“My President; the soft-spoken, laid back, slow to react, slow to anger and the forgiving leader is exceptional. But he needs to distinguish between giving directives and advice. He should not be vague about his government’s policies, but say them out with AUTHORITY.”
The biggest political leadership dilemma that the majority of us are living in currently is whether Salva Kiir is the alternative to President Salva Kiir Mayardit -comes elections…even critics of President Kiir who spend day and night slamming his every move or muteness on issues, often fall short to mention or suggest a substitute for him. Do we have a trustworthy opposition and leadership that can stabilize our ‘yacht’ despite the vanity and naivety of our so called democracy? Can former liberation achievers who have fallen out with President Salva Kiir be trusted to lead?
I have a wishful thinking that the likes of Pagan Amum and Dr. Riek Machar can take the helm of this country, but my concern is what sort of following do they command, and what specific plans – other than complaints -do they have? Can their boldness and somehow seemingly articulation of ideas and the meaning of democracy be banked on? It’s easier to spectate and comment at the same time, but much more different and harder to play.
So far we don’t have a strong and vibrant opposition that we can look onto -without a doubt that they can deliver. Most of them are dying through self-disintegration. Take for instance United Democratic Front Party and the rest. The over 20 political parties with different ideologies have also -either allowed themselves to be swallowed by the system -or they have been muzzled by their former colleagues running the system.
Salva Kiir is my President…I accepted him since the demise of our late leader Dr. John Garang. I never thought of an alternative for him. Even in the 2010 Presidential elections, I had higher hopes in him for our country, because his first five years where more less an experience in the world of democracy for him. In 2011, I told myself that this guy brought the referendum, and he was bogged down with the implementation of the CPA and that’s why little was done in terms of development and security for our country. The Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir held part of the rope that was hanging around the neck of my President and the Referendum. So it was nice for my President to play it nice. We all know the tactics Sudanese government played on the SPLM; they derailed the implementation of everything even their own developmental pledges to buy us off from seceding. I remember President al-Bashir promising us the famous ‘Peace highway’ that would have connected Juba to the Port of Sudan, and the construction of new universities in Bentiu, Bor, and Torit. His words vanished through the winds. But my President kept his eye on the ball; the referendum was a price that deserved his full attention.
While my President was busy watching Omar al-Bashir, his trusted comrades were busy eating behind his back and lying to him about seeking treatment abroad, yet they were squandering the little cash he milked from the Sudanese government. “Eating money” was so obvious that even the word corruption itself could not describe it well. Imagine GOSS officials living with their few family members in the most expensive prefab hotels in Juba, while some of their children schooled and live in sky villa apartments in the neighboring countries. Villagers would line up to receive money from the then Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, at the expense of the salary of genuine civil servants trying to make ends meet in a city (well, kinda) considered among the most expensive in the world. After all, the “head teacher” was busy ensuring the referendum comes as planned. The “deputy head teacher” was not doing his job despite being delegated the most crucial powers by President Salva Kiir in 2007 through an internal memo. Many don’t know this; but we were actually practicing a semi-parliamentary system of governance until 2013, because Dr. Riek Machar was running major activities of the government, a role define well for a Prime Minister. Am talking about the delegated powers President Kiir assigned to Dr. Riek in 2007. Dr. Riek was in charge when the looting was taking place. He chaired Council of Ministers meetings; he led crucial committees in the country, and he signed and commissioned major economic and developmental projects with foreign investors until his dismissal. President Kiir might have ignored the regular mishaps in his government for that long, but Dr. Riek was the lead man in this country. He is an honorable man, and I believe he is clean from the over 4billion dollars lost which he currently disputes, but he let it happen at his direct watch.
In 2011′ after the vote for secession, President Salva Kiir made me so happy when he mentioned on Martyrs day that “business will not be as usual” for all those who have been looting in his absence. He said his mind and sight is now focused on running his government like he is supposed to. Then he formed his huge government; a government of appreciation, where people that were not known for good work or service delivery were appointed. People who could deliver like the former Minister of Roads, Anthony Lino Makana were sidelined to date. Mr. Makana if his reasons for being bumped are corruption related…then he is a good corrupter, because he at least construed a development legacy for President Kiir. He is the guy who ensured roads that never existed were paved, a guy who managed to complete his task of commissioning and supervising the construction of the first or should I say historical highway the country has ever had…the grand NIMULE HIGHWAY. How would we as a country of importers survived if Makana had decided to redirect the funds for that highway into his unknown? Such a guy should at least be advised and kept by my President. Since Makana left, the roads have remained the same. 2 Ministers of road, after Makana, the roads are the same. There is no safety bump or speed limits on the Juba – Nimule highway. Even ABMC Company is unable to cover simple potholes in Juba alone.
