By Zechariah Manyok Biar
June 20, 2014 - Since there are now hopes for peace and the formation of the interim government that would prepare the way for the future laws and the government system of our country, we should know what type of government we should advocate for as citizens. The government that I am talking about is the one that should apply to any system that we will have in South Sudan. If we choose unitary system, it should apply to it; if we choose the current decentralization, it should apply to it; or if we choose federalism, it should apply to it.
We know we want democracy to apply to any system of government that we will choose, but what kind of democracy? We have seen that democracy can be doctored, just to paraphrase the former Vice President of Kenya Kalonzo Musyoka. Can we call a democracy in which people vote under threats such as what took place in Syria recently a democracy? These are some of the questions we will have to look into before settling on what type of government we should advocate for.
But to know the government we should advocate for, we should first know the government we should not advocate for. For this reason, I will present three types of governments that we sometimes see here in Africa and in other parts of the world. They are tyranny, democracy, and the constitutional governments. These are not, however, the only types of governments that exist in the world today. We have other types such as monarchy, oligarchy, among others. I just chose the three types mentioned above because they are common and countries can sometimes practice them unconsciously.
I will use ancient views from Aristotle’s “Politics,” Book V to present these governments. This article will present tyrannical government.
Tyrannies can be disguised as democracies these days. Elections can normally be held to tell the international community that there is democracy in a country. But what really happens between elections could be tyrannical rule, even though it is sometimes difficult to tell.
Although it could be difficult to tell whether a government is tyrannical or not, Aristotle shows that there are ways of knowing it.
One of the signs of tyrannical governments, according to Aristotle, is when the leaders “lop off those who are too high.” In other word, these leaders kill people they think are regarded high in a country. Also those who question the policies of such leaders lose their lives. You have to be coward to survive. As Aristotle puts it, “he must put to death men of spirit (courage).”
The other sign is that a tyrant, as Aristotle points out, “must be upon his guard against anything which is likely to inspire either courage or confidence among his subjects.” This is why he endeavors “to know what each of his subjects says or does” by employing spies to prevent “people from speaking their minds.” Some extreme tyrants can prevent assemblies so that people cannot know one another.
Another sign of tyrannical governments is that tyrants “sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another.” Along this line, tyrants keep their subjects poor.
A tyrant, according to Aristotle, “is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.” Aristotle further argues, “And whereas the power of a king is preserved by his friends, the characteristic of a tyrant is to distrust his friends, because he knows that all men want to overthrow him, and they all have the power.”
Tyrants love bad men over good men “because they love to be flattered.” Flattering is something tyrants do not find in good men because, according to Aristotle, “good men love others, or at any rate do not flatter them.” I would add here that good men or women believe that flattering destroys rather than build people. It is only for selfish reason that people flatter others. They want to gain favor by appearing good and caring, even though they might not be. Flattering, therefore, is not driven by love. Unlike flattery, correcting or even rebuking people is driven by love. People correct the ones they love.
Aristotle again observes that “Another mark of tyrant is that he likes foreigners better than citizens, and lives with them and invites them to his table; for the one (citizens) are enemies, but the others (foreigners) enter no rivalry with him.”
We have seen in these signs of tyrannical governments and tyrants that any of us can fall into these categories, if given a chance to be the top man or woman. This is why we should stop focusing on personalities or mere likings of people we think should be our leaders, but rather focusing on which system of government we want. It is the system of government we want that should help us determine individuals who fit to rule in it. Good leaders are often directed by good systems, even though we also know that bad leaders destroy or ignore good systems.
Having seen what tyranny is, we should not advocate for it either directly or indirectly to be our system of government in South Sudan. We should advocate for something better to be added to our permanent constitution. It is because of this that we will examine democracy in our next article to see if that is the system of government we should advocate for.
Zechariah Manyok Biar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org