Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 25 March 2008

On corruption, ethnicity and regionalism in South Sudan


By Moses Nyara

March 24, 2008 — In response to H.E Salva Kirr remarks aired during the Fifth Governors’ Forum conference and published on Sudan Tribune March 12, 2008. And subsequent analysis of the Sudan tribune’s article by Dominic Woja Maku, which appear on Gurtong editorial page, March 14, 2008. I would like to offer a different perspective on the issue of corruption, ethnicity and regionalism in southern Sudan.

At the hard of my analysis is H.E Salva Kirr’s remark, which urges his administration to “double efforts to entrench the values that they fought hard for” and resist “ all kinds of temptations that would degenerate” southern Sudanese “ into ethnicity and regionalism", (SudanTribune March 12,2008).

Dominic W Maku’s responds is to state that “ethnicity and regionalism” are on the rise in south Sudan (Dominic Woja Maku, Gurtong , March 14, 2008).

The problem as I see it, is not south Sudan degenerating into regionalism and ethnicity as the president and Mr Maku may one to portrait it, but rather, how south Sudan should move away from the existing ethnic regionalism, and what is Salva Kirr’s administration doing about it?

Why I do I advance this thesis? Well, firstly, the Sudan and south Sudan in particular has no common history of statehood; its people are fragmented into hundreds of often mutually antipathetic ethnic groupings or tribes, there is no single common language and the various states of south Sudan have in the past experienced different rulers, that were often puppets of northern governments.

Given these complexities, I don’t see how president Kirr on one hand would promote decentralization and condemn ethnicity and regionalization on the other hand, knowing perfectly well that our current federated system (if I may call it) is based on tribal and ethic regionalization. Take for example the geographical and anthropological boundaries of CES. You can’t hardily find a tribe other than Bari ethic group in CES

Given these intricacy, how than, is the president going to fight ethnicity and regionalism, and at the same time promote decentralization? Is he proposing redrawing state bother lines based on geographic demographics rather than anthropological division? The later might sounds like a logical thing to do, however, it risks introducing a potentially conflicting ethnic dimension in the decentralization processes, where a territorial reorganization can easily become a space of renewed ethnic confrontations, given that, ethnic issues in general and those of minorities in particular are first and foremost related to territorial issues.

How then should the president proceed? In my opinion president Kirr would not be able to promote decentralization and fight corruption without firstly addressing parliamentary democracy, representation, and transparency, responsiveness and accountability in southern Sudan. The way to fight corruption and ethnicity requires addressing corruption through the introduction of multi-party political system based on the five key principles above

Political parties are agents of integration and national unity. And so is trust and tolerance.

Kirr and his administration would need to address the issue of fluid party system in south Sudan and encourage organizations based on fundamental social cleavages rather then ethic cleavages. The president would need to articulate conflict transformation and democratic consolidation as well as multicultural coexistence as the corner stone of his presidency. The SPLM leadership should view political development as an inevitable, evolutionary, process, in which competing political parties play an essential role in organizing mass participation in the processes of social choice.

To avoid ethnicity and the issue of regionalism in south Sudan, President Kirr and the SPLM elite would need to ensure a natural movement of southern Sudanese towards party system’ rather than ethic cleavages. In both the more ‘orthodox’ liberal approaches to political analysis and in Marxist accounts of Western-style political systems, there, needs to exist in southern Sudan a multi-party political systems, to the extent it remain essentially parliamentarian organizations.

The people of Southern Sudan should not only view SPLM as the custodian of the CPA, but rather all southern Sudanese people regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. Sudanese Citizens and southern Sudanese in particular should be able to belong to any political party without the fear of jargonizing the CPA.

The president at the same time ought to address the predominance of personal and factional (kin, ethnic or regional group) politics. Since independency there has been a pronounced tendency towards authoritarian regimes in the Sudan, in which the functions of interest articulation, interest aggregation, recruitment of a political elite, political socialisation, and so on have been performed by one-party or dominant-party structures, by the military, or by the bureaucracy. Where they do exist, political parties in the Sudan have often been, coalitions of elites and, at their outer reaches, complex sets of highly personal face-to-face relationships, all momentarily integrated by access to government and its patronage.

It’s my opinion that, the current multiparty representation in the SSLA is hardly a multiparty system. It is largely an outcome of international agreements (CPA) which relied/had to rely upon elites that were leading conflicts, constitutional design, which regulated power balance among ethnic communities engaged in war was a matter of political bargaining and not of state vision.

Rather than acting as a commentator, Salva Kirr needs to show leadership in articulating the vision for southern Sudan. He needs to state to the Sudanese people, and southern Sudanese in particular that this is what I as president of southern Sudan is doing and would do. And as far as I am the president of south Sudan, this is the direction the nation ought to move.

There is another issue emerging that of socio-economic or class divisions within the south Sudanese society. As I work on the streets on Juba last December, I would visually see the distances between the haves and have-nots. What I came out with is a prospective picture of a growth of a largely urban ‘salariate’ or ‘bureaucratic bourgeoisie’, and perhaps the emergence of an urban proletariat. This is a worried issue and we need not be remained by what happened in Kenya.

The author is a Sudanese currentily residing in Brisbane, Australia.

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