My President; the soft-spoken, laid back, slow to react, slow to anger and the forgiving leader is exceptional. He has completely transformed himself into a civilian President. He has thrown away his military hat and does not speak with a command like we thought he would. Back in the days they used to say Commander Salva Kiir had the most disciplined soldiers under his command. He knew how to control his forces. But throughout the years into the CPA, the army is not what it was during the war. It beats the logic of a common person, why a soldier would behave when no one was watching during the war, and misbehave now when the whole world can detect any sort of movement and activity of a force as large as our national army. Why would soldiers rebel against my President and follow aggrieved individuals who were not even known during the war? I mean, why would soldiers tame a man of great caliber like my President and follow little known David Yau Yau or Johnson Ulony or Bapiny Monytuil? Is it to show that my President has lost touch with the army…or is it that my President is no longer the man they used to know? How often does my President get in touch with that real officer who was deployed on the front line in Abyei, in Panthou/Heglig and in Jonglei? Do their cry over medication and better pay reach the ears of their commander-in-chief or do the middle men distort the information, and tell my President that “Jesh bitak waraak” (Your army is behind you)? Does my President make it a routine to visit and give moral to the forces protecting the borders and the oil fields like he used to during the war? Commander Salva Kiir would traverse the SPLA controlled areas and enemy lines on foot during the war -just to let the army know the General Command was with them.
My President’s choice of sitting back and letting events unfold is killing his other electorates. When an attack happens, when a disaster strikes, President Kiir should consider the impact of his silence and how different his presence or direct word would mean to us. Say, floods destroy parts of Juba, do my hero know that when he in person actually visits the families displaced, and ask them to construct a new house for themselves, the victims would actually do it without asking him for help. His word is the vitality they need. When a soldier dies on duty, how often do the families receive an honorary flag, and a special message from the commander-in-chief?
There are places in this country that the picture of my President is not known, leave alone knowing him as a person. When the new currency was introduced in 2011, and it reached parts of Pibor County for the first time, the people there thought Dr. John Garang by the picture is the President, and others thought the picture on our currency was that of Salva Kiir. There are also places in this country that don’t bother to feel they are part of this country. Say, when was the last time we heard of the Kachipo who are in Pochalla County? Has my leader ever ensured that they are considered in any policy or developmental plans that the ministers come up with? What about visiting them, including just Pibor or Akobo Counties that have been year in-year out devastated by circle of violence? Speaking from Juba and sending known individuals to those communities is not working, and hundreds are dying yearly. I was so disappointed when 4 days after the attack on Twic East County, the Office of the President issued a message of condolence to the families of the desists, but failed to visit the area –apart from the MPs. It’s disheartening when the President issues such statement through the TV…read by a news anchor rather than the President in person. That message apart from being late did not carry any weighed because it was read by just a journalist. How hard is it for the President to summon all the media and issue that statement in just under 5 minutes to the public? Even if he is a busy man…that humility will send a strong message to the families and the attackers that the attention of the President is captured by such incident.
On the circle of violence in Jonglei, the President needs to get involved rather than the peace committees he has been forming. He needs to visit Pibor, Akobo and other places in Jonglei state. Probably when the cattle keepers, armed youth and the rebels see the highest man in the country, their freedom fighter step foot in their area to emphasize the need for peace, they will understand that the call for peaceful coexistence and disarmament is serious. Going on the national television and radios to personally address them on this matter will send a strong signal that the government is alert and concern. These things my leader ignores, but they are the qualities we know he has that can keep him dormant in our minds.
