Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 27 January 2014

Are South Sudanese women victims of their own war liberation struggle?

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By Daniel Juol Nhomngek

The case of women of Mayath payam of Cueibet of county in Lakes State

January 27, 2014 - The purpose for writing this article is to remind South Sudan central government of its duties and responsibilities towards the women in rural areas of South Sudan. Besides, it is also intended to remind and draw the attention of the government to the fact that it has lost the grip over some counties in South Sudan, especially Cueibet County as resources are being used for personal benefits by the county commissioner, which has resulted into the Government losing its vision of taking towns to people. The reverse is now true as many citizens are migrating to towns to seek economic and social services.

It is true to state that the failure of the government to stick to the original plan and framework of taking towns to people has caused a lot of suffering to the citizens, especially women, in different counties in South Sudan and worse in Cueibet County.

Many women in rural areas in Cueibet County go to towns without knowing any persons as they run away from the hostile cultural environment that exists in rural areas, and as a result, they become victims of HIV/AIDS, poverty and other diseases because of their illiteracy and ignorance of life in towns.

It is the fact that women although there is independent of the country, are still suffering in rural areas in different counties in South Sudan. Their lives are not improved not because the government does not have resources but because of the mismanagement of the available resources as indicated by the wave of corruption that has hit the nation since the establishment of the interim government nine years ago.

One of such counties, which have been hit by mismanagement of resources due to the detachment of the government in Juba from the realities on the ground, is Cueibet County.

The government in Juba does not even want to come down one of the days to investigate how resources are spent and how much citizens contribute in terms of taxes.

The government in Juba always depends on the reports given by governors of states yet such reports are not comprehensive since they mostly concentrate on security issues leaving social welfare of the people out completely and women in particular.

The governor of Lakes State, for instance, every time he gives a report to the president he gives the security report not the welfare of the citizens as if insecurity is the only problems South Sudan is fighting against. Yet other social issues contribute to emergency of insecurity as well. Moreover, those reports contradict the exact picture of what is on the ground.

I am sorry to say that such system of governance is colonial in nature. The governors and the government of South Sudan are behaving like colonial government that was more concerned with security stability than the improvement of the welfare of the citizens of the countries that were under them.

However, it is the fact to point out that South Sudan needs different style of governance. What should be clearly understood by the government is that those colonial masters were concerned with the sole aim of getting as many resources as possible for their own countries.

Such style of governance is the curse of many countries today as they become sanctuaries of hostility and instabilities as seen in Central African Republic, DRC and Mali. In my opinion, the role of the government should always be geared towards developing the bright future of the citizens of the country.

Nevertheless, in Cueibet County things are not different from those of colonial masters in Kenya, South Africa, Mali, Senegal, Angola and Algeria. The commissioner is running the county with iron fist.

The citizens of Cueibet County are being subjected to one of the cruelest period in the history of South Sudan since it got her independence two and half years ago. To be specific, the realities of Cueibet County are, dictatorship from the commissioner is too much coupling with misappropriation of resources, no good roads, no hospitals, a situation which forces individuals to carry the sick persons in emergency needs to about forty five Kilometers where they can be treated.

The sick in emergency needs are always carried either on motorcycles or by NGOs’ vehicles to Rumbek Centre for treatment. There is no ambulance to rush them to hospital in Rumbek centre yet they pay a lot of money through taxes and such money or even CDF money can be used to buy ambulance for the county.

Many sick people in many occasions die on the journey because of the bad road. The journey which is supposed to take about forty five minutes can take two solid hours. In most cases by the time the patient reaches hospital it will be too late.

Bad condition of the road between Cueibet and Rumbek in many instances contributes death of many patients from curable diseases such as fever, excessive bleeding from child labour and many other diseases of the similar kinds. It is pathetic state of affairs.

Due to such pathetic state of affairs, the relatives of the patients are discouraged and they end up putting their trust in God for the cure of the patient; a hope that is based on uncertainty and illusion, and without success. Death is the final cure to such sicknesses.

The conditions of women in rural areas have deteriorated much not only in Cueibet County but other counties in South Sudan. This is because the government has never paid attention to the welfare of the women at grassroots. The government is sailing seas and oceans that it is improving the welfare of the women and other citizens in general because it has allocated funds for such programmes but it has to be noted with concern that giving money for development is one thing and following up how that money is spent is another.

It appears that the government has forgotten its promise of taking towns to people and the victims of such forgetfulness are the women as illustrated by the story of two women from Magumbil Boma, Mayath Payam in Cueibet County.

I will briefly explain the tragic story of those two women in the later part of this article. The question that needs to be answered here is: is the Government doing enough to revive the original plan of taking towns to people or has it died with Dr. Garang seven years ago? The victims of the failure of the plan of taking towns to people are women in rural areas of South Sudan.

The conditions of women are not improved because the government has hidden behind the policy of 25%. The government is using the blanket policy of awarding women 25% in politics yet when you see those who have benefited from this percentage are the women of the same political elites who are in the government leaving the vast majority of women at the periphery of politics in the Country. The result is the misallocation of resources in the country and the indefinite sufferings of vulnerable women.

Clearly, as stated above, apart from the blanket policy of 25% percent for women in the government, the government has not done more to improve the welfare of the women in the rural areas of South Sudan as explained by what is happening in Cueibet County.

