By Arop Madur Arop-Gotnyiel
February 10, 2014 - In my new book, the Genesis of Political Consciousness in the South Sudan, it states that, as the Republic of South Sudan joined the league of independent nations, it is too early to celebrate, because its survivability as a nation state, in which all its citizens can be proud of, depend very largely on a number of factors. One of these factors, to discuss in exposition is that South Sudanese politicians to comprehend first the mechanics of real-politick, and then begin to organise themselves politically. The second factor we shall discussed and which South Sudan Politicians should seriously take note of is to find a rallying point, in their practice of politics. This will enable them to pull their people together, in order to forge a common South Sudanese nationalism instead of tribalism.
Discussing the two factors together, it is safe to state that, now that our country has obtained its political independence from the North Sudan, which was the objective in their continued political struggle, it will be instructive and advisable for South Sudanese political leaders, to adopt a new focal point where many of our nationalities can embrace one- nationalism, instead of tribalism. During the Anya Nya liberation struggle (1955 - 1972), for instance, the rallying point which brought the South Sudanese together was their fear of the Arab domination. It was that factor which made all South Sudanese joined the Anya Nya war for the total liberation of their country from the Arab Islamic North Sudan’s domination, from sixties ending in the seventies. That unifying factor enabled South Sudanese staged a successful collective and concerted struggle whose objective was, first to liberate their country from the Arab domination in order to have a country of their own and second to organise themselves politically. In the second war of liberation, led by the Sudan People Liberation Movement and Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA), in 1983-2005), the unifying factor was slightly different in the sense that, while some South Sudanese joined the liberation struggle because they were attracted to the principle of creating a united secular Sudan that would accommodate all its diversities, others joined it, apparently, in order to have a country of their own country, as was envisaged by the leaders of the Anya Nya Movement.
Now that the old enemy has gone and the South Sudan has become an independent state (first objective), the leaders of the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement Party (SPLM), and other South Sudanese political parties waiting on the wings to come to power, must look for a rallying point that will bring or keep their people together so that they embrace one South Sudanese nationalism, rather than anything thing else that would tear them apart as they start fighting one another as they argue; who of the tribal leaders to follow.
The rallying point which I have in mind and which I believe can bring about national cohesiveness and unity among our diverse nationalities is a fair and equitable distribution of the public cake by the government of the day. Arguably, equitable distribution of national and human resources and good governance should be the theme that each and every political leaders should base their party programme of action, aimed at effort to bring about national unity and sustainable economic development.
Having realised their first objective, the independence of their country, which was the dominant theme throughout their continued collective struggle, and now that they have a country of their own, the next move that politicians must address themselves immediately, is the organisation of political parties(second objective), in accordance to the Transitional Constitution, and the political parties elections regulations which stipulates that; for a party to be recognised as a political entity, it must have acquired about 500 card holders from the ten states of South Sudan (maximum eligibility); or, at least 500 party card holders from the six states (minimum eligibility) of the Republic. The political parties should, therefore, not waste precious time but to hurry up and obtain party card holders in readiness for the registration of their parties. The second move the political leaders must address immediately, is that, each of the political parties, is expected to come up with a defined political ideology and a programme of action. Having spelt out the political ideologies of their parties, and are recognize as political parties, they will then register their parties and thereafter hold their respective national conventions. It would be then that they could contest in any general elections which could bring them back to power, in the case of the SPLM, or pose as an alternative to the incumbent ruling party, in case of the other parties vying for power. It is indeed very advisable for those who would like to form effective political partied to recruit electable members into their parties. There is no point to recruit persons who may have been attracted by one’s political standing in the society or through material inducement who are not electable. This explains why many political parties in any country in the wide world do not come to power despite the fact that they have long been in existence for decades as well established parties.
One classical example is the 1986, Sudan second democratic experience. Once the May Regime which had been in power for nearly two decades was overthrown by a combined popular uprising and military, in 1985, Sudanese of all political persuasions, began, in earnest and formed numerous political parties, now that democracy has been restored. What followed was that by 1986, when democratic general elections were about to be held, forty political parties had sprung up and were ready to take part in the upcoming general elections scheduled for April of that year. Unfortunately when the results of the 1986 elections were announced in June, there were ten parties, out of a total of forty parties that contested; won elections- four national parties in the North and six regional parties in the Southern Region.
