CPA model best for durable peace

By Dr. Festo Faustino Kumba

Prelude: Since the declaration of independence in 2011, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, made his first call for a National Dialogue in December 2016.  The Head-of-State clearly recognized that the country had gone astray and needed to return to the correct path. The National Dialogue, he pointed out, was for the nation to come together, figure out what went wrong, and then work out a genuine lasting solution. For this remarkable decision, President Mayardit deserves thumbs-up from the entire South Sudanese nation. Based on the President’s assurances the National Dialogue is to be conducted in an atmosphere free from intimidation. Citizens with an idea on the issues at stake are called upon to air it out.  If the idea is wrong, others will correct it. If the idea happens to be the right one, it will save the nation from the carnage that has gone on for too long.  This particular contribution was conceived with this understanding in mind. Thank you for reading it in totality.

Introduction: Riek Machar’s 2013 attempted coup failed but, since, several pockets of rebellious activities emerged in different corners of the new nation.  Obviously many South Sudanese are still angry after independence.  There is still much public anger because, since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 and independence in 2011, the country’s national, states and local levels of government failed to meet the immense expectations of the public as demanded for by the “social contract”.  The concept “social contract” is central to what is in this paper; hence it is necessary to briefly explain what it means here in the words of the great 16th century British born political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes.

According to Hobbes, it is the intimate desire of all individuals to be free.  However people surrender their freedom to an all-powerful government to protect them and their properties against another intimate desire of human beings which is greed, to subdue others and possess what belongs to them. The fact of submission by citizens to their government that possesses and controls the ultimate means to protect them and their properties from each other’s aggression and greed constitutes the “social contract”.  In fact in the absence of a strong government, it is difficult to imagine what would prevent the more powerful people from suppressing or even eliminating the weaker ones in order to take possession of their belongings such as land, homes, children, wives, cows, money, labor, etc.

Now, where and why did South Sudan’s government, at its various levels, fail to meet the expectations of citizens in fulfillment of the “social contract”?

Unmet expectations for personal protection: South Sudanese feel that, since the CPA, the various levels of government in the country did not adequately protect them in their homes, villages, towns, and cities.  The many unauthorized persons in possession of assault rifles should have been disarmed.  Often citizens find difficulties to distinguish criminals from regular forces because on most occasions criminals put on the same uniforms and carry the same types of arms. No wonder the phenomenon of unknown-gunmen who kill, terrorize and rob people across the country cropped up. Furthermore, many murders, revenge killings and incessant bulling of law-abiding citizens have gone on for too long; and so is the habit of lynching members of rival communities along roads and highways.

Equally important, citizens are angry because organized crimes such as cattle rustling, child abductions, and uncontrolled cattle movements increased considerably.  The different levels of government have done little to contain the practice of cattle rustling; so, many members of the pastoralist communities appear abandoned to the whim of greedy blood-thirsty cattle rustlers.  Also, national, states and local levels of government failed to effectively contain frequent cases of child abductions in certain parts of the country.  Paradoxically, cows taken by some cattle herders to agricultural states destroy crops in complete disregard for the damage done to food security.  This has been a cause of many fatal confrontations between farmers and cattle herders. This unprovoked incredibly irrational behavior has caused displacement in some agricultural states and deprived farming families of their means of livelihood. The government apparatus, at national, states and local levels, appears unable or unwilling to contain the unruly cattle herders.

Land-grabbing is one other problem that causes public anger in the country.  Former governor of Central Equatoria, Wani Konga, was, during his tenure of office, often on record in denunciation of this unruly behavior.  Why the concerned authorities have not taken decisive measures against land-grabbers is anyone’s guess.

The worst case scenario occurred as mentioned previously in 2013 when some members of the corrupt syndicates in government, led by the former Vice President, Riek Machar, staged the failed coup d’état. The attempted coup and subsequent fighting disrupted the constitutional order in the country and led to an unprecedented mass murder and displacement of citizens never before witnessed in South Sudan.

The above are some of the stark evidences showing that, since 2005, the performance of the new nation’s government, at its various levels, in protecting citizens as expected by the “social contract” has been dismal.

Unmet expectations for protection of personal and public properties:  The frequent incidences of theft, banditry, burglaries and robberies that occur in South Sudan often result in the death of innocent citizens as well as loss of personal properties causing much public discontent.  Much more public anger is generated when people experience acute shortages of essential services but, at the same time, they see that huge amounts of public resources are being stolen by greedy corrupt cliques within the different levels of government.

Corruption deprives citizens of the means to create basic public amenities such as: health services, educational facilities, potable water and sanitation facilities, sufficient nutritive foods, decent housing, electricity generation, access roads and railways, correctional services, etc.  For this reason, South Sudan today is beset with a lot of hardship such as high infant mortality from preventable diseases like malaria, cholera, waterborne diseases, famine and malnutrition; low school intakes; lack of access roads especially in the central Sudd region; etc.

