Point of Clarification: Who is the Founding Father of South Sudan?           

Posted: October 19, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Atem Wek Deng, Australia

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October 19, 2016 (SSB) —- The issue with respect to who is or should be the Founding Father of South Sudan between Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit can be a very sensitive and, indeed, a divisive one for the people. The presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, has recently penned an opinion in which he declared President SALVA KIIR Mayardit quite boldly as the Founding Father of South Sudan.

This has caused an outrage to some quarters on social media, with some going to the extreme length of waging personal attack on the Presidential Spokesperson. That should perhaps not come as surprise to anyone, given the highly sensitive nature of the matter for some people. However sensitive the matter maybe, however, an argumentum ad hominiem is hardly meritorious and should be desist from.

However, the key question we should answer, and there are many questions we can possibly ask in this respect, in determining who, between Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit is the Founding Father of South Sudan as a nation, is, what makes one a Founding Father of the nation? Are there any objective criteria that one must or should satisfy in order to qualify as a Founding Father? I make attempts to answer these two simple questions in the hope of clarifying what seems to be an enigma for most, if not all, South Sudanese.

There are two competing views with regard to what makes one a Founding Father of the nation. These views are, in Western political history, generally referred to as narrow view and wide view. When we talk of Western political history, we are predominantly referring to the American revolutionary movement, which led to the colonial independence of America from Great Britain in 1776.

The narrow view of what makes one a Founding Father of the nation refers to Founding Father as one or those who signed the declaration of independence for the nation and framed and signed the founding law of the nation- the constitution. The wide view, on the hand, refers to Founding Fathers as not necessarily the signers of the declaration of independence and framers of the constitution, but broadly as a committed group of nationalists who actively took part in the war of independence. According to this view, Founding Fathers are those who had made “conspicuous” collective contributions during the movement, leading to the attainment of nationhood.

Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit contributions to the movement

It is incontestable that Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit, among others, largely contributed to the war of liberation of South Sudan from a ruthless totalitarian regime in Khartoum. Dr. Garang was the architect of the movement and led the movement until the time of his tragic death in an aircrash in 2005. It is an undeniable reality that Dr. Garang’s ideas and vision helped shape the movement.

To his credit, Dr. Garang, with the help of a few Western nation, and particularly the Bush Administration, successfully negotiated and signed the CPA- a landmark peace accord that ultimately gave the people of South Sudan the right to determine their political destiny. The CPA is one of the living and memorable legacies of Dr. Garang. Following the signing of the CPA, Dr. Garang became the First Vice President of Sudan and an interim President of the then semi-autonomous Southern Sudan, established under the CPA.

President S. K Mayardit, on the other hand, was in the high commanding position when the movement was incepted and became the deputy chairman in the later years of the movement. He was elected unopposed to the leadership of the SPLM after the death of Dr. Garang in 2005. With all the intolerable aggressions from the regime in Khartoum which was hell-bent to see the CPA collapsed, President SALVA KIIR Mayardit showed a rare demeanour of leadership during the interim period and led the Interim Government of the semi-autonomous Southern Sudan to the day of independence proclamation- the 9th of July 2011.

As for the key question that we need to answer for the purposes of this opinion, it need not be itemised that Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit gave their all to the liberation of South Sudan from Sudan. It was a spirited, collective work that ultimately brought about the independence of South Sudan. All South Sudanese are indebted to Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit for their sacrifices. However, if we apply the narrow view of what makes one a Founding Father, as outlined above, we will find that Dr. Garang died right before South Sudan became a nation.

He signed neither the declaration of independence of South Sudan, nor The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan that declared South Sudan as an independent nation. Needless to say, but the honour of signing both the declaration of independence and The Transitional Constitution into law was bestowed on none other than President SALVA KIIR Mayardit. So, if this view is to be accepted, then it is inarguable that President SALVA KIIR Mayardit is the Founding Father of South Sudan as a nation. It is understandable that this would not sit well with those with entrenched belief about Dr. Garang as some kind of a demigod.

If, however, we apply the wide view of what makes one a Founding Father, we will find that Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit, as the leading members of committed nationalistic South Sudanese, made indelible contributions to the liberation of South Sudan from Sudan. On this account, we can collectively regard Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit and those other freedom fighters as the Founding Fathers of South Sudan as a nation. However, owing to Dr. Garang’s position of leadership in the movement, it should be less contentious to regard him as the Foundingest of all the Founding Fathers of South Sudan.

Are there any objective criteria for Founding Father?

Literature on Founding Father as a topic with a special political significance indicates that there are no objective criteria that one must satisfy in order to qualify as a Founding Father of the nation. The attainment of this highly reverential title is based on visible achievements that one had made to the founding of a nation. However, the achievements and what one deserves can sometimes, if not always, be a matter of opinion and matters of opinion are hardly reconcilable.

Ateny Wek Ateny expressed his opinion about who he thinks deserves the title of Founding Father between Dr. Garang and SALVA KIIR Mayardit, based on his own assessment of the achievements of these two personalities. We can all agree or disagree with him but, like any of us, he is entitled to his opinion on this matter.

The uproar which Ateny’s opinion has caused is, with due respect, unwarranted. It once again shows how much a long way we have got to go as a political community, in terms of accommodating our diverging political opinions and in engaging in a civilised and objective intellectual political debate.

It is true that the political prejudices of the time or ideological predispositions can sometimes mar the truth about something and this seems to be the case in this development. However, as outlined in the preceding parts of this opinion, it all comes down to what view one takes, at least in my view. The view that would seem to reflect the popular opinion of the South Sudanese is that both Dr. Garang and President SALVA KIIR Mayardit, among other nationalist South Sudanese, are our Founding Fathers. Some may disagree with this view but it should be at least less controversial and less divisive for the people.

Even in the United States of America where one of the world’s greatest revolutionary movements took place, for example, you will find that the title, Founding Father, is accorded to a number of statesmen, notwithstanding the fact that George Washington was the leader of the movement. So, it is all about having made visible collective contributions to the attainment of nationhood.

Nelson Mandela is regarded as the Founding Father of modern nation- state of South Africa because of the sacrifices he had made and the suffering he endured, but there were a handful of other South Africans who fought fiercely against the political oppression and apartheid and deserve to be called the Founding Fathers. Desmond Tutu and Stephen Biko are the obvious examples in this regard.

Though this opinion has not been able to address all the aspects of what qualifies one to be a Founding Father of the nation, it should at least clear what seems enigmatic for some South Sudanese. At the end of the day, we individually choose who our heroes/heroines are, based on some kind of natural attachment to a particular leader.

No doubt that the debate about who is the true Founding Father of South Sudan will continue to rage for South Sudanese for quite some time. However, if anything is to brush aside our political prejudices and ideological predispositions and guide us in understanding who our Founding Fathers are, it is the two views discussed in this opinion.

You can reach the author via his email: Mr Mark Deng <marko.wek@uqconnect.edu.au>

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.

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Comments
  1. Deng Deng says:

    Some foolish members of foolish majority called Bar-el-Ghazal, cultured by their wrong politicians are the ones considering Salva Kiir, the father of the nation but the people of South Sudan and the whole world know very well Dr. Garang as the father of South Sudan.God will not allows that one happen because he created Dr. Garang purposely for that reason. Your days are numbered.

    Like

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