Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 4 August 2011

Leaders’ special obligation


By Zechariah Manyok Biar

August 3, 2011 — The President of the Republic of South Sudan issued a decree on August 1, 2011 for the transformation and reconstitution of the National Legislative Assembly of the Republic of South Sudan. Now that we are in a new country, the Assembly will have a lot to do to transform the country to meet international standards and to deliver quality services to its people.

In the effective delivery of services to the citizens of the Republic of South Sudan, the question that the leaders will have to ask themselves is what style they will use to take towns to people according to the vision of our late leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior. They will have their own answers, but my answer is that the best way for quality service delivery is for all our leaders to know what their special obligations are.

In the Government of Southern Sudan, we seemed to have vague definition of what it meant to be a leader. We seemed to believe that being a leader meant that you were a national figure without specifying what it meant to be a national figure. This confusion applied to our sense of national identity too.

Now is the time to put things right. Being a leader means that you have limits to your obligation. If you are a Member of Parliament (MP), then you have the obligation for your constituency and that does not mean you hate other constituencies. When you are appointed as a minister, you have obligation for people under your ministry within the borders of the Republic of South Sudan. For example, if you are the Minister of Health, then your obligation is limited to health. You have nothing to do with road construction, but that does not mean you do not like roads in the country. If you are the President, then you have the obligation for the people within the borders of South Sudan, not that you hate people outside the borders of South Sudan.

However, you can expand your obligation as president to suffering people outside your borders. For example, Acholi is divided between South Sudan and Uganda. The President of South Sudan is obliged to take care of the Acholis within the borders of South Sudan. But if Acholis in Uganda are suffering beyond the capacity of the Ugandan government and the government of South Sudan has the means, it can provide a limited assistance to them.

Now the problem comes in when one narrows the obligation, leaving out part of the people under his or her obligation. Parents have special obligation for their children. Nobody would expect them to take care of other people’s children at the expense of their children. On the other hand, even if parents have more children than what their resources can cater for, they should not take care of some children and leave out the rest to struggle on their own, especially when all of them are too young to care for themselves.

The reason why we took arms against the government in Khartoum was because one president after another from Khartoum narrowed his national obligation over many years to focus on northerners and their welfare only, leaving the rest of the country uncared for as if they were outside the borders of Sudan. The same thing can anger people in the Republic of South Sudan if our president cares for one part at the expense of other parts.

But such anger could be misplaced if a particular Member of Parliament is taking care of his/her constituency. MPs are not supposed to worry about other constituencies because their obligations are limited to their respective constituencies. They only expand their obligations when they are deliberating on national laws and interests. But they still pay attention to how such a national law would affect their individual constituencies.

Some people that I talk to sometimes mix up tribalism with special obligation to constituencies. They say that MPs who focus on their constituencies are tribalists. But the reality is that constituencies do not suit tribes. Small tribes, for example, can be combined into one constituency. The bigger ones like Dinka and Nuer can be divided into very many constituencies. That is why tribalism does not fit under this special obligation.

MPs are the voices of their constituencies. They have special obligation to represent them very well. Leaders who have national obligations should not narrow their obligations to their tribes or regions. Better understanding of these differences, I think, may result in better service delivery to our citizens.

Zechariah Manyok Biar, BA. Edu., MACM, MSSW. He can be reached at manyok34@gmail.com

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