Coming to the political parties which appeared to have developed party ideologies, arguably, it is only the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), which was founded and launched as a socialist oriented movement as embodied its manifesto (1983) and may have apparently remained so, politically speaking. Up to the time of writing, SPLM has remained the only dominant and well established political party. Its’ leadership is expected to have transformed its ideology during the last three decades of it existence and as soon as it became a political party during the interim period (20o5 –2010 and beyond), SPLM is expected to have maintained its membership and appeared to have also rallied their supporters together in anticipation for the registration of their party and the holding of the long awaited national convention (2011-2013). This would have signalled that, members of SPLM have after all, understood, the modern mechanics of real-politick and as the only party that already political has ideology. Unfortunately, what one hears, is political disenchantment and bickering which appeared to have ripped the giant party apart. Equally important to note, at this juncture, is that the SPLM have seemingly large membership which is composed of; first the historic leaders of the party who have remained faithful, throughout the life span of their party: the second group is the returnees and the third, the new arrivals, having recently joined the party. In such a state of affairs, any party contest for leadership, supporters of each of these groups, are expected to look at the candidate of choice in that perspective. In such a situation political disenchantment and final split becomes inevitable. This of course, demands that, the lead members must educate their supporters; to acquired party discipline and commitment to the party, code of conduct of the members of the party and the Party ideology and programme of action.
As regard to the other existing political parties, in the political arena the Republic of South one can say that there are only two parties that are organised, having ideologies and programmes of actions: these are the SPLM DC and the South Sudan Communist Party. But their parties have maintained relative membership due to circumstances beyond their control. With stability in the country, these two parties may acquire large following that would make them pose, in the long run, as forces to reckon with by the giant SPLM but only if it remain a dominant party with large following; having been in the political field for a long time. Observers of the three parties the SPLM; the SPLM DC and the South Sudan Communist party can predict that, any one the three parties may merge since they appear to have similar agenda, all being on the left of centre ideological speaking. That merger may only happen in the long run with a modified agenda merging as Social Democratic Party. Arguably, the SPLM and the SPLM DC may also merge in any foreseeable future; the two having maintained the same ideology and programmes of action since the SPLM was launched in 1983. However in any event of any political contest SPLM is expected to maintain its popularity though with reduced majority.
Generally speaking, I would like to look critically at the basis on which political parties are formed. It is important to stress this because any political party is supposed to have been composed by like minded groups of people who are persuaded by one of the world known socio economic and political systems: left, centre left, the centre, and the centre right. The smaller existing political ideologies which came as a protest in what they claimed as the SPLM exclusive policies. The leaders of these protest parties can benefit if only if any of them adopt one of the world known political ideologies enumerated above. Basically, activities of any political party are directed toward one goal, the winning in any general elections that can bring it to power or pose as alternative to the incumbent ruling party. Furthermore, unity of any political party is very crucial in order to avoid some inherent bad practices that had been experienced by many independent African countries which eventually brought ruins on them and their country through political wrangling and schism. The beauty of democracy is that: when the leaders of a political organisation, in a given country, which have fought and brought independence to the country; their party subsequently becoming the ruling party: begin to lose track and vision of what his party has fought for and become disorganised, having lost the modern socio economic system it had embraced, it will be natural for supporters of that political organisation, to leave the party and join one of the other political parties in the country in effort to find new rallying point that can satisfy their political leaning, and which they believe, can bring peace, tranquility and sustainable socio-economic development to that country.
Essentially, important point to stress in conjunction of what has be3en stated above, is that, two years after our country has successfully established all administrative structures and the development schemes having started and not necessary flourishing, the politicians, the new and the old, must sit down and spell out the political ideology of respective parties they have launched or about to be launched. It is also necessary to emphasise that supporters of any political party, expects the lead members of their party to try to keep out of the public glare, their ideological differences, skilfully sharing and nursing them, lest they could be considered by the party’s supporters to have failed their own party.
Having established the government institutions as discussed earlier and the country starts developing, it will be then that those who will like to use the party to come to power will be standing on strong safe ground. The lead members of any party will definitely wield support from the party grass roots, a move that will allow the party leadership to confidently stand better chances to pose as a vote winner among the competing parties for ascent to power. Naturally, needless to remind political leadership in the youngest nation (Republic of South Sudan), that being members of a party is assumed and considered by the party card holders as like minded comrades having been brought together by the party ideology and programmes of action. But once some of the party supporters do see that there is political bickering in the party or that party is deviating from its original principles in which the party was founded and launched beginning to lose cohesiveness and comradeship, many of its electable cadres can drift away and join any one of other competing parties whose political agenda may appear attractive to meet their own political aspirations.
The question that all the political parties must answer, in this regard, is whether any of the existing political parties in the country, do have known political agenda: socialist leaning, conservative oriented or liberal/Mix economy inclined. Admittedly, there are three known basic world socio economic systems: capitalist, socialist or mix economy. It would therefore be advisable that the existing political parties and the ones on the wings should resolve disagreement about the ideology that the party can adopt. It would indeed be very important for them to resolve ideology question before they consider themselves as committed members of their political parties. Equally important to mention is that the potential leaders of any political party, must, in short, define the party ideology before thinking to enter contest in any general elections. Any party that would seek to win majority of the votes in any democratic political contest, must have electable members in the party and a well defined programme of action which they hope will attract voters that can bring it to power. This will enable those oppose to that ideology, to define their own. Once this happens, it will give voters a wide range of choice, in any future contest for power in any general elections, to choose which of parties that meets their own political persuasions and which they hope will bring sustainable socio-economic development to their country.
