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South Sudan One Year On: From the World’s Newest State to Another African Story

South Sudan One Year On: From the World’s Newest State to Another African Story

Mairi John Blackings, PhD University of Strathclyde

A Paper Presented at St Antony’s College, Oxford University, Sudanese Programme, June 23rd, 2012

Abstract

There is an African saying that once a child has washed his or her hands, s/he can eat with elders. This paper examines whether, a year on, the world‘s newest nation, South Sudan, not withstanding the numerous challenges of nation building, has come of age. That is, has South Sudan since attaining indepen- dence, taken active steps towards strengthening her democratic institutions and credentials, and has she embraced wholly the notion of the supremacy of the rule of law, or has she, to put it mildly, become another sad African story? The African story, which is also, a postcolonial one, is the narrative of centralised and erratic decision making mechanisms; the negation of social and political pluralism, where the harassment, intimidation and vilification of the opposition parties, civil society and journalists are daily rituals; the clinging on to power, whether deserved or not, at all costs; the concentration of state power, where parties are allowed, within either the upper echelons of the ruling party or exclusively in the hands of a single individual, usually the leader; the blurring of the distinction between the party and the state, and the subordination of the state to the party of the leader; gross violations of human rights; the use of the national army as a private militia to prop up the regime, and as an instrument of repression; the creation of structures which allow individuals, especially the leadership and its cohorts to punitively abuse and misuse their office to reap personal gains without being accountable to anyone.

One way of examining a nation‘s democratic credentials is by looking at the nature of both the official and the unofficial discourses emanating from the leadership and its cadre. My focus, is therefore, on how the official and semi-official discourses from the leadership in South Sudan and its cadre, can shed light on the design and performance of the government. I intend to argue in this paper that the failure of the ruling party in South Sudan, the SPLM/A, to transform itself successfully from a guerilla movement, where the army had absolute control and dominion over the party, the administration of the ‘liberated’ areas and the judiciary, is at the centre of most of the governance problems facing South Sudan today. The modus operandi of running a guerilla movement, which might have served the SPLM/A well in the bush, I suggest, is unfortunately ill-suited for running a twenty-first century modern state, where the barking out of commands, no matter how loudly, is unlikely to yield the desired effect. The failure to separate the state from the party and the attendant failure to institute checks and balances within the various organs of the state lie at the centre of the general air of malaise suffocating and squeezing life out of the nascent nation state of South Sudan, a year on, I contend.

The full paper can be downloaded here:

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South Sudan One Year On: From the World’s Newest State to Another African Story