Much of the hardship in South Sudan would have been addressed should huge oil revenues earned since 2005 had been invested in basic public services and in agriculture.  For this reason, South Sudanese have since concluded that grand corruption by some officials in the national, states and local levels of government is the biggest silent cause of death and human suffering in the country. The following are some of these grand corruption cases.

(1) The dura saga of 2009 resulted in nationwide condemnation.  On that occasion, unpredicted increases in oil revenues, estimated in millions of USD, were stolen and shared out among cronies under pretext they were purchasing grain reserves.  Today it is not known whether anyone ever responded to the presidential order that was thereafter issued to some officials to return the money.  (2) In the famous LCs (letters of credit) saga, hard currency in millions of USD would be approved and released to fictitious companies under pretext they were importing essential commodities for the public.  Much of that money only went to the black-market or was siphoned to over-sea homes and bank accounts. (3) Also, as pointed out by Vice President Igga in his lecture to the National Assembly during 2015, even excise duties, customs duties, and money from the various revenues collection and tax regimes were, for many years, only pocketed by cronies deployed to the concerned institutions and rarely remitted to the treasury. (4) When oil dollars dried up, grand corruption turned to imported fuel.  In the ongoing fuel saga, huge quantities of fuel are issued to individuals, many without licenses or facilities to deal in fuel.  The fuel is dangerously taken to private homes from where it comes out in plastic mineral water bottles and sold by poor children at exorbitant black-market prices along major streets in the cities.  No one bothers as citizens suffer because most services including public transport and water tankers consequently grind to a halt.

(5) Big government contracts have also been a main target of grand corruption.  These present wonderful opportunities for juicy kickbacks to some responsible government officials who conclude on behalf of government inflated project contracts with foreign based companies.  In this way, certain foreign contractors must have made fortunes in South Sudan against the small but significant kickbacks they gave to corrupt officials.  (6) Similarly, with the complicity of some unscrupulous corrupt officials and the involvement of foreign agents, illicit mining of minerals such as gold has been carried out for a long time in some parts of the country. It is not known if anyone in the Ministry of Mining knows where the proceeds from this resource go. (7) Since 2011, many South Sudanese citizens watched as millions of cubic meters of hardwood (teak and mahogany) valued in millions of USD were ferried by persons mainly of Indian descent from parts of greater Equatoria for export destinations.  Since then, no report ever came to the National Legislature concerning the income accruing to government from this national resource. (8) On a similar note, no financial reports ever came from states on the huge revenues collected from cities like Juba and other centers of big business that are under states’ jurisdiction.

(9) South Sudan’s grand corruption cases in administrative corridors also include: the inclusion of ghost names in the payroll, theft of absentees’ salaries, fraudulent deduction of salaries of junior staff, and diversion of donated items for private use, e.g. medicines and medical equipment to private clinics and pharmacies.  (10) In general, migrant workforce in richer countries is an important source of income to the countries of origin.  Dishearteningly, it is not so for South Sudan.  Much of the new nation’s diaspora is a big liability to the country.  Most of the stolen money left the country as remittances to enrich the families of shameless South Sudanese-American millionaires, South Sudanese-Australian millionaires, South Sudanese-Ugandan millionaires, etc.

(11) On the other hand, the institutions responsible for law-enforcement and crimes prevention got overwhelmed by the magnitude of corrupt practice hence could do nothing to contain it. It is probable that certain personnel in some of those institutions got themselves drawn into connivance with the corrupt syndicates or were so terrorized they tended to look the other way as grand corruption prospered. An example is coercion of chiefs into connivance with corrupt states authorities to loot revenues from teak sales. Chiefs who resisted were often simply fired.

(12) Corrupt activities by certain government officials also provide opportunities readily exploited by wrong elements in some religious and other civil society institutions as alibi to cover up dirty internal practices.  It is well known, for example, that religious persons often mobilize donor funds in the name of projects for poor people.  But the amounts received are usually never revealed to the beneficiaries nor are they accounted for to people’s elected representatives.  Many a time, those churchmen capitalize only on pointing at the sins of government executives in an effort to divert public attention away from their own. They also capitalize on delegitimizing the entire government with the intention to exacerbate conflicts and sustain the sympathy of donors to send in more money.  Even local church collections are never fully revealed nor accounted for.  Yet some churchmen have constructed massive mansions here or rented impressive villas in Uganda. Others use those funds behind the scenes to settle big fines to conceal rampant concubine cases and shameful pedophilia.

The above examples of rampant grand corruption and insecurity in South Sudan indicate failure of government at its various levels to adequately protect the private and public properties of citizens as required by the “social contract”.

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