It is understood as a country develops and people return home, a lot of challenges come up. Security is major among them. Crime in the town is something expected. But ours is peculiar because majority of it is committed by the same people we entrust with our protection. The same people who think by working for my President they are more patriotic that those that are not employed in the government. The same people who would collaborate with the people they are supposed to arrest by giving their arms on rental. I sometimes wonder why these young people would not execute the orders of my President as given. I mean what’s the pride in beating and torturing me, just because you think I am unpatriotic, yet the real unpatriotic people are the ones you pass by at night when you drive your patrol car on that high speed. It’s not being brave, hardworking or obedient to beat an unarmed civilian anytime of the day…but it would be of great service to all of us and the country if our security people can keep criminals out of the streets anytime. Me writing this is not clever than our security personnel, but am just doing what I think I can because I trust members of our organized forces should be doing what they are trained to do…and harassment of civilians is never in their manual or to do list.
But am sure if President Salva Kiir announces clear and serious consequences for members of organized forces caught misbehaving or aiding crime in the country, there would be real discipline. But now all he does is appeal and advise them. My President needs a new strategy to address this constant crime and killing in the country by putting members of the organized forces and their leaders on radar. I understand when the National Resistance Army (NRA/M) of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni took over after the Luwero war, they would slap civilians in the street for simply looking into an officers eye, or talking back at a man in uniform…but Museveni managed to discipline his forces…how did he convince them that they are the heroes of the people, and that they should not spoil that status? President Museveni is a good friend of my President; I would expect them to chat over this while they sip tea.
In 2009, President Kiir launched the “go to school” initiative which was meant to discourage school girls drop out and encourage retention in schools for all children. Then he initiated the girl child education policy by encouraging teachers to ensure more girls are enrolled and given special consideration. He did it….then he dropped his whip or binoculars of monitoring how the implementation of his direct order is being executed. To date, we are still realizing thousands of girls dropping out of school due to poverty and harmful traditional practice. Five years down the line our girls are still being forced into marriage. The child act is still being dragged around at the parliament, good schools are not established, teachers are not well paid and parents are still not compelled to take their kids to school. How can these happen and we are talking of millennium development goal by 2016. How can the children of the rich, the fortunate government officials continue to learn, and the poor are asked to herd the cows and goats of the tycoons in Juba, Yambio, Bor, Rumbek, Kuajok, Bentiu, Aweil, Torit, Malakal, Wau and we want to eradicate poverty and enhance development? As they say; a country not educated is an ignorant country. We can’t build if we can’t be taught how. President Salva Kiir should advise his team to introduce tough measures against parents that will not send children to school. For a country where the public is stubborn like South Sudan, it will not hurt for security people to go door to door forcing parents to let kids go to school, or empower community leaders and chiefs to ensure no child is seen roaming in the community during school hours. It will be better than having our security forces moving about by day harassing people and drinking alcohol.
On cabinet performances; if you do a check list of the missions of the ministries in our government, you will find less than 3 activities have been accomplished by each ministry. Take for instance the Ministry of Justice; up to date the 5 inter alia missions of that Ministry have not come to fulfillment -10 years later. The Ministry’s task of laying a strong foundation for a united, peaceful and prosperous South Sudan based on Justice, equality, respect for human rights and supremacy of the rule of Law has totally failed. People still languish behind bars. Justice is aborted in court of law. People are still being hanged, and criminals are still being set free. Justice is still being denied for all. Then there is the Ministry of Education which has not to date formed the South Sudan Examination Council. It has not increased the enrolment and retention of females; it has not established institutes of higher education that can produce people with relevant skills. We don’t have research centers or a single Laboratory at the University of Juba or Bahr el Ghazal or Upper Nile. Just check GOSS website and see each Ministry’s task.
With all these ignorance of tasks from every ministerial appointment, does President Salva Kiir ask for reports to evaluate the work of former ministers before he makes new appointments through his decrees? Does he instruct and demand results from the new appointees before taking oath, or oath is all that it is to it. Before a constitutional post holder like a minister can leave his position, President Kiir should demand that they outline their achievements and failures to the parliament, so that they are held accountable or appreciated by the public. We may be surprised that some of them misused the funds that were approved by the parliament for certain developmental projects. At that point the parliament, not even the President can recommend further investigations for any doubt perceived. As we speak there are several former ministers that we believed squandered a lot of money and are out of the system…with no one to recall and hold them accountable for cheating the people of South Sudan.
