The Economic Grounds for Government Legitimacy

Posted: February 1, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Mayen Ayarbior, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By David Mayen Ayarbior, Juba, South Sudan



February 1, 2017 (SSB) —- As Israelites found themselves in the wilderness of Egypt without food they blamed Moses for their plight. He had taken the mantle of leadership and claimed to have God’s favour on his side, which he later proved through miracles. While trapped in the desert without food, the legitimacy of Moses was questioned and almost stripped until God intervened with Manna from heaven. That was an example of how economic wellbeing is at the heart of the sources of legitimacy.

In all African tribal communities chiefs confirm their legitimacy through providing economically for their tribes. If their spear masters fail to conjure the spirits of rain; if hunters fail to catch preys, and if harvests continue to fail, then the chief and his henchmen would be accused as having fallen out of favour with the gods of rain and harvest.

Whether harvest failure could be caused by locusts or flooding is always immaterial. Consequently, new tribesmen would claim to have those powers to communicate with the spirits of rain, hence given legitimacy to rule and provide for the wellbeing of the tribe.

At the level of nation-states, the social contract between citizens and government is premised on a programme of social service provision on the interior and protection from external aggression. The former is purely security, economics and economics.

The longevity of governments have always depended (70 per cent) on economic success. Just like Chiefs and their councils and spear-masters in the tribal setting, whether a government blames its economic shortfalls on the lack of rains or insecurity, tribesmen/women will always listen to those who promise better economic outcomes and elect them to office.

This is not a call against a government to which I am a technocrat, it is rather an appeal to urgently rethink and adopt new strategies that could salvage the dire situation of the downtrodden citizens of South Sudan.

It would be foolhardy of ten to twenty senior citizens (leaders) to think that the delusional exclusionary rhetoric of owning the people’s revolution (“we liberated you”) should bestow eternal legitimacy to their rights to rule. Legitimacy must be earned and sustained by uninterrupted economic success throughout a political party’s time in government.

What I am endeavoring to project here is that government legitimacy, even in kingdoms, is performance-based. In our current unfortunate economic reality, induced inflation has hit over 1500% (one thousand five hundred percent). Goods that used to be ten (10) SSP before December 2015 are now more than 160 SSP. Those that were 150 SSP like a 20 kgs bag of maize flour are now 2400 SSP.

Many government employees especially in states have started running to UNMISS PoC sites just to get a monthly ration for their kids to survive, since their salaries couldn’t afford to just pay transport costs, let alone feed and medicate their offspring. The streets are full of innocent children who are begging left-and–right instead of being at school. Some civil servants have preferred to ride Boda-bodas (motorbike for transporting people) than wait for a government pay that is worth less than a 20 kgs bag of maize flour.

The economic cataclysm which has befallen our helpless people could be more a consequence of erroneous application of economic theories than it might be an unavoidable outcome of the civil war and international oil prices. While war is surely a factor which negatively affects economic growth everywhere, it is not the main reason why we have economically underperformed.

There may be some logic in those excuses (i.e. war, oil prices, etc.), but they constitute less than half the truth. As a matter of fact, our “prominent” economists have perfected the act of misinterpreting, misunderstanding and misapplying economic theories, leading to dragging the country (people) into the mud of abject poverty and indignity.

Unless one is spiritually (or financially) detached from the hardship the masses at the grass roots are undergoing, reports of mass starvation in our country should not be brushed aside as propaganda. Most of the agricultural fields around Juba that used to compete for market with the foodstuffs from Uganda are now abandoned because of insecurity. Those formerly lush green villages along Juba-Nimuli road and Juba-Morobo-Kaya road which used to provide cassava, sweet potatoes, and all kinds of vegetables are now like ghost towns, totally deserted.

Now we have a new Minister of Finance with a new team to manage the country’s fiscal policy. We also have a new Governor of the Central Bank and a new team to manage the country’s monetary policy. They just had a meeting where they brainstormed on how to streamline the country’s fiscal and monetary policies so us to force a U-turn on the current bumpy path on which the country was erroneously forced.

Because of the new changes, the country is awaiting positive results from the new team. Civil servants and their dependents are in prayers that they will soon be able to take their kids to school and avail them two square meals per day, let alone medication.

An economy that cannot enable a senior civil servant to afford his/her children the three basics of life (food, shelter and medication) is a failed and mismanaged economy.

Let the new team not listen for a minute to those who already destroyed the economy. If they must succeed in their work, let them not get any advice from those people (we all know them, the camouflaged economic rebels).

We all wish them success, for their work shall contribute a great deal to government legitimacy and electability in 2018.

 Mayen Ayarbior (BA, MA, LLB) Author of: House of War (Civil War and State Failure in Africa) 2013.

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 SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. Eastern says:

    Those in Kiir’s exclusionist government and by extension their uninformed followers continue to wallow in denial that all is well. The county’s meagre resources are haemorrhaging through the war effort waged against the mushrooming armed opposition with no victory in sight.

    The common South Sudanese should brace themselves for harder times ahead…..


  2. Gatwich S. says:

    Cde. Ayarbior, your article is one of the most sincere which explain the crisis in our country.
    Our economists are the biggest enemies of the people. They are sadists who enjoy suffering of others. They are failed and the continue to fail but they still in positions as advisor.
    They even want to increase fuel price in coming days- mark my word.
    I wish we have ten people like you, Ayarbior, our country will be like New York I am very sure.
    Keep up the good work for our people.


    • Dengda says:

      Very encouraging comment from Gawich and well thought article from David Mayen Ayarbior, this what is called patriotism, not like kind of patriotism from supporters of any party. Being concern about country and her citizens is what we need now, not ruling party nor my uncle is X and Y in government. Sometime I broke down when I see innocent suffering from hunger and disease because of war. God gave us huge natural resources, God didn’t give us guns but fertile land, so sad indeed, painful thing though our politicians dwell on denial and deception and not acknowledging the reality and problem we all face. Priority is peace and full implementation of ACRSS with all people of South Sudan and not being selective, the country is big and can accommodate us all. ACCRSS with Riek and Lam and National Dialogue with other dissents group who carrying arms and problem would be solved and donors and investors will rescued the dying economic and that is the bottom line.


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