As a matter of fact, it is advisable for all political leaders in our young republic, to avoid political disenchantment, which often had plagued many political parties worldwide, before and after the independence. There should be a need to attempt to resolve their political differences, if there is; in marathon meetings and reconcile all the diverging views and then hold extra ordinary conferences to adopt the party programmes (if that was the bone of contention) after which the party can be registered as a political party. Up to the time of writing this article, it is a known fact that, all the political parties in South Sudan, after independence, are illegal as they were organised in accordance to the old laws of the old Sudan. They must therefore register their parties in accordance to the new Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan and avoid the culture of unnecessary political bickering as this had previously plagued many political parties.
In brief, political disenchantment and wrangling, in any party, is not healthy at all because it can bring ruins to the country as a whole. This can be explained by the current political disenchantment in the SPLM that has resulted in horrific, senseless destruction to their country and untold sufferings and hardships to their people. This can best be demonstrated further by the subsequent narrative from the experiences of two African nations; Ghana and Nigeria what happened to their countries as soon as they became independent from Britain in 1957 and 1960 respectively. Please bear with me.
The first example was that of the Republic of Ghana the first African Sub Saharan country to obtain its political power from Britain in 1957. The years that followed Ghana independence were charecterised by political disenchantment and wrangling which led to the overthrow of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana in 1967 by General Joseph Ankara (1967), who allegedly accused Dr Nkrumah for mismanaging the affairs of the country. Few years past and General Ankara was himself overthrown by General Afiffa who accused him on the same ground; mismanag the affairs of the Country. Few years on, General Affifa was subsequently overthrown by General Achaengpong, who was too overthrown in the country’s bloodiest military coup that brought Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings to power. It was after discovering that political disenchantment and wrangling would take Ghana nowhere but inevitable ruins to the country; that Jerry Rawlings conceded power to an elected President of the Republic of Ghana.
The second example to refer to, is the experience of Nigeria. In 1960, Nigeria became an independent Republic. It started well as a democratic republic under its first elected President Azikwe. Few years after independence, President Azikwe’s Government was overthrown in a bloody coup by General Johnson Ironzi, who was also overthrown by General Yacobu Gown. General Gown government; after successfully defeating the Biafran attempt to secede from the Republic of Nigeria. The Republic of Nigeria, was subsequently taken over by a military Junta led by General Murtala Mohamed; who was subsequently overthrown by General Obessanjo. After having bought some stability to the country, General Obassanjo handed over power peacefully to an elected President led by Sheikh Shagari. Sheikh Shagari Government was soon overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida who was also overthrown by General Muhammed Buchari. General Bukhari was subsequently ousted by General San Abache who was also overthrown by General Abdel Salam Abaker. Believing that military rule had had bitter set back to the country economy and bad international image abroad and apparently believing that continuation of military rule had retarded economic progress of his country and could further destroy the country and its economy, General Abdel Salam Abubaker, finally handed over power to an elected President, YarArdwa, thereby bringing to an end decades of political wrangling. These are just few instances that are recipes and warnings to my countrymen and women by stressing that political disenchantment and wrangling will not bring peace but disaster to a young nation like ours. As a reminder to ourselves, the ongoing disenchantment and wrangling in the South Sudan ruling political party, the SPLM, can confirm beyond doubt the disenchantment and bickering has brought ruins to the young Republic of South Sudan barely three years old. All our political parties must therefore declare that never again shall political party disenchantemntwrangling plague our Country and democratic transfer of Power should now be the slogan by all political parties who would like to come to power in our country.
Finally, and for the benefit of the readers of this exposition and as I started with a quotation from my recent book, The Genesis of Political Consciousness in South Sudan (2012), which I believe, none of my compatriots including, some who are now involved in the ongoing fratricidal destructive war in our country, haven’t read it, apparently, because of the poor culture of reading in our country. I will therefore conclude my discussion with another quotation from the same book------ —last paragraph (page 299) which reads:—But as we conclude the Book, vital questions remained un answered and which will indeed continue to ring in the mind of readers of this important narrative-----the last question is What does the future hold for this young republic of South Sudan as it begins to organise itself into a nation state? Will it be torn apart by ill thought ambition, greed and selfishness? Or will it flourish as to become a nation state that all its citizens can be proud? ---Stand unshod, the place is holy! It is the dearest prize for the fallen millions of the loved ones: they lay down their dear lives for its birth and survival ends quote.
Arop Madur Arop-Gotnyiel is a former journalist and can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org.