On health; it’s still a tragedy. Nearly a decade later our one and only main hospital in Juba is still experiencing power cuts. Babies are still dying over lack of oxygen, and the office of my leader is five minutes away from it. The story has been the same, no funds, then came austerity measures, and then they blame it on lack of professional doctors and nurses. Yes, you are underpaying doctors, and you are not providing them with good facilities to operate in at the hospital. You are not motivating the nurses, and showing our doctors serving abroad that there is work and food at home. The issue of electricity has not been given proper thought by my leader. If over 20 new born babies and mothers are dying weekly at the Juba Teaching Hospital because there is no fuel to run generators at the hospital, I don’t get it. Because, where do fuel for running generators that supply government offices with power 24 Hours come from? How are we able to supply part of the ministries with power at night and we are not able to supply power to the only place where people are dying daily? President Kiir can -if out of desperation -hook the power being supplied to his office at J1 to at least the theatre room at the hospital, because after all, he sleeps at the Presidential accommodation not in the office.
It’s possible to introduce low fuel consumption vehicles across the country instead of the V8s and this lavish car-entourage we see daily in our towns….then preserve the fuel being used at night and on the V8s for the supply of power to our main referral hospital.
And by the way, who pays for Ministers cars to be fueled even beyond work time? My President should introduce strict movement of vehicles beyond work time to save fuel. And this vehicles should be turn off when packed. It pains me when we allow drivers of these V8s to leave the engine running for over 5hours as the minister or other government officials meet, yet the Minister of Electricity is crying of lack of fuel to generate power for the hospital. Our parliament just woke up recently after the death of 2 children in the theatre room of the hospital…but these things have been happening and happening as we speak. They just woke up. This is because they don’t demand at least a monthly report from the executives. These council of ministers meeting chaired by my President should demand reports from ministers at least on the most important sectors in our country namely; security, health, education and the economy. To make my point on this power shortage issue and failure by the parliament to react; when the ACs at the national parliament failed to work and MPs were sweating in the assembly earlier this year, it brought up a heated debate…and the following week, all the ACs were fixed. Where did they get the fuel to propel the over one hundred air conditioners at the parliament…and they claim there is no fuel for the hospital?
All these years, non-governmental organizations have been constructing health centers and running them, and when given to us, we fail to keep up with its maintenance. Some NGOs are chased away from running hospitals that we ourselves can not sustain with supplies. Take for instance; Bor Civil hospital. When MSF was chased, the hospital shambled, until now. Then there is the Katiko Referral Hospital in Kapoeta, Eastern Equatoria state. Why would it be left to the mites to destroy the structure with all those modern equipment in it? We wanted it yet we can’t handle it…why not lease or hand it over as parastatals?
Most of our health facilities are getting inadequate supply of drugs and medical equipment. Patients in Juba and around the country still sleep on the floor waiting for treatment…and I wonder when was the last time my leader laid an eye on these hospitals to see the conditions…even when hundreds of wounded people are brought to Juba for further treatment. President Kiir needs to meet and talk to doctors to explain to him what the problems are and what they think could be a way out. I swear there are doctors with better ideas than the Ministers that can help the President resolve some of the consistent problems of our health care system, because they know these challenges. They live through it.
I want to talk about corruption. The billions that were lost from 2007 to date are as a result of laxity in the system. I mean who is going to accuse who when all of them where involved directly or indirectly? The parliament has always failed to look at the development changes and compare it to the budget that they pass every fiscal year. When the auditor general released the first report on money misused from 2007 to 2008. All the MPs could do was to refer the case back to the office of the President, as if the money stolen belongs to the President. They are the same people who passed the powers of the anti-corruption commission, and now they are appealing to the office of the President to give the anticorruption more teeth to prosecute corrupt individuals. I mean why not debate it; add the powers of the commission, and ask the President to sign it. Are they working in the interest of President Kiir or in the interest of their constituencies whose development money has just been stolen? They keep appealing for the exposure of the list of 75, and the President is not willing…do they just have to leave it like that…I thought the legislature has the people. What they forget is that the President is working for us…and so do they…they derive their mandate from us. The zero-tolerance campaign of President Salva Kiir is good, but my President is not instituting mechanisms that will punish violators…and he is not encouraging whistle blowers by promising them protection. He should hand over the list of the 75 to an independent commission that will carry out investigations and prosecute those complicit to the court of law. Let the Ministry of Justice present this cases to the court.
