By Elhag Paul
“These are people who must make their living by sucking the blood of other.” Michael Makuei, the minister of Information of the Republic of South Sudan roared in a press conference labelling the Human Rights Watch. His colleague Martin Elia Lomuro, the minister of Cabinet Affairs sitting next to him leapt in “mosquitoes” complementing the link of the dehumanisation process to which the former delightfully repeated “mosquitoes, yes.” https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/i-will-shut-down-un-says-south-sudans-information-minister
March 4, 2015 (SSNA) — While the press conference held on 16th February 2015 to castigate the media and non -governmental organisations sounds hilarious, it is in fact very concerning. How has South Sudan descended to this level of thuggery? Do responsible people representing a state speak like that? Where is the etiquette of diplomacy associated with the conduct of state affairs? Painful to say but these two ministers have vindicated Gerrard Prunier’s observation and conclusion that South Sudan is governed by “idiots ….rotten to the core.” What these two have done has brought further disrepute to the people of South Sudan collectively. The world must wonder how a country of 8 million can allow itself to be led by such “idiots”.
Recently, the former president of Kenya Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi made a telling remark about South Sudan which could be construed as offensive as he appeared to question the very right of the people of South Sudan to self determine. His kind of speak echoes the language of the colonialists who flocked to the continent during the scramble for Africa sanctioned by the Berlin agreement of 1884.
Moi said definitely in anger that perhaps the people of South Sudan “were not ready for independence.” Though his comment self evidently is harsh, it is difficult not to sympathise with him given his own personal contribution in the liberation process. The irresponsible and criminal behaviour of the SPLM exasperates everyone and pushes people to say things they would not say under normal circumstances. Moi is likely to have assessed South Sudan based on the behaviour of SPLM not realising that South Sudan truly has other competent leaders suppressed by SPLM violence.
In reality South Sudan has all along been ready to self govern. The problem giving rise to Moi’s question is the fact that he Moi and all the other African leaders in the last 3 decades believed only in the SPLM as they still do now in the IGAD peace talks. They have refused to acknowledge and work with the real leaders in South Sudan who do not espouse the violent and tribalistic agenda of the SPLM. The former president would have done better if he said perhaps the SPLM was not ready for independence because this would be the truth given the organisation’s formative objective. Please see ‘Kenya’s ex-president criticises S. Sudan leaders over conflict’http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article53969
South Sudan has competent world class leaders who could lead it smoothly without problems. For example, Peter Sule, Richard Mulla, Bishop Paride Taban and many others. South Sudan has unfortunately under the SPLM become the laughing stock of the world. Though this appears to be the case, in reality South Sudan has sons and daughters of high calibre meeting the world standard of leadership who can easily run the country competently and appropriately. The only thing preventing the qualified people from ascending to power is the violent nature of SPLM coupled with the decades long of Arab oppression that rendered the people helpless. Surely, the nonsense in Juba is bound to change for the better sooner or later.
The press conference held by the Ministry of Information was not necessary at all and there was no credible reason to hold it in the first place. The matter vexing the ministers could have been raised and discussed amicably with the head of UN Margaret Ellen Loj in their air conditioned offices avoiding the exposure of their crudeness and ignorance.
Both ministers are on record on numerous occasions chanting that South Sudan is a democracy. Surely democracies are comfortable and cool with the media. Democracies do not go out hunting journalists and shutting down radio stations etc simply because a political opponent has aired their views in them. Makuei’s misplaced anger is because Rebecca Nyandeng Garang was interviewed by Radio Miraya. He ranted “Miraya you are interviewing rebels. If it happens again we are shutting you down. And this must be made clear. We are shutting you down if you interview any rebel here to disseminate his or her plan and policies within South Sudan.” The intimidation and harassment comes out clear in this message. It basically boils down to an issue of control backed by threats of violence.
The contradiction in Makuei’s utterance is that he as a yester decade rebel has forgotten that rebels rebel for a cause. It is not for nothing that people take up arms. The government must be doing something seriously wrong. It is advisable for them to review themselves.
If President Kiir’s government is a democracy as they forcefully claim when it suits them, is there any need for ranting against the messenger (radio Miraya)? The primary role of media in a democracy is to facilitate the flow of information and ideas in order to enable citizens to assess the ruling party and also to assess the opposition parties. Media is a one of the key tools known worldwide that holds government to account. In addition media is a medium of education, and helps in developing the whole population generally.
Now to then try to control the media crudely like what the two ministers have done hugely undermine their claim to South Sudan being a democratic country. Granted the media has a vile side to it. For example in propaganda or character assassination it can proof to be a lethal weapon. But to deal with this problem a democracy resorts to the courts and not oppressive practice the type of which the duo displayed.
