s unique, sweeping and dramatic, reviewers say of the debut – The Broken Promise: The Legacy of War and Hypocrisy

The comments are from the most trusted professional reviewers in the book publishing industry.

“Mach writes from a unique perspective about a world outside the experience of most readers … A dark and violent story of war and loss in Africa.” – Kirkus Reviews.

“The Broken Promise is a sweeping and tragic tale that depicts the horrors of wartime, conflicts with tradition, and the power of familial love … This historical novel reveals crucial information about the war in a fluid and gratifying way and displays knowledge of cultural customs and traditions, creating a nuanced and thorough portrait of a time and place…” – Foreword Reviews.

“In this dramatic, multi-generational saga set amidst the tumult of the Sudanese Civil War, Mabior P. Mach presents the harrowing journey of a man who leaves his home and family to fight against human injustices and hopefully to secure freedoms for his children’s future…. Mach details a severe landscape weighted by death and despair, where interrogations are constant, and rape is common….” – Blue Ink Reviews.

Book Preview- The Broken Promise: The Legacy of War and Hypocrisy

Overview:

Makeer is a man of high hopes. Intelligent and educated, he is a teacher in Sudan when he leaves his home and family for the bush, to fight for freedom and human dignity. At home, his sons must fight their own battles, as violence and death by malnutrition increase. Yet, nothing is quite as horrific as the way man treats man in the African battle for peace.

The Broken Promise is based on the true terrors of the Sudanese Civil War. Fighting for the prosperity of his country, Makeer is blind-sided by the hypocrisy of his leaders while dodging bullets and watching his family die. He finds strength in moments of hope, mixed with intense despair, but is hope enough to keep him fighting while the world goes mad?

Makeer might glimpse ultimate victory—touch for a moment high ideals and morality—but he soon comes face to face with blackmail and murder in South Sudan, a new country he helped curve out of the Sudan. War is a thing of corruption and betrayal, which Makeer learns fi rst hand. However, he fights onward, proving that no amount of suffering will ever suppress the quest for human dignity.

Free Preview:

At the gate, two men were curled up in pools of blood. They had been shot dead. Both forces were still fighting at the outskirts of the suburb closer to Bilpham. One man shouted at Tab, warning her sternly to stop or risk a bullet ripping her head apart. She stood there, shaking; wondering about what could be the intention of this order. He was wielding the gun ready to shoot. Apparently, he looked overwhelmed by a grudge he wanted to settle. Now that he had the means to do so, she worried the man may rape her, and in the worst case, kill her and her little daughter. He walked towards her, with his lower lip drooping down and hanging slackly below from the lower teeth. “Sit down,” he ordered. Fast, she was on her knees. The man looked at his gun, at the nozzle and the butt, then at Tab. He walked closer to her and cocked the gun. “You will see me now. You think we are stupid to follow you,” he said. Tab wasn’t sure if the man meant he had been shadowing her. She wasn’t sure too if by the word ‘you’ the man was referring to her personally. Whatever it was, the risk was eminent. He could rape her and shoot them dead. “Are you married with children,” Tab’s faint voice rang in the man’s round head. “Why not? You think I am impotent!” “Please imagine someone doing what you want to do to me and my child, to your wife and children.” She was still sitting on the ground, in the mud. The man glanced away, then to her once more. “Do you know where my family is,” he asked. “No,” she nodded as if to admit her naivety. “They suffered their fate because you think we are stupid to always follow you.” “No,” she protested calmly. “You are not stupid.” “Don’t pretend. I will kill you now,” he warned. Tab looked down to his feet to avoid his prodding eyes. His toes had grown into hooves. His tapered feet were webbed like those of ducks. Tab had an impression that these legs would easily tear a bed sheet. “I can’t even explain my predicament,” he interrupted her gaze and voluntarily went ahead to narrate the ‘fate’ anyway.

About the author:

Mabior P. Mach is an award-winning South Sudanese journalist with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and media management from Cavendish University, Uganda, and has written extensively about Sudan and South Sudan over the past decade. He is married to Yom Abuoi, and they live in Juba with their children.

 

Published in June 2017 by iUnivser. For more: http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=755449

America decides: If I were Hillary Clinton

I would have this concession speech if I were the speech writer for Hillary Clinton:

My dear Americans, you are a great people. I trust in your will power and unity.
It has been a tough campaign for me, my family, and millions of Americans who were fighting for what they believed in: An America our forefathers had dreamt of, where we cherish the values of universal rights to equality, to justice and to opportunities for all. I must admit that it is too painful we have not won the confidence of the majority of the electorate.
Today, Americans have spoken, so clearly. Donald Trump is the next US President. I hereby reach out to my supporters, to all the American people, to unite behind him and give him the chance to lead us.
I thank Donald Trump for the hard-fought campaign and wish him success for the common good of the American people.
To those little boys and girls, who have the opportunity to dream big, there isn’t anything you can’t achieve if you have the determination to do so. I therefore urge you to continue fighting for what you believe is right for the good of our country and your families.
My dear Americans, we have come too far to regress. We have gone past the days of racism. We have overcome the challenges of transition to this era during the times of John F Kenedy and Martin Lurther King. Our country was the first and has been the lead in cherishing the values of equality regardless of sex, religion or race. We are a country of diverse backgrounds with one identity: we are Americans. We can’t afford to reverse the human progress of the past centuries. Thank you very much.