On relations with the Media; I don’t remember the last time President Salva Kiir had a one-on-one talk with the media. In the early days there used to be this program promoted rigorously on SSTV called; “Talk to the President”. I was so excited. But that has frozen in time. My leader recently spoke with admiration of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, but he is forgetting the simple trick of keeping people abreast…which is the use of media. President Paul Kagame has a monthly forum with the media where he personally addresses their questions on anything. He even has a personal website, a twitter and Facebook account, where his statements in text, audio or video forms are posted. This allows the public to know of the President’s personal plans and achievements as time goes. But instead of using the media, President Salva Kiir has isolated himself from the press throughout all his presidential tenure. My President only speaks to the press when there is a visit by President al-Bashir or selected head of states. He has resorted to what I believe he will be remembered for; the Decree-President. Even when forming his cabinet, he can’t see himself telling the public who he has chosen and why increase or decrease the number of ministers, but instead it is read by presenters on television.
In this era, my President needs to derive lessons from other Presidents. President Obama’s way of addressing the nation can be emulated. President Kiir should stay in touch with the press to answer their questions on policies and major decisions of the government in order to stop the nation from second-guessing. The complaints against the government we hear are because the public is kept in darkness by the government. The public don’t know what is going on, or what is coming. President Kiir should not wait for public events to speak to the people. He needs to report to his people, once in a while. They put him in there, and they deserve to know what’s going on. He should also have a mouthpiece that will not resort to intimidate the media by threatening them, someone who is never tired or irritated to answer questions from the journalists. He should appoint someone who will view that whatever he or she is saying is not for the consumption of the press but for the public…the people of South Sudan deserves to know what sort of President is running their affairs.
On the Opposition parties, my President needs to know, in every system, you need those who think different. The opposition does not only criticize your moves, but also give you better and honest ideas through their public criticism. Currently, our politics is politics of the might, where the well-established parties blackmail others. There are blackmails of causing public disorder, insecurity and supporting unconstitutional groups. The SPLM-DC has had a bitter share of these allegations. These allegations have also been publicly mentioned by my President, and I am sure he was told so by his trusted men. What they did wrong though was to ask him to ignore the mistreatment and harassments of opposition members in the country, because that gave the opposition a strong field to play in, a field where their voices and concerns are even heard louder than when the government never cared. Right now, everyone in the villages knows about the SPLM-DC and Dr. Lam Akol, even without the party campaigning. The moderate minded individuals are beginning to look at SPLM-DC as an alternative if the SPLM never put its house together… And as things look, the SPLM needs to do a lot from within itself to redeem its image. The SPLM-DC is staying, and is a force to reckon with. They have even cease from becoming the opposition to alternative voices in the parliament through Honorable Onyotti Adigo from the inside, and through their leader Dr. Lam Akol from the outside….but the SPLM still believes in history –forgetting that they are actually still writing history right now as a ruling party. President Salva Kiir recently said during the inauguration of the SPLM leadership office; The SPLM is the opposition. There is no opposition party, but the SPLM is opposing itself from within. He cited examples of governors doing their own stuff without consulting SPLM in the state; he talked of SPLM Caucuses opposing decisions of the executive –which happens to be led by the SPLM. These are bad signs. SPLM needs to learn from the ANC of South Africa –if they want to stay longer. President Kiir needs to lay down once again the principles of the SPLM and spearhead the restructuring of the party. He should not leave it to the secretariat alone. He needs to involve his colleagues in the SPLM politburo, because these are the guys that can pull the party down to its knees. He needs to hold regular meetings with the party and show directions. As said, a ruling party’s policy is the national policy.
Finally (for now) the elections that we are expecting are not about the history of the 21 years, but about what is being done now. What we don’t see happening now is what we will demand in the next elections. President Salva Kiir should remember that he doesn’t have to answer to his comrades…but to the citizens that elected him in 2010. He needs to prove to us; even in one day that he is the leader we all hoped he would be. He should come out, speak to us when there is a problem or a challenge. We need to be updated. Development may be slow, but we need to be told. In a country such as ours, President Kiir needs to distinguish between giving directives and advices. My President, Salva Kiir Mayardit stands a high chance of retaining that seat left to him by Dr. John Garang….if he can only come out and DO. We are to demand services and he is to command his cabinet to deliver services. He needs to speak to the media as a way of reconnecting with the public. The media wants him. The media is the medium he needs, so that all the mishaps in the country are not counted upon him. He is the people’s President….and he should live by that….with the people. President Salva Kiir needs to entice our minds with energy and hope. I want to HOPE.