In Cueibet County, it is very interesting to see the Commissioner being concerned with the retention of power more than improving the welfare of women. For instance, some of the teachers were arrested and detained for a very long time without charges last year (2012) on the ground that they had criticized the commissioner for his weak and corrupt policies and also some had shown interests in standing for commissionership.

Moreover as there is rebellion today in South there is no hope anymore for improvement of the welfare of women. This is because all resources will be used for fighting the rebels. In addition, corruption will flourish as it will go unchecked since the citizens will not be able to talk openly against it for risking being considered as members of rebels.

Such incident has already occurred in one of the States in South Sudan. In Lakes State, the Caretaker Governor, General Matur Cut, recently accused the students who were released by the government to go on study leave of being members of Riek Machar simply because they disturbed him to release their money that he detained on the pretext of fighting corruption.

What happened in brief was that many students were released by the government of Lakes State to go on study leave. When Matur was appointed to be the Caretaker Governor, he immediately suspended salaries of the students. The students had been struggling since then to get their salaries released and they had been promised by General Matur that their money would be released soon. Little did they know that Matur did not get an opportunity of robbing them of their salaries?

Nevertheless, an opportunity came with the recent attempted coup when every critic and those claiming their rights from the government are considered rebels against South Sudan.

The Caretaker government thought that enough was enough and told them that he knew what they were up to, they should either make it clear by joining Riek Machar or keep quiet and if they did not keep quiet, he would arrest them. That was the end of the story; their rights were gone to the powerful who survive on guns.

Such an act indicates the death of democracy and Human rights in South Sudan. There is a fear that human rights abuse and corruption will increase as Generals turned politicians will be silencing citizens who are discontented with the state of the affairs in different states.

There is no hope. The state of affairs will continue to deteriorate as politicians are using resources for their personal benefits as they wish. Amidst corruption, the people that will be affected most are women.

Therefore, the question is: HAVE WOMEN BECOME THE VICTIMS OF THEIR OWN WAR OF LIBERATION STRUGGLE as seen in the case of two women who died while giving birth due to the excessive bleeding, a death that would have been prevented if there were emergency health care services?

To briefly explain, those two women died while delivering in the traditional ways and as a result, they died of excessive bleeding. Their death ended there and no more investigation or response from the government in the County since it is just normal for such event to occur.

Such in my view is not normal the government has a duty to improve the welfare of the women and protect them from dying of curable death. This can be done through building modern health care centres. The women die because of corruption and self-interest of the leaders who women helped to liberate the country.

Hence, the question comes handy again: have women become the victims of their own war of liberation struggle in South Sudan? Women in South Sudan fought war more than any person and are as valuable as South Sudan itself. They helped men to liberate South Sudan.

They provided food for SPLA Combatants. Women remained at home to take care of orphans and planned crops. They cooked for all soldiers without any discrimination of any sorts. They had never joined the enemy nor defected to the side of the enemy, did they remain committed to the cause of South Sudanese ever. It would have been impossible to think of the success of the war of South Sudan without them.

However, as soon as the independence was achieved, women have become third class in their country, which shows that they are the victims of their own liberation war that they helped succeed. They fought the war but after winning the war, they are now relegated by the government policies that appear on paper but have no impact on the lives of women in rural areas.

It is not to be seen as an exaggeration to state that with the independence, the country political leadership has become so much embroiled in power struggle and corruption to the extent of almost killing the whole nation.

The reason for power struggle is that power is viewed by many in South Sudan as one of the easiest means of building personal wealth and resource base. It is really disappointing.

The citizens are not benefiting from their struggles while leaders are there on the mission of building caste system in South Sudan to the disappointment of many. Given the nature of our cultural setting, women are the victims of such mismanagement no matter how much they contributed to the struggle of South Sudan.

Besides, women in South Sudan up to date still contribute a lot to the income base of the government through paying taxes. What is however even painful is the way such taxes are used by the commissioners, especially in Cueibet County.

In Cueibet, there are about forty five executive chiefs each with one thousand eligible taxpayers. All pay taxes of fifty pounds each to the county commissioner in addition to taxes obtained from traders in town on daily and weekly basis.

Despite the fact that such large amount of money is paid, Cueibet County has not done anything to improve the welfare of the citizens. To be specific, no hospitals or no health services and no good schools; most of the teachers are paid as low as two hundred (250 SSP) per month. An amount that a teacher who depends on teaching alone cannot make both end meet.

However, the money that is paid by the citizens for taxes is shared between the commissioner and the governor, leaving roads, hospitals and schools in bad conditions.

In summary, the situation in Cueibet County is bad and there is a need for the government to intervene because citizens are in bad situations and they need direct intervention by the central government. In Cueibet County for instance, health care services are not available, leaving women who are giving birth at the peril of death every hour of the child birth.

The two women who died while giving birth as explained above are examples of what usually happens not only in Mayath Payam in Cueibet County in Lakes State but in many other rural areas of South Sudan.

The government should know that giving women political leadership is one thing but improving their economic, social and cultural welfare is another thing altogether.

Daniel Juol Nhomngek is a law student in Makerere School of Law in Kampla, Uganda. He can be reached via the following Contacts: juoldaniel@yahoo.com



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