Identifying the Patriot: How Do We Know that Someone Loves South Sudan?

Posted: April 19, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda


Presidential dinner for X-mass

April 19, 2017 (SSB) —- In South Sudan, the love of the country is not differentiated from the love of personalities or politicians.  This is because people become more associated with different politicians than the country hence leaving the country uncared for. The root cause of this attitude is because the country is equated with money or employment to get money from the government.

As one observed by Dr. John Garang, Sudanese (and now South Sudanese) people view government as source of income hence, the country becomes associated with the government and where individuals are not employed in the government they become enemies of the country or the state.

The whole matter goes back to the failure to understand what a country is.  The country as defined by other writers is a land mass with distinct borders or territorial boundaries occupied by permanent population who are governed by strong or effective government that is capable of entering into the international valid agreements with other countries.

Hence, the above definition of the Country is based on the concept found in the international law since the country is a product of the recognition of a country or state by other countries, which is governed by the international law. Thus, before I go into discussion of how to identify a patriotic person in any country, and in particular in South Sudan, let me brief discuss the concept of a state or a country under the International law.

According to Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States the criteria or elements of statehood in international law are as: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states (for better understanding of sovereign state, also see; Shaw, Malcolm Nathan (2003). International law. Cambridge University Press. p. 178). These criteria or elements are what make a state a state or a sovereign state.

Hence, Wikipedia summarizes definition of the sovereign state under the international law as a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area ( definition is to some extent true though it has left out some aspects such as permanent population and distinction boundaries. Nonetheless, there is an element of truth in it as some of the States exist without clear boundaries as seen in the case of South Sudan whose most of its boundaries are likely or are being disputed today. This is gap is only filled by the fact that under the international law what is looked at is the government, which is considered as a symbol of sovereignty of a state.

In fact, without defining the State in term of the government as seen above, many countries would have not been recognized as sovereign state since there are many countries with disputed boundaries or borders as pointed out in the example of South Sudan above other countries not mentioned above (see; In addition, if the population were the only criterion used in determining the existence of the state, some of the countries whose population has left the country as refugees due to war would have also ceased to exist under the international law. Hence, it is safer to mostly relying on the government to recognize the state as defined by Wikipedia as given above.

The clear example is that of South Sudan, Syria and other countries whose population have run away and if the population or boundaries were the sole criteria then they would have ceased to exist under the international law but because the definition of a country is mostly understood in term of government, these countries are still respected as sovereign State.

Having briefly discussed the Sovereign State above, it is important to go back to my topic for this discussion as I have summarized in the question as to: how do we identify a person who loves a country? In other words, how do we identify that someone loves the country, that is, so and so is a patriotic person!

As this discussion is about patriotism and how to identify a patriotic person, let’s first discuss the term patriotism in details and then later discuss what shows that someone loves a country. In that regard, we can say that the word “patriotism” refers as to an attachment to a homeland. This attachment can be viewed in terms of different features relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects (see; “Nationalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy;” and also see;

As seen above, patriotism encompasses a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism. Hence, this definition points to the fact that patriotism is nationalism which comes from love of a nation, which in some instances when it is in excess then it is called chauvinism or jingoism.

Jingoism is nationalism in the form of aggressive foreign policy (see; Catherine Soanes (ed.), Compact Oxford English Dictionary for University and College Students (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 546).  Jingoism also refers to a country’s advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, Jingoism refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others, which an extreme type of nationalism.

Historically, the English term patriot (or patriotism) was first attested in the Elizabethan era, through Middle French from Late Latin (6th century) patriota, which at that time means “countryman”, ultimately from Greek πατριώτης (patriōtēs), meaning ‘from the same country’, from πατρίς (patris), meaning ‘fatherland’. Hence, the abstract noun patriotism appears in the early 18th century.

Originally, when the State and religion were considered one, patriotism or loyalty to the State was synonymous with that of the Church.  However, in 18th Century the term became only associated the State and because of that the Enlightenment thinkers of 18th-century Europe, redefined patriotism as loyalty to the state. In coming up with this definition, these Enlightenment thinkers argued that clerics should not be allowed to teach in public schools since their patrie was heaven, so that they could not inspire love of the homeland in their students.

In addition, Enlightenment thinkers criticized what they saw as the excess of patriotism. For that reason, in 1774, Samuel Johnson published a book called, The Patriot, which is a critique of what he viewed as false patriotism. On the evening of 7 April 1775, he made the famous statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Scoundrel means a person who is an unprincipled, dishonorable or villain. The people of this nature are common today in our country, and in particular, are working in the heart of the Government of South Sudan. They are the ones prosecuting real South Sudanese patriots as they keep on pampering or flattering our leaders without telling them the truth and because of them, country fell into deep crises.

Due to false pretense of some people who pretend to be patriots yet they are working on their own interests, the Philosophers developed the difference between true patriotism and false one. The true patriots are those who love the country more than even leaders and if the leaders are against the State as we see in South Sudan and in other African countries, then they can even wage a war against those leaders to bring change if such leaders have rejected the reforms as they demanded. The question then becomes: how do you identify a true patriot?

