Let Us Get $18 Million and Let Them Eat Cake: The Neobourgeoisie of South Sudan

Posted: July 26, 2018 by mayendengdit in Junub Sudan, Mayen Ayarbior


By David Mayen Dengdit, Denver-Colorado, USA

18 million dollar bonus for MP

Thursday, July 26, 2018 (PW) — The famous phrase “Let them eat cake” has been used in revolutionary rhetoric to depict a state of total disconnect between the rulers and the ruled which precedes revolutionary overthrow of governments. It was made by Marie Antoinette (wife of King Louis of France). When she was informed about a deadly famine in the kingdom and miserable state of the peasants which reached the extent that they had no bread to feed their starving children, she replied: Let them eat cake!

That disconnect with the suffering of the people triggered the greatest revolution in modern history: The French Revolution 1789, which led to the storming of the presidential palace, abolishing of the monarchy, ousting of King Louis XVI and establishment of “The Republic.”  Of all those events, the most important was the issuing of “The Declaration of the Rights of Man [meaning human at that time] and of the Citizen.”

In that connection, over three centuries later news have trickled from Juba that Members of Parliament were given $40,000 each for buying cars and houses. This move has incensed South Sudanese everywhere in the world, particularly ordinary citizens within the country, refugees, IDPs, civil servants, and members of security organs.

No one is against our MPs in their quest for descent living to be at par with their counterparts in the region. In normal circumstances- emphasis on the word normal- an MP should be able to afford their families the basic necessities of life such as shelter, education, healthcare, etc. Driving to work may be secondary to those “basic goods,” yet it remains one of those basic expectations. So, again, no one is against our MPs.

Now, going back to the foundational theories of social contract which define, inter alia, our social and political roles in a country, the sum of $40,000 given to MPs at this critical times sounds a stretch way too far: a let them eat cake kind of event. First of all, before getting their new status, MPs are primarily normal citizens who are “elected” by their constituencies to deliver needed service to the people.

In the case of our country, let’s examine the state of affairs in those constituencies which are defined as counties (with their lower level Payams and Bomas). One “basic necessity” needed at those levels is clean drinking water. $40,000 can build ten boreholes (a.k.a donkis) in each constituency (county) at the cost of $3500 per each borehole (donki). The standard service one borehole is expected to provide is constant clean drinking water for more than twenty years to over 500 families. In that logic, what is more important: a car for one MP or ten boreholes to their constituencies? Since they people have no water, the $40,000 Mary Antoinette’s reply by the Juba regime is: “let them drink juice.”

For context, let’s examine one state of affairs in a constituency I lived in for 13 years, Juba city. Those MPs who represent various Juba constituencies have miserably failed to strike that balance between service delivery (collective needs) and personal needs (a car). Take the state of the main roads in Gumbo, Munuki, Hai Referendum and Gudele which are constituencies of more than half a million people (the largest population concentration in Juba). During the rainy season, civil servants (including lecturers, DGs and doctors), students and pupils as young as 5 years old, walk in the mud in order to reach their offices, hospitals and schools.

That miserable state of affairs could have been addressed by $40,000 to $80,000 allocation for each of the main roads in those neighborhoods. There are three major roads (about just two miles long each) in these constituencies. They link inhabitants to the only one tarmac road (Luri presidential farm to Juba/airport) where they either start getting transport or walking to work for as long as ten miles every day. What is needed there is just a drainage system and compact hard soil (maram) which can be found abundantly for free along Juba-Terekeka road.

Because of stagnant water, tens of thousands of people in those constituencies will suffer from Malaria year-in-year-out. Many children (under 5) have been dying of malaria courtesy of the Mosquitos that bread in those stagnant rain waters. Deadly Cholera outbreaks have been recurrent in the city because of a combination of dirt and stagnant water.

There are so many priorities in South Sudan today, $18 million for cars sound insulting to the people of South Sudan, especially for those few who do not know that the government in South Sudan has been known in the region and the world (especially Japan) for its obsession with cars- at the expense of services. Expensive government cars- not primary schools, not clinics, not roads and railways- have been a special priority since 2005 when GOSS was formed.

As many have already mentioned, this latest twist at this critical time may prove to be “the stroke that breaks the camel’s back,” in the short or not so short run. The domino effect will be in form of reactions from other sectors such as the armed forces and its generals and officers who are seen every morning with glittering lights on their shoulders walking on foot to-and-from Bilfam (general HQs). The may lay a legitimate claim to be no less important than MPs for the survival of the government. After all, MPs are not fighting the war and shedding blood for Juba bourgeoisies to dish money to themselves while soldiers go hungry in their trenches.

Teachers, lecturers, doctors and civil servants will also ask for similar treatment. After all, if they collectively strike at the same time that will be called “a government shutdown.” The implication of such an event may be far reaching, especially to those who have become or perceived themselves as a new class in the country whose individual needs must be separated from the general welfare of “THE PEOPLE.”

I must conclude by a warning from John Garang https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7F4GPSZP0Fc which he made to SPLA officers as way of explaining the basic minimum connection between revolution and social service delivery. He said, I paraphrase: “A poor country cannot have a rich government. If we in the SPLM/A become rich when the people are poor, then the people will drive us into the sea. And even if there is no sea here, they will find a sea to drive us into.”

David Mayen Dengdit is a former Vice Presidential Press Secretary and founder of Free Citizens Red Flag League (FCRFL) – a peace and development advocacy platform. He can be reached at mayen.ayarbior@gmail.com.

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 Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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