- Written by Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba
- Category: Pachodo.org Latest English Articles
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I deliberately provoked the debate that has unexpectedly turned out to be spiteful. I appreciate all that has been said but unfortunately it seems many of you wanted to put words into my mouth so to say or perhaps tried to read what I wrote with tinted political lenses.
It is very sad some of you started to call yourselves names, something uncalled for in a political discourse except for those who have run out of ideas and can’t support their arguments. This forum must be respected and given the intellectual scope it deserves. It must be presumed that the electronically literate persons who participate in reading or writing on these pages should have the intellectual capacity to engage without qualms, their political and ideological orientation notwithstanding.
I am conscious of my personal, academic as well as social standing in our society. That I engage in these discourses is not to parade these credentials but rather to demonstrate the length some of us can go to demystify whatever position in government or society one holds. Modesty and simplicity should not therefore be misconstrued to mean weakness. It is out of the belief that we engage in order to benefit from each other either by teaching or learning and this is in a dialectical consideration. Any feeling of I-know-it-all is tantamount to self delusion.
Having said all that I want all of us to back to the gist of my submission which is nothing more than ‘the conditions for multi-party democracy don’t exist yet in Southern Sudan’. There is nothing in this statement to suggest that I condone ‘dictatorship’ or one-party rule socialist or otherwise. I didn’t even say that Southern Sudan must wait until the conditions for multi-party democracy are put in place. Not any of these. You can repeat the sentence many times and you can be sure that I meant what I said.
All of us, it must be admitted, yearn for democracy and democratic governance in Southern Sudan but let us be realistic in our wish to have it in practice. Democracy is a category in the domain of relations/struggle between social and political groups and it evolves in the context of state (superstructure above the society) formation and nation building. This means that as a political category it is emergence is linked with the concept of the state and its management i.e. power relations in the state – what is usually referred to as ‘politics’; but it transcends that into the domain of economics.
From the above it can be discerned that democracy as a system of governance is built by the political forces in a particular country. It is not something that can be applied like a mathematical formula. It is built by the political forces as they struggle for the control of the state. Historically, modern democratic regimes evolved after the French revolution in 1779 and with the overthrow of feudalism as a system of rule. It resulted in the doctrine known today as universal franchise which empowered the people to elect their representatives to the National Assembly or Parliament. I must add here that each country has its route to democratic governance. So the French democracy is not the same as the British or the American democracies but they are all democracies in that the conditions for free, regular and fair elections together with peaceful transfer of power exist in all these countries. In these counties, the state is clearly separated from the society. The state has well defined institutions which balance each other in their powers and constitutional mandates i.e. the executive, the legislature, the judiciary with the fourth estate usually called the civil society [Press, the Market, etc.]
In Southern Sudan, ‘the exercise of central political power has not been emancipated from the overriding dominance of localised and personalised political contests’ [Patrick Chabal & Jean-Pascal Daloz, Africa Works: Disorders as Political Instruments 1999]. This is precisely because the state has not been structurally differentiated from society. This may explain why people become very subjective or certain ethnic communities gravitate towards leaders hailing from their own community as a reflection of ethnic solidarity popularly expressed as tribalism. Indeed political parties become expressions not of national or patriotic concerns but ethnic sentiments. It will be the highest expression of cynicism to call multi-partyism what emerges out of ethnic solidarity in the context of what we have in southern Sudan.
We have never experienced multi-party democracy in Southern Sudan precisely because of the level of the social and economic development which definitely impacts on the development of our political development and hence organisation for political action. Many of our intellectuals who have excelled in political scheming acquired this experience as members of political parties in northern Sudan either within the left or right of the ;political spectrum. By the way even the Liberal Party evolved out of the experience operating within the northern sectarian and liberal political parties e.g. the Umma, NUP, and SCP.
In the last General Elections, the people voted not because of political convictions but partly due to the social clout of the personalities they voted for. And if the criterion is social rather than political or ideological, which are in the domains of political parties and their action/struggle for power, how then can we venture to talk of multi-partyism or multi-party democracy in the context of Southern Sudan? This is exactly what I meant that conditions don’t exist for multiparty democracy. It is impossible in the context patrimonialism to talk or wish for multiparty democratic dispensation.
This brings me to the questions posed by Mr. Kimy James. From the start no government including GOSS builds democracy. The role of governments in democratic settings is to mediate between society and market i.e. between the social and economic forces of society and to enforce law and order. GOSS is not expected to build democracy but to protect the democratic gains of the people of Southern Sudan in terms of their social, economic and political rights and freedoms. But these rights and freedoms may be unavailable to the people by virtue of their ignorance and social backwardness and that explain why they may be trodden upon by the authorities.
Southern Sudan is emerging from two decades of war. We should not forget that when GOSS was formed in 2005 the SPLM as the dominant political party was in trauma as a result of losing its historical leader in a tragic accident. Those who came around the leadership of General Salva Kiir Mayardit then were not necessarily those who buttressed Garang’s leadership of the SPLM/A. Many mistakes committed by the SPLM/A between August 2005 and October 2007 must be attributed to this paradigm shift from ‘liberation’ to ‘power’ politics and engineering. Everything must be put in context to enable us to diagnose the disease of the transition.
This is a discussion not a lecture. I will therefore stop here to hear what you have to say. I would advice those who excel in Arabic and not English to please try to understand before you jump into the frying pan.
Peter Adwok Nyaba
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