Friday, October 28, 2011

South Sudan and the Arab Spring: The Minister on Willful Resource Grabbing

By Martin Garang Aher

Just as the popular axiom illustrates, ‘for whatever has a beginning there is an end.’ It is the end of the climax of the Libyan revolutionary struggle against the regime of Gadhafi. It is also the stall point in the sense that the people of Libya have achieved what they fought for in the wake of several months of uprising against Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, a leader loathed so much by the West and praised abundantly by the African Union and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez seems charmed by Gaddafi’s arrogance in keeping opposition at bay and hauling over the coals the Western condemnations against his regime. In any nous, they share dictatorial arrogance and bravery – blind bravery. 

The West hated Gaddafi for his eccentric and enigmatic support of Al Qaeda activities in the Arab world and most disturbingly, the bombing of the Pan American World Airline flight 103, known tragically as the Lockerbie Bombing over Scotland in the UK in 1988. Gadhafi had also made Europe lived with the awful experience of bitterness through internal meddling. This was evident in Libya arming the IRA in Northern Ireland.

The African Union on the other hand is a baby of Gaddafi. He was adored and almost nearly worshipped by its leadership so that he could keep the organisation sufficiently funded thereby eliminating scrupulous processes of soliciting aid from the Western World. This near total dependence on him made him hoped and believed he could one day become the president of Africa. This commitment was clear in Libya offering huge financial support to the defunct organisation that watches over the slaying of Darfur people in the hands of Sudan’s counter-insurgency unit - the Janjaweed. His personal attires festooned with maps of Africa are overt scenes of his deep admiration for the continent. He saw himself as a model and yearned to be recognised as its father- father of Africa. 

Realistically, many African leaders who rejected Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) in its initial stages of the war appeared like parodies on Gadhafi’s highway to a very long reign in power. Others like Chadian president, Idris Derby, had their own motives in supporting him all the way through. But why is Libya, under the auspices of a well-crafted Green Book that led her to relative stability and strong economy in both Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa not satisfied with Gadhafi?

It is a question that will always linger around. In African political demagogue, leaders pledge many developmental and social reforms when seeking and biding for power; a stepping stone to be democratically elected into the office and after which a ruthless crack down on oppositions ensues. Constitutions eventually become menus that could be changed overnight to solidify grip on power. This is a politico-ideological disease that has swamped the Arab world and perhaps the Arab world too has infested Africa. 

One wonders if the Arab Spring, as the uprising throughout the Arab world is referred to, is not moulding other dictators to replace the incumbent ones whom they seek to overthrow through mass protests. In the Libyan case, armed insurrection was the fundamental tool because all other political persuasions to introduce democracy never moved Gadhafi. He viewed such attempts as cheap shenanigans. Question therefore remains as to whether the NTC will not stall and a hard won liberation handed over to other dictators in waiting, as is the case in Egypt. Libyans should be quizzical with the NTC leadership and these leaders too must show that they are immune from power hunger and demonstrate that they will not turn against the very civilians who look upon them for change as exhibited by Bashar in Syria.

It all starts with resources. The government of the people must use the country’s resources to the satisfaction of the populace. Irregularities and desire to amass country’s resources for one’s ethnic, religious sect and regional affiliations cannot redeem the country rather, they will jettison it into a free fall in the direction of  the abyss of corruption and other socio-political degeneracy.

It is in light of this question that one is forced to reflect on the situation in South Sudan. The wind of independence is abating and the country is beginning to be habituated by her erstwhile-displaced population trickling in from the Diaspora and from the Sudan.  The imperfective meditation that the two Sudans will remain a single entity or under a convoluted confederacy even after the breakaway of South Sudan is now an obvious past. Or was it an academic twist to the war possibly orchestrated by South Sudanese?  It needs time to be fully comprehensible. But one thing is clear, Sudan will always remain a foreign land.  Today South Sudanese citizens are looking up to the tutelage of their leaders to transform their homeland into a liveable community. But will this thought intercommunicate with the desire of the flamboyant leaders who see the national cake as something to grab for oneself and one’s own people?

A recently formed government of president Kiir has a minister who thinks that regional enrichment will answer the quest for development. All across South Sudan, states that felt happy for having been awarded sufficient ministerial positions went out in celebration and called for fancy thanksgiving parties, not to the president but to their elected ministers for having made it to the top. It started with Western Bahr El Ghazal, then Western Equatoria before the deprived state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal wiped out tears of disquietude and misrepresentation in the national government and held a party for their two sons who were appointed  ministers in the national government.

In all these parties, comments made by various leaders were supportive of presidential decision to appoint ministers within rank and files of their capable colleagues. Praises to the president were not considerate of calculated forthcoming elections manoeuvres in 2014. Others thought a cumbersome Dinkanisation of the national leadership had finally been broken.

Then came promises and tribal attitudes from the leaders. And none other than Alison Manani Magaya uttered the comments that jerked some patriots who might had illusions that a long time serving professional of that calibre had a key to proper and equitable development knowledge for the country. Manani urged a fellow minister in the foreign ministry who comes from W. Equatoria to fill the books of staff with West Equatorians. 'We are not asking you to put our people there but you must do it.' He elaborated more, 'we have to grab for ourselves too because others are doing it.' 

The comments, if put into action unreservedly as in the words of the pundit himself, would have long term results akin to the precursory grievances that led to the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. If it starts with grabbing for our regions, what will stop South Sudan from following in the footsteps of Libya? We are at the corner turning left onto the 'Arabian Highway.'

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