The sad part of this story is that the ministers concerned have publicly displayed their personal incompetence with the issue. They do not know that Radio Miraya was not just set up like a stall in a market. Even in a market a stall has to have a license from the local authority. The radio station in question is covered by a bilateral agreement between South Sudan and the United Nation. Which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have the lead responsibility and not the Ministry of Information.
However, for any breaches of the agreement by either side there must be reference to the agreement. So the ministers having decided there was a breach, they should have passed the matter over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with. Or, the lest they could do was to consult with their legal advisers with reference to the agreement for appropriate measures before going to the street on riot. Had they done this, they would have saved themselves the embarrassment of a climb down by Makuei the following day when confronted by Ms Loj over the threats they made.
Makuei, the crude face and trademark of Dinkocracy ended up coiling his tail and assuring the UN that Radio Miraya broadcasts would continue according to UNMISS mandate as stipulated in the status of forces agreement signed between the UN and the government of South Sudan. All the bravado of the other day dissipated into thin air. What a disgrace? Please see ‘South Sudan UN chief Løj meets Makuei over Miraya shutdown threat’https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/s-sudan-un-chief-l%C3%B8j-meets-makuei-over-miraya-shutdown-threat
This self inflicted humiliation would have been avoided were the Dinkocrats in Juba to be conscious enough to know that in this 21st century it is utterly useless to try to control the media. Virtually nothing can be hidden in this world of information technology. With the internet the globe has become so little that within minutes somebody as far away as New Zealand would know what is going on in the other end of the world. Thus closing radio stations, killing and detaining journalists is not enough to silence the people and keep them ignorant of the government abuses and crimes. The panacea is simple, just do the right thing and everybody will be happy.
Which brings us to the abuse of this specific case. The current leadership in South Sudan, especially the SPLM party is heavily influenced by the behaviours of the rulers in Khartoum. The elites in that country are fond of dehumanising the people of African origin because they want the country to be perceived as an Arab country.
In 2012 at the height of the Panthou war ignited by President Salva Kiir, President Omar Bashir of the Sudan publicly called Kiir and the SPLM insects. The former was caricatured in the Sudanese media like a beetle with his head attached to a body of a flying insect being sprayed off by a fog of Piff-Paff insecticide. Piff-Paff is a brand name of the company that produces the insecticides in pressurised can in the Sudan. The simple genocidal message to the people of Sudan was that South Sudanese represented by SPLM government are not human beings and so they could be gotten rid off like flies.
In response the SPLM through Dr Anna Itto called President Bashir a mosquito. That was an unfortunate thing showing Anna’s ignorance of the magnitude of the issue. Instead of the SPLM leadership seizing the opportunity to make a political capital by exposing the genocidal mind of Khartoum establishment by pointing to such language as evidence of what was going on in Darfur, Nuba mountains and Blue Nile in that country they shot themselves in the foot. Please see ‘The Oyee deniers of truth in South Sudan’ http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/articles/the-oyee-deniers-of-truth-in-rss
SPLM sadly copied the abuser to proof itself equally an abuser. This recent exchange between President Bashir of the Sudan and Dr Itto of the SPLM is pertinent to what happened in the press conference hosted by Makuie. For the ministers to absurdly complement each other in the use of a dehumanising language against staff members of non-governmental organisations is very concerning. What precisely was their intent? Was it an incitement or a behaviour of ignorant people? If it is the former that then can be a crime. If it is the latter then they should not be representing the people of South Sudan.
It is pathetic that Makuei who is spoken of as a lawyer behaves like a bully in a cattle camp (Luak) with his colleague cheering him up. If President Kiir was a true leader with values and a true sense of right and wrong, these irresponsible ministers should be disciplined to give his ugly government a little face lift.
Irresponsible use of language by people in power is inadvisable. Just see what President Kiir’s repeated use of the emotive 1991 split in his speeches to the SPLM did in December 2013. It landed the country into mud and it is still stuck in it. In Rwanda in mid 1990s the use of language inappropriately was the catalyst for the subsequent genocide that cost nearly a million lives. The Tutsi victims were labelled in the local language ‘Inyenzi’ meaning cockroaches and this was spread through the media. To be specific, this vile message was broadcasted through Radio Television Des Milles Collines (RTLM) and it circulated like a wild fire on dry grassland. http://history1900s.about.com/od/rwandangenocide/a/Rwanda-Genocide.htm
The crucial elements triggering the genocide in Rwanda were the use of dehumanising language and control of the media by the perpetrators. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/16/congo.rwanda
The similarity with the reckless behaviour of the two Dinkocrats in their press conference to say the lest is shocking. They need to know that this is a very dangerous slippery slope to justify grave harm to other people. This is not to say the action of the duo could result into a genocide because their ranting was directed to a small community of NGOS. However this could make the community of the NGOs in South Sudan to become target of attacks something no normal person in their right sense would want to see happen at all.
