By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda
March 2, 2017 (SSB) —- In South Sudan politics has destroyed the objectivity of the people. For that reason the life has become two ways, that is, one is either for them or against them but not in the middle road. In other words, when one makes objective statement which may appear to contradict what other people believe in, then such people will consider a person who disagrees with them as having been bribed.
However, if that person supports them, then the other side sees him or her as one of the corrupt people who can be bought with money in order to support the other side.
The above scenario is the problem that has been facing me. Many people whom I have written against always accused me of being bought so that I am used as proxy of their “enemies”. For instance, in the recent article I wrote against Gok Community Leadership in Juba, one person within leadership made a statement that he believed from that day that Daniel Juol Nhomngek is bought to write against people as some people have been saying it.
Therefore, after that explanation, he concluded that I was bought by some people within the Government of Gok State to write against them as a revenge of what they did to the Governor of Gok state when they wrote that Gok Community in Juba had withdrawn their confidence from the Governor of Gok State.
Of course, the above accusations are always there whenever someone offers him or herself to fight against vices in the community. In such a case, a person is always considered corrupt, uncouth and a useless person. However, instead of hitting back to such accusations, the best thing a person can do in such a situation is leave things to go with forces of perception but stand by the truth because at last the truth will set such a person free.
Thus, I cannot defend myself against all those allegations from those who call me corrupt or not having learned anything in the school of law or those who always question credibility of my education in law.
As I have stated above that I will not respond to such accusations, there are three reasons why I always ignore them— the first reason is that I have taken the responsibility to search for the truth and what guides me all the times is the truth. Hence, whenever there is a problem the first question that comes in my mind is: where is the truth?
Therefore, in whatever I do I do it in search of the truth but nothing the truth and because of that I believe the truth will defend me hence no need to answer back or respond to the allegations.
The second reason is that the society is highly corrupt and politicized so majority of the people do not judge objectively. Instead they will look at someone who is critical against them as having been bribed by their “enemies”. Therefore, their perception is that if one makes comment against them then he or she is bought or bribed or he or she is sycophant.
Under such circumstances, it is useless to defend oneself against all the accusations but the only defender we must always rely on is the truth. This is why I always ignore them because what I believe in is the truth and justice, which guides me in the path of searching for the truth.
Third and final reason is that I am a lawyer. The question then becomes, who is a lawyer. According to Wikipedia, a lawyer is defined as: a person who practices law, as an advocate, barrister, attorney, counselor or solicitor or chartered legal executive. Thus, working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
As seen in the definition of the lawyer from the Wikipedia above, the main functions of a lawyer is to provide legal services. However, lawyers in recent time have developed another function of being agents of change. In order to be agent of change, a lawyer must be social justice lawyer like me.
Social justice is the fair and just relation between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. Thus, social justice assigns rights and duties in the institutions of society, which enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation.
In that regard, the relevant institutions that are supposed to implement social justice programmes often include taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labour law and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equal opportunity and equality of outcome.
In relation to the above, what social justice lawyers or public interest lawyers do is fighting against all injustices that are faced by vulnerable people in the society. In order to fight against injustices one must have personal integrity.
Integrity is defined as bedrock of justice. When one has integrity he or she will never be bribed but will always go by the truth. Nonetheless, in the society like ours where money overrides everything the integrity is thrown to the dogs even among the lawyers. For example, the recent Sentry Report clearly illustrates the assertion I have just made in the foregoing sentence.
In brief, the Sentry Report found that lawyers played a crucial role in facilitating South Sudan’s violent kleptocratic system. The report noted that the paperwork for the formation of Combined Holding Limited—the company in which President Kiir’s 12-year-old son purportedly held a 25 percent stake as of early 2016—had to pass through the hands of a corporate lawyer and through the registrar of companies in Juba.
In addition, the Report found out that lawyers have also been involved in facilitating South Sudanese officials’ real estate acquisitions outside the country. As the Report points out, the home of Gen. Jok Riak in Kampala is not registered in his name. Rather, the deed for the home indicates that it is owned by a Ugandan national named Adrian Mubiru.
The report further stated that bank records reviewed by The Sentry indicate that Gen. Jok Riak transferred a total of $210,000 to an individual named “Adrian Mubiru” from November 2014 to February 2015.
When looking at the report above, then it is not easy to dispute the assertion of those in Juba that I am bribed as they believe that I am not behaving like the lawyers that they know, that is, those lawyers who act holy in the day but at night conspire against South Sudanese and how to take their resources using the skills that they acquire in practice.
However, to me whenever I make a decision that involves money and moral choice, the question that comes in mind always is: between money and integrity, what is important in lawyer’s life? To me as a lawyer what is important is not money but integrity.