I Was Not Being A Bluster When I Addressed President Kiir

“Lead by example; don’t get coaxed into the hoopla of riding through Konyo Konyo on the back of a pickup truck just to dispel rumors of your demise…that whole debacle with you waving right and King Paul waving left was too cheesy for what you wanted to accomplish.”

By Jok Madut Jok

Lest people thought my rant from the other day about failure of South Sudan’s leadership was just a mere bluster, I would like to do a follow up and go deeper into the anatomy of that failure and perhaps suggest a few ways out of it. Sorry to be so basic in what I posit. I do not mean to insult the intelligence of the readers. But just to ensure that everyone, including the leadership we are addressing, is on the same page.

The starting point of overcoming a problem or a challenge is actually acknowledging that you have a problem. Once you have admitted the existence of a problem, you examine it and study all its attributes and the causes of it, all before you think of solutions. In a sense, you can’t treat a disease you have not properly diagnosed.

This is to say that everyone knows there is war in South Sudan:

dr-jokCitizens are hacking each other to death all around the country and have been doing so for quite some time; state security forces are badly misbehaving every single day, with devastating consequences; the economy is all but collapsed, and its destroyers get away with it every day due to the culture of impunity our president has failed to reign in.

There have been no infrastructural projects since 2013, the unfinished terminal at Juba International airport remaining as the badge of dishonor since 2006.

We also know 4 million South Sudanese are food insecure and 2 million are displaced from their homes, not to mention anything about health and education that are non-existent.

These are all obvious facts and every citizen knows about them, because they live them every day.

But the most important question is why?

Why are these terrible things happening and no plan seems to be in place to address them? Where is the government’s action plan about these issues? If there is one, why is it not communicated to the public, at least so that we all know the government is trying?

Why do so many South Sudanese flee from their homes to seek refuge in UN camps, hiding from their own country’s security forces?

Why are South Sudanese increasingly building so much hatred against one another? What is the potential role of the political dynamics in Juba in fueling this growing hatred?

Why is there a claim that 65% of fighters have left the SPLA and joined Riek Machar’s rebellion and yet the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs payroll was still the same in 2014 and 2015 as it was before 2013? Surely the new recruitment has not reached 100% level of replacement within a year or two!

Has the commander in-Chief ever asked the Generals to explain this, especially in view of the generals getting so ubiquitously wealthy, as the rest of the population gets poorer and poorer?

Kiir, attempted coup in South Sudan

Kiir, attempted coup in South Sudan

Why is the army worth up to 60% of the national expenditure and yet the soldiers are not getting paid, no barracks, no schools for the army children, no military hospital, no prosthetic limbs for wounded veterans, no army production projects?

In fact, may I ask, what exactly does the general in charge of SPLA’s corp of production do every day when he goes to office? I have never seen the soldiers working on roads, farms or volunteering in disaster response. So what do they do when they are not fighting their own citizens?

They are not even defending the country’s international borders, as Kenya, Uganda and Sudan grab South Sudan’s land left and right.

Why is South Sudan still the world’s worse place to be a mother, highest maternal and child mortality, lowest literacy rate, the new capital of sexual and gender-based violence?

Why do so many South Sudanese now say they were better off staying under Sudanese dictatorship than this life in South Sudan?

Why are more and more South Sudanese giving allegiance to their ethnic/regional citizenship than to the nation?

These questions and three dozen others that come to mind are the questions President Kiir could/should ask in his attempt to tackle the problem of why the country he runs, a country that was billed a middle income country when he came to power, has become so miserable to live in under his leadership. That is where he should/could start.

If there are readily available answers then he could act on those answers to turn the country around. For example, if he finds that much of the current chaos is rooted in corruption-conflict nexus, or in the weakness of nation-building project, or perhaps in the lackluster rule of law environment, the impunity with which state authority is being misappropriated, then, deal with these issues.

Or maybe the current mess is caused by the ghastly economic disparities that are born of misuse of state resources; or of the bad policies that made the country reliant on oil while neglecting agriculture, the trade of the majority of people and the most sustainable sector; lack of justice for war-time atrocities; absence of reconciliation; or born of whatever he finds.  Then he could act accordingly.

President Salva Kiir (File Photo)

President Salva Kiir (File Photo)

But if there are no readily available answers, then that is what his departmental research units are there for. That is why there are universities, think tanks, hired experts etc. Conduct research into why the country is falling apart and see what these entities recommend, choose what seems feasible and reject what is not.

