By James Okuk, PhD
July 10, 2017 (SSNA) — July 09th every year marks a significant Day for Declaration of Independence of an additional country in the world that made the 193rd UN full member and 54 AU recognised brother/sister. The first launching occasion in 2011 was jubilantly a thrilling event to the admiration by all, South Sudanese and foreigners alike, as they sang the dignified sacrifices of past liberation struggle as well as the expected future glory from hopes in dividends of “the land of great abundance” united in peace and harmony. The following first and second anniversaries of such a rare Great Day in 2012 and 2013 was still euphoric despite the economic austerity measures that resulted from oil production shut-down by Juba due to bad politics with Khartoum, the conduit of its crude piping and marketing to international outreach. The strength of the South Sudanese Pound was still competitive and attractive for business and purchasing power of the active citizens. The Bank of South Sudan was capable to have amounts of hard currency reserves from oil business incomes and remittances from donor countries and other foreign friends/partners. Daily lives of the people was basically dignified and without serious political, economic and social hardships. Many of them ventured into successful micro-economic functions and they were happy.
Alas! The bad regrettable times for South Sudanese got launched by the destructive conflict of the SPLM/A leaders and their supporters in December 2013. From then neither the Christmases, the New Years, nor the Independence Anniversaries (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) were meaningful to the majority of South Sudanese whose livelihoods got disrupted by ‘unconscientious’ politics and abhorring bad economy of the antagonistic selfish civil war. Instead of leading their people wisely with collective enjoyments of the hard-won and deserved blessings of “land of great abundance” built firmly on sustainable peace foundation of its Eagle Vows (of Liberty, Justice and Prosperity), the power greed of South Sudanese leaders relapsed the country into a despairing and disgusting “land of great abandoned” disintegrated by massive displacement and unprecedented refuge of the population in the neighbouring countries. The worst is for the government in Juba to abandon all-together the official celebration of the very national independence that gave it the power it has now.
Put under critical prism in regard to provision of basic life amenities and upholding of human rights, South Sudan can almost now be called “Republic of NGOs” surviving on mercy of foreign humanitarian sympathy and moral obligations of the natural law (enforced by human conscience). Whoever is persistently proud in leading or wanting to lead such an abandoned powerless embattled country, must be a beast or a lucifer who thrive on blood and suffering.
According to modern political definition a viable state is nothing much if not the integration of legitimate and sovereign land, people, government and international relations. Evaluating keenly the 6th Anniversary of the Republic of South Sudan, we can evidently see the biggest challenge of abandoned land (surface, underneath and sky) with no utilitarianism. We have also witnessed the conduct of government and opposition that have failed to protect the civilian population from grave bad news, and consequently the alarming displacement and refugees exodus.
Weakening/Isolating international relations and criticism has put South Sudan into top list of undesirable countries against good governance and sustainable development indices/perceptions. Though famine has subsided for a short respite imposed by the natural grace of the rains season, yet hunger is still a hanging stick on many households, mainly due to man-made insecurity from havocs on population by the “gun-class” who are currently leading the monopoly of violence. The Responsibility-to-Protect is seen nowhere.
This abhorring irrational civil war situation, if allowed to continue for some more bad times ahead, could become the un-making of the Republic of South Sudan. It adds to the evidence of Daron Acemoglu’s and James A. Robertson’s 2012 Book ‘Why Nations Fail’ when they fail from establishing institutions that keep the fundamentals of the origins of power and prosperity, and when they are incapable of addressing the recurrent abject poverty of their citizens. It also validates freshly the facts/values of Peter H. Schuck’s 2014 Book ‘Why Government Fails So Often’ when it operates without realistic people-centred goals; worst acting ineffectively on morally hazardous policies, domestic and foreign.
The hot case in point as we officially un-celebrated the independence anniversary is the push by some heartless decision-makers in economic sector to lift the subsidy on the strategic fuel prices. Their flawed superficial argument is that South Sudan has become the fuel cheapest country in the region and the world at large. But have these uncaring elites asked themselves the core question: What is the current price of an ordinary South Sudanese, especially those hired by the government, compared to that of the people of the region and the world?
As the real economy is supposed to be centred on the people (not mere marketing competition of commodities values of pricing calculus), especially the ordinary citizens, the answer to this question should form any prudent decision on the current fuel subsidy. By the way, maintaining the fuel subsidy is the good thing so far the current government of South Sudan in Juba has done to the remaining resilient citizens living patiently in its controlled territory. Hence, removing fuel subsidy shouldn’t be attempted at all before the current poverty of our people is addressed first so that their normal purchasing power is back as it used to be. South Sudan has been living under abnormal hardships of war and no culture of peace. It can’t afford any experimental comfort-zoning and theorising of elites on free-market economy. A war-torn country needs controlled and planned economy that supports the welfare of its suffering ordinary people.
Lifting fuel subsidy could become the final straw that will break the remaining camel back, perhaps, as it may spike “Fuel Revolution”akin to historic French “Bread Revolution”. Also blaming climate change for our current economic woes is misplaced argument. The uncaring rich government’s top officials who spent millions of dollars on trips abroad should become sensitive to plight of deprived common citizens, the inevitable power house of South Sudan.
Despite the disappointments with current status of keeping the Republic, it is not yet too late to build a South Sudan that can last but with avoidance of “grand political corruption” from the behaviour/conduct of “our turn to eat”. The political coalition and patronages who have captured the state or struggling to do so should reverse their gears and re-drive to the current IGAD’s and Partners’ move to revitalise fully the 2015 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement (ARCSS).
Dr. James Okuk teaches at the University of Juba. He can be reached at email@example.com.