By Simon Yel Yel, Juba, South Sudan
January 10, 2017 (SSB) — It was on Tuesday, the 3rd of January, the first work day of 2017 when President Salva Kiir Mayardit inked the polemical appointment of Gen. Gregory Deng at J1. It was exactly the third day of the New Year and the New Year’s wishes were still fresh in everyone’s mind. With that appointment, President has controversially coloured the wishes of the New Year.
For some in Gogrial state (Pres. Kiir’s own state) who thought that 2016 was not fair to them economically and politically because of former governor Gum being in power, and they were wishing the New Year to come with many desirable items on its menu ranging from political to economical, I want to say congratulations!
President Kiir has served you with Gen. Gregory on gubernatorial plate as your best New Year wish on the 2017 political menu. Maburuk! to those who tie their political fortunes to the political success of Gen. Gregory that, please, enjoy but don’t forget that there are many challenges lying ahead there and if you don’t work hard to maintain this seat by delivering what is expected of you to the people of Gogrial state, then be mindful what brought Gregory may take him away any time.
To those who are mourning the removal of Gum and thinking that it is their end and a bad kick start of 2017, I want to tell them that, be strong, “PINY ATOU ALONG DET”… President Gives and President Takes!
Arguably, the appointment of Gen. Gregory as a governor for President’s home state has glimmered a lot of debate on social media. The appointment did not only draw mixed reactions from Gogrial state natives but throughout the country with some SPLM politicians, writers and analysts defining it in their own terms.
“I disagree sharply with the President’s decision to appoint his brother-in-law as the governor of Gogrial state. This decision is against the SPLM principle of equality and Justice; it is a clear sign of bad governance because this post is electable and any appointment can’t be done based on marital/social or any similar blood/favoritisms relations,” blasts Suzanne Jambo, former SPLM secretary for external affairs (now a opponent of the president).
Meanwhile, Agel Riing Machar, a senior member of SPLA-IO (Vice-president Taban’s faction) Military Council and a former youth leader, chipped in: “The debate should focus on his capability and track records rather than his relationship with the President. He is an excellence choice for the portfolio. The people of Gogrial state can benefit from his connections and influence at the National level as well as regionally and internationally in areas of business and governance.”
To define this appointment based on South Sudanese standard, there is no way that it would fit in any description rather than “nepotism” given the way we view things with our tribal or communal/sectional lenses where one’s relationship with an employer always triumphs one’s capability.
However, to define this appointment based on law, it is on “meritocracy.” In America, when President John F. Kennedy appointed his younger brother, Robert, as an attorney General, some media pundits and analysts described the appointment as based on nepotism rather than on merits.
Robert Francis was argued to be under-qualified for the job because he was only 35 years old with a few years of legal service as legal counsel to two senate committees; however, with the backing of his brother, he passed the senate vetting.
“It is not simply good enough to name a bright young political manager, no matter how bright or how young or how personally loyal, to a major post in government”, the New York Times editorialized after the nomination.
A member of Senate later observed, “it was nepotism, I mean; he was the brother of the President”. Anthony Lewis, a veteran courts reporter said “though it was simply awful idea, Kennedy was a zealot with no understanding of the terrible responsibilities of an attorney General.”
After the assassination of President Kennedy, his successor, President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 was prompted by the appointment of Robert to lobby and sign into law a Nepotism statue prohibiting a President from appointing a family member.
Legally speaking, it is generally agreed among legal scholars that “Nepotism”, for purposes of the law, refers to the hiring and advancement of un- or under-qualified relatives simply by virtue of their relationship with an employer or officer. In other words, it’s only restricted if the appointee is not qualified for the position.
So, given how nepotism is viewed legally, and therefore could be argued in court, for the purpose of law, Gregory has both academic merits and experiences that can qualify him not only for gubernatorial portfolio but for any portfolio in Kiir’s government or in any other government to come.
The question of nepotism can be licit only if we have anti-nepotism law in our constitution like in the U.S.A and if he were under-qualified for the job. Unfortunately, with the absolute absence of such law as of now in our constitution, we can only objurgate the appointment made by any public officials such as the President, ministers, or governors as based on “nepotism” only if the appointee has no merits or under-qualified to claim that post.
It is also up to our legislators to legislate an anti-nepotism law if they see that the appointment of Gregory could possibly open a Pandora box of nepotism and may be of advantage to some corrupt public officials who might use it as an ambiguity to employ their unqualified relatives.
Therefore, it is upon our legislators whether to legislate it or not or the public should shut up feeble and incoherent arguments of fanciful articles in our constitution being infracted by the appointment of relatives by public officials. Gregory didn’t become President’s brother-in-law in 2017 nor did he divulge his political ambitions to lead people (in various capacities) after Kiir assumed presidency.
Gregory got his first political assignment in 2002 by late Dr. John Garang as the first commissioner for Gogrial East County. He is brilliant, thoughtful, politically ambitious, undoubtedly articulate, and wondrously learned with good qualities of a leader; however, the history of defunct Warrap politics of “stabbing the back” and his previous records in commissionership office can be the best guide to foretell his success or failure, politically, socially, and security-wise.
He has his own political ambitions to achieve and he had laid bare his desire many times to be a governor of the defunct Warrap state before and after 2010 elections. In 2010, Gregory was among the three gubernatorial aspirants for Warrap state whose names were sent to SPLM political bureau in Juba for final nomination of one candidate to battle it out with other candidates in 2010 General Elections.
Unluckily, Gregory lost the nomination to Nyandeng Malek, however, he accepted the decision of political bureau and campaigned vigorously for Nyandeng to win the election. Sometimes later after her election, Gregory fell out with Nyandeng and joined the voices calling for her removal.
Debatably, with the election time remaining uncertain and the life span of the presidency that you can’t predict, Gregory had run out of long wait for General Election to contest but to lobby Gogrial community and other political deities to support him and convince the President that it is now a high time for Gregory to govern Gogrial state.
Gregory is an entity, a person with his own political ambitions different from Kiir’s and has a right to enjoy all the rights and privileges that every citizen in South Sudan is entitled to in our constitution; and it is unfair to divest him of these rights because of his mere relationship with the President.
Therefore, what matters the most is not how Gregory is related to the President but whether or not he has what it takes to be in that position. For example, does he have clear track records? Does he understand the values and ideals of the state that he is going to govern? Does he understand the urgent need of the people of Gogrial state? Does he understand that he is now a politician and his high military ranks can’t immune him from being condemned if he does something wrong?
Does he understand that the military philosophy of “whatever your boss says is true” doesn’t work in politics; and does he understand that in politics, critics or dissidents are not jailed, intimidated, prosecuted, or exiled, but are given freedom of expression and debate them with open mind and challenge them with your achievements?
In conclusion, Gregory has been looking for this job for so long and now he has it. It is incumbent on him to clearly spell and work out his programs why had he been after this job for so long. Gregory must take this assignment as a full time job and prove it to all people that he has political agendas in mind to implement and he is capable of holding any other senior government position than gubernatorial post.
In fact, many rich politicians like him often go for politics to top up their richness with power while others go for politics to change the lives of their people. Whether he is going to top up his riches with power or transform the lives of the people of Gogrial state, only time will tell.
Mr. Governor, don’t smile too much, they will think otherwise; remember always, all eyes are on you!
Simon Yel Yel is co-editor (with Paanluel Wel) of the book of the President Kiir’ speeches and essential writings published in two volumes as “Salva Kiir Mayardit: The Joshua of South Sudan.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +211914474471
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