That ignominious press conference symbolises the way how the institutions of South Sudan government are filled up with SPLM party apparatchiks and heartless opportunists without the right experience and knowledge for the purpose. A good number of them are blatant liars. For example, Ateny Wek Ateny the presidential spokesman masquerades as a lawyer when in reality he is a drop out of a law school in the early stage of the course in Hertfordshire, an area east of England. Ateny educationally is a clone of Telar Ring Deng. Do you remember the story of the latter in parliament in relation to his appointment as a minister for justice? Was Telar confirmed to the post? No! If these people were not Dinkocrats would they be in government? I leave you to work out the answers for yourself.
Now think about how possible is it that a truly qualified lawyer can behave like Michael Makuei? Sensitivity in the use of language is the hallmark of the legal profession. How come then that someone who is a qualified lawyer would be so lackadaisical like the minister of (Dis)information? Do you remember his behaviour at the UN Protection Camp in Bor in April 2014?
Was that really a behaviour of a lawyer? If you add up his daily gaffes and the frequent crude presentations and scandals you are likely to reach an interesting conclusion of this man. One wonders how he could be a minister in 21st century if it were not for the Dinkocracy stringently applied by the SPLM in the country. As the rulers of South Sudan they only bring us shame, shame, and shame. Oh’ dear!!!
Now is it really necessary to have the ministry of (Dis)information in this day and age? This structure is an outdated thing which belongs to yester century. It should be abolished with its remit transferred to the ministry of culture as a directorate. Hardly people talk of ministry of information in this modern world because it has become obsolete with the rise of information technology. Its purpose specifically was for state propaganda to disseminate and present the country in good light. A sort of public relation outfit. Dictators, innovative as usual quickly capitalised on its ability to shape and numb the collective mind in their interest seized on it and converted it into an instrument of repression/oppression, exactly what the Dinkocrats are doing.
SPLM wants to shut up the opposition but this is not going to happen. They can shut down the entire social media in South Sudan. It is not impossible. Yes, in theory they could especially given the oil cash but the draw back has serious economic repercussions that would be so dire that eventually it will bring them down. An outcome they strive to avoid but then becomes the inevitable. So it would be a defeatist or rather a suicidal approach to take.
Again if they opt to shut down the social media they will deprive themselves of the best available means and methods of harvesting intelligence. Social media overtakes radio stations and print newspapers. Therefore, shutting down radio stations and newspapers is not a solution to control information. The only way to control damaging information is by engaging your opponents with counter narrative which people in the west call ‘winning hearts and minds’. But to win hearts and mind needs the government to treat people equally with respect which Dinkocracy does not know.
Social media now delivers information directly to the audience in the comfort of their bedrooms, house vicinities, cafes, restaurants and everywhere via simple gadgets like mobile phones, IPADs, laptops etc. Thus the rebels or to put it correctly for that matter as in the case of South Sudan freedom fighters like Major Lasuba Lodoru Wongo, Dr Riek Machar and others will always be heard and communicated with right in the belly of the best (government controlled areas). With this could the duo not see that they are time wasting trying to muffle Nyandeng? Patrick Dixon, the author of ‘Futurewise’ puts it succinctly that internet has taken power from the dictators and given it to the people. This is what democracy is all about. Note, the writing is on the wall. Dinkocracy will not survive in the present world of social media. The holders of this vile ideology either tame themselves, go back to their luaks, and behave in a civilised manner or they face the gathering tsunami of South Sudanese anger in a peoples revolution.
The food for revolts is not what the rebels say or will say in Radio Miraya. It is what the government does – bad policies, bad practices and bad governance that feed rebellion such as the killing of Isaiah Abraham, Cecilia Oba, ethnic cleansing etc. The ugly and stinky information generated by acts of government in the form of abuses enables rebels to make their cases which then snowballs into regime change/revolutions. It is here that social media becomes a tool to facilitate revolts.
Paul Mason in his book ‘Why it’s kicking everywhere’ published in 2012 by Verso argues that “new technology underpin our ability to be at the same time more individualistic and more collective, it shapes our consciousness and magnify the crucial driver of all revolutions in the perceived difference between what could be and what is.” (p85). In a nutshell this is the connectedness with all that is needed to fell a dictator and dictatorship.
For better understanding of the impact of social media in bringing down governments please watch the following videos:
1) Egypt’s social networking revolution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqHPRHOHcN8 2) Inside story – the tool for revolution? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpdZ7XZpT-A 3) Dictatorships and revolutions in digital age: people power after Tunisia, Eqypt, Libya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjfMqXFS2FA 4) How social networking can spark revolutions: impact SMS, Twitter, Facebook on democracy, dictators https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLm3E1YapR8
In conclusion, the press conference held by Michael Makuei has done more harm to the government of South Sudan. It has tarnished the image of the country and anybody who doubts the genocidal tendencies of President Kiir’s regime must think again. This regime of terror must go because it is a danger to itself, South Sudanese people and the international community.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.