 True patriots are those who put national interest above their personal interests. For instance, Mandela of South Africa, Nyerere of Tanzania, Martin Lurther King Jr of the USA, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi of India , José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano  of Uruguay and others who sacrifice to save the interest of the nation are examples of true patriots. This is because they had served their countries faithfully and with true love, which showed that they were patriots.

In the same perspective, a true patriot is a person who does not steal or bury money of the nation underground or it is not a person who puts money in a coffin like a dead person just because he or she wants to take much money compared to other people. In that regard, a true patriot is a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

 In other words, a true patriot is a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the government. Thus, we can say that the SPLA of 1983-2005 and some of the SPLA currently were and are still true patriots since they loved or love South Sudan now and were or are ready to die for it without fear or for no any other considerations.  Hence, the true patriot is someone who loves the nation unconditionally and if need be he or she must die while defending it.

Without more, we can also say that a true patriot is someone who loves South Sudan more than his or her own life, tribes, kinsmen or women. It is someone who is ready to die for the country even if he or she is not paid anything. This means that a true patriot is someone who acts with fairness or someone who treats people equally and to punish those relate to him if they have wronged other people and also punish other people if they have wronged those related to him.

A true patriot is someone who does not discriminate people that these people are from Khartoum or from East Africa or from West but it is someone who receive and protect people because they are people and also South Sudanese. Therefore, a true patriot must reward or punish people, he or she is dealing with at equal rate.

In my understanding, a true patriot is someone who does not care about personal security caused by threats from thieves or criminals as his or her defender is the truth and must be ready to defend the truth even at the costs of his or her life.  A true patriot in that aspect is someone who respects other people and work for the success of all.   As Mark Twain once puts it, a true patriot is someone whose “Loyalty to country is ALWAYS Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

The above statement of Marks Twain means that the government must be respected only if it does what the people want, however, when the government breaches the truth people places in it then the people must stop being loyal to the government but turn around to defend the country against the government.  Hence, a true patriot is someone who stands by the country.

As Theodore Roosevelt observes, true patriotism “does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is, therefore, patriotic to support the president or other government officials insofar as they efficiently serve the country…, it is unpatriotic not to oppose the President to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he or she fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

Killing people in the name of defending unjustified national interest or national security which is in fact a defense of personal interest of the leadership does not present patriotism but it is a disgrace to civilization, which should be done away with at once. In the same rate, senseless brutality, killings, deplorable love-of-country stance and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism is personal interest and does not show love of the country. It is, thus, to use the language of Einstein, ‘my conviction that killing under the cloak of defense of national interest and security is nothing but an act of murder’.

Fighting for power without compromising which leads to the deaths of thousands of people due to war and other war related problems is lack of patriotism. A real patriot is someone who gives up his or her personal interests for the sake of saving the nation. Thus, a real patriot is someone who believes in ability and success of others for the good of the nation.

As James Baldwin once observed “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” This statement is to the effect that a real patriot always tells the truth or criticizes the authorities who violate the system or the truth.  In that regard a “patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

On patriotism, Aristotle once observed in Selected Writings from the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics that “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”  In the same line, Barack Obama argued in one of his speeches that “In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.” This means that if we love the country we must not be cowed into silence but we must fight to change the situation for the better and keep on protecting our rights, rights of others, our welfare and the welfare of others.

A true patriot is someone who does not discriminate others to protect personal interest but it is a person who treats people equally irrespective of their creed, or birthplace, or origin. Interpreting this in context of South Sudan, it may mean that a true patriot is someone who loves all fellow citizens equally and be ready to defend them against each other and against the state’s interference from the state and also tells the state “when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly and viciously” that what it is doing is wrong and must desist from continuing with such dishonourable work.

To addition more, I must say that true patriots are the SPLA soldiers who are proud, privileged, disciplined, self-respected, proud in their unit and their country with a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to their superiors, and a self confidence born of demonstrated ability though their salaries are always stolen from them by superiors.

If you get a person who meets some of the above descriptions of who is a true patriot, then, you know that he or she is the true patriot. I must say that patriotism does not mean blind and unconditional love for leaders, but it means unconditional love for a country but conditional love for leaders. This further means that leaders must be loved as long as they love the country and do what country wants but when they have become kings and fail to do what the country wants then they must either be corrected or discarded if they refuse correction.

In conclusion, it must be emphasized by repeating the words of Mark Twain that patriotism is supporting one’s country all the time, and one’s government when it deserves it. The kind of loyalty we have to our country must not be the same as to that we have to its institutions or its officeholders.

In fact, the country as it has been observed “is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.”

Where the system is corrupt, then fighting corruption is not just to change things to ensure good governance but it is self-defense, that is, it is patriotism as Joe Biden once observed. In short, Real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when it’s wrong.

Hence, I call upon all South Sudanese people to differentiate between the government and the country called South Sudan. South Sudanese must love South Sudan as matter of necessity and be ready to fight against any leader that is destroying the country irrespective of how they are related to them or to us. In doing that we can change South Sudan for the better from where it is now.

NB// the author is human rights lawyer and can be reached through:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is 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 and the country you are writing from.

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