Above all, talk to your people, have monthly radio address to the nation, to assure the people that you are on top of things and that your country is facing some challenges but it will be okay.

Visit communities that are befallen by tragedies and show them your sympathies and solidarity. Nothing makes a citizen bond more with her country better than having her president show her that she counts.

Lead by example; don’t get coaxed into the hoopla of riding through Konyo Konyo on the back of a pickup truck just to dispel rumors of your demise. Instead, make a televised press statement from the state house. Do not delegate to the fumbling inarticulate aides who speak out of script and put you in more trouble.

Believe me, that whole debacle with you waving right and King Paul waving left was too cheesy for what you wanted to accomplish.

Instead, you could have announced that you have become sick and tired of garbage in Juba and that you were going out to clean up and ask people to join you on Saturday for this purpose. Surely, they will know you are alive and well, if you are cleaning the streets with them.

In fact, that could have become the starting point of a general cleaning program, say an order from the President that every family participates in cleaning every first Saturday of the month.

You could pick up all the plastic water and coke bottles that litter entire neighborhoods, water streams and that get washed into River Nile. Can’t you see that even inside the Ministries compound plastic piling up, right across from your office, plastic that will outlive all of us, as it is not bio-degradable, and poison the earth and air for decades?

Dispel rumors by engaging in seamless and meaningful appearances, Mr. President. Do not be paraded by people who want to show you that they have your interest at heart. The Interest they have is their own and they are using you to get it.

Lest I digress, the only way to know the pulse of the street is to have genuinely knowledgeable advisors in every major field of concern. Do not use advisory positions as a way to accommodate job seekers.

If you must accommodate anyone, such as some of your generals who fought in the liberation war, who have undoubtedly done so much for this country to be free, but are no longer fit for the army, put them on the payroll for life and send them home, and for God’s sake let the work of the nation be done by people who are capable.

Furthermore, even when you have capable advisors, our people are poor and desperate for money, so don’t have single advisors come to see you. When they do, some of them will come into the President’s office to gossip and beg rather than advise.

Instead, have councils of advisors in economics, foreign policy, national security, governance, rural development etc. Have each team come to present to you what their knowledge-based says should be done, give you a powerpoint presentation, complete with options, and then leave you to make the decisions. In that way, your relationship with advisors is more professional than it is personal friendship.

That idea of hiring your relatives or your friends to be your advisors, arrrgh, looks terrible.

The guns costing our lives. In the picture are guns collected in a disarmament drive in Juba in 2009 (Photo by Mabior Philip Mach)

The guns costing our lives. In the picture are guns collected in a disarmament drive in Juba in 2009 (Photo by Mabior Philip Mach)

Furthermore, use dialogue with your people, foe and friend alike. You’re a conciliatory man, so be a facilitator of dialogue between your people. Yes, this is a diluted term in South Sudan. But all I mean is to allow South Sudanese to speak to one another, air each other’s fears, hurts and grievances to one another, without fear. This does not necessarily promise to solve all the problems facing the country, but it is a starting point.

See all those ethnic fights, highway attacks, those Dinka girls who got their breasts chopped off in Wau by angry Fertit, Lou Nuer attacks against the Murle in 2009 or the Madi-Dinka squabbles in Nimule, the cattle herders versus farmers in Western Equatoria. Most of these, if not all, are driven by a sense of injustice that so many people feel, by a general sense that you run a Dinka government and everyone who feels like protesting your government takes it upon innocent Dinka who equally suffer.

If you facilitate a discussion between all of them, you would have helped them understand each other better and they might together devise ways to share space and resources. They have always done this and they can do it again.

Lastly, tell Jieng Council of Elders to accept their old age and retire. What you run is not a Dinka government, it’s a country called South Sudan and it belongs to all of us. There is plenty they can do in their individual lives: write books, help their local communities find harmony, volunteer as teachers and be peace makers, not sources of mistrust between ethnic groups.

The Dinka cannot afford the anger of the rest of the country. It is not worth it, not feasible and it destroys the country further more.

 

The Rwandan Genocide: The inside story isn’t yet

Photo credit: unconfirmed

Photo credit: unconfirmed

Gen Romeo Dallaire, you have made an interesting narrative about the 1994 Rwandan genocide in your memoir “Shake Hands with the Devil”.

But your confession about the complex rivalry between the Belgian and French contingents within the peacekeeping force, and about a similar rivalry between the UN and the Rwandan army over who should control of the cite of the plane crash that killed President Habiyaramana, starkly spells another challenge the world has to rise over.

Interestingly, you admitted that you asked one senior Rwandan Army officer about who would be president ‘in case something happens’ to the incumbent, and less than a week later, Habiyaraman died.

And one of the contingents was accused of masterminding the killing. Then your insistence to help chose the next president. All these gives me an impression that we are not done with telling the Rwandan story of the genocide.

But in any case, you did a great job pulling off the story from your perspective as the UN force commander by then. In any case, I recommend this book for an insider account of the Rwandan genocide.