For those who may not understand the term integrity, let me briefly explain what I meant by the term integrity. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards (see; integrity: Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason. McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2010. p. 12. ISBN 9780773582804. Retrieved 2013-10-15. Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical. Spiritual and artistic values and principles).
In ethics, integrity is regarded by many people as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with the standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding within themselves apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
The word integrity is rooted in history as it evolved from the Latin adjective integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
In that respect, it is important to note that the importance of integrity in people’s life not only lawyers has been given some significant attention in law and the conception of law in 20th century philosophy of law and jurisprudence centering in part on the research of Ronald Dworkin as studied in his book Law’s Empire. Dworkin’s position on integrity in law reinforces the conception of justice viewed as fairness.
For that reason, a value system‘s abstraction depth and range of applicable interaction may also function as significant factors in identifying integrity due to their congruence or lack of congruence with observation. A value system may evolve over time while retaining integrity, if those who espouse the values account for and resolve inconsistencies.
We can go on and on writing about the integrity but for our purpose the above discussion on integrity gives answer the question as: between money and integrity what is important in lawyer’s life. The answer is that integrity is important than money. When one does thing with integrity, he or she will never mind of what people say behind him or her but will always try to find the truth and stick to integrity.
In that respect, integrity is the most important things and it is the one that guides me in all activities that I do including writing. For instance, when I am writing I am always guided by integrity so that I must be as honest as I can. This implies that I will never be bought by anybody to write anything against anybody.
If I had allowed myself to be bought or used or allow the desire for money to override my personal integrity, by now I would have been one of the richest men in South Sudan since leaders in South Sudan love praises and propaganda. Hence, I would have been praising the leaders and work as their proxy or propaganda machine.
However, in my career as a lawyer, I have made a solemn promise to God that no in my life time will I allow myself to be compromised against any South Sudanese. For that reason, I must always be ready to do justice and fight against injustices which mean that if need be, I may die defending integrity and honesty and for the sake of justice.
In relation to the above point, what the people who accuse me as having been bought must know is that the reason I protect personal integrity is that I need to make great name through good work accompanied by justice but not wealth. This is because everything goes with time but good name will always remain or even used in naming other people which is the purpose of humanity. The purpose of humanity is to make sure that one name remains forever in the book of the living.
It is for the reason stated in the above paragraph, which enables me to allow myself to be guided by integrity rather than desire for money or friendship. Hence, sometime I may appear inconsistent when I agree with people in one occasion but disagree or even quarrel with them on other occasions. In such a case, a person or people I disagree with but who have not understood the principle (or integrity) I believe in, will conclude that I have been bought or bribe to disrupt him or her from making his or her points.
Because of the fact above, I always seek the truth in whatever I do and where I find that there is conspiracy or falsehood that may result into injustice, I openly disagree with people even if they are my friends. This was the reason I wrote against and in response to the allegations that Gok Community in Juba has withdrawn their confidence from Gok State.
I was not happy when I got that message because there was an element of unfairness against the Governor so I had to respond to the article in order to clear some points which were not correct. My point was that if the community of Gok State in Juba wanted to withdraw their confidence from the Governor then they must go on the ground to assess the conditions and after that informs the governor to defend himself if they want to impeach him.
However, the way it was done was unjust because the community leadership in Juba was acting on hearsay, which is injustice because hearsay is not allowed in law unless it falls under some exceptional circumstances which were not met in that case.
For that reason, I had to intervene because there was no truth in what the community was planning against the governor and my intervention against them might have made them wonder as to why I contradicted myself since from beginning, I criticized the State and the Governor on Taxation Act of 2016. The reason for contradicting myself on the two points is that there was injustice in the last case against the Governor of Gok State while in the first one there was injustice against the people of Gok State. So, I could not treat them equally. In short, where I see injustice I oppose it irrespective of which side raising it.
In summary, I would like to conclude on the importance of integrity with the quotation from Bob Marley who once observed that “the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”. On the same point, Dennis Prager points out that “goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people”.
To emphasize the importance of integrity in lawyers’ life, I have to say that I will never be bought with money by anybody to violate the rights of other people through corruption. I have taken full responsibility to do poor if I do not work hard after finishing with my studies. It is my belief that what matters is not the amount of time one spends in school but the amount of work one does.
In that respect, I am committed follower of the truth, humility and justice. I do not want to be good to any person in particular but I always want to be just to all.
Hence, as I have already stated above, I do not want to defend myself but what I have done in this work is to explain to the people the reasons I appear inconsistent in my approach to issues.
Up to this point, I would like to conclude by saying that those who say that I am bribed whenever I disagree with them on some societal important matters are free to conclude as such otherwise the truth is my witness and defender.
NB//: the authority is South Sudanese lawyer residing in Uganda and can be reached through: +firstname.lastname@example.org
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