Articles and Analysies
Is it too much to ask for democracy on a New Year? By: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.
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Jan 9, 2010 - 11:00:28 PM

Is it too much to ask for democracy on a New Year?

 By: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, MD.


South Sudanese are about to participate in an election whose outcome supposedly should have a major impact on their lives. The general populace are for a democratic change in the existing political practice which will    essentially mark a shift from the use of the bullets to the use of the ballots to achieve their dreams for a better life.

 “Stop tribalism and embrace democracy now,” has been the overall cry of our people at the grassroots. This call has not come out of the blues, but it clearly expresses what the people have been through over the past five years and they are now looking forwards to a change that can translate the above slogan into practice.

 Generally the preparations to the run off for the elections have been hurdled by so many constraints starting with the allocation of the constituencies, the registration of the electorates,   to the lack of the laws that would guarantee a   free, fair and transparent elections.

 The US administration and the international community have both expressed their concerns over the present circumstances that are viewed as full of obstacles that would never guarantee the holding of a credible election as such. The adoption of the Security Bill by the National Assembly (Parliament) using a mechanical majority in spite of being boycotted by both the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM - the 2nd partner in the government of national unity- GoNU) and the other Sudanese opposition parties, was a frank attempt by the National Congress Party (NCP) to establish a police state that can protect the incumbent regime.

 However, south Sudan that enjoys a great deal of autonomy is yet to show to its citizens that democracy necessarily doesn’t have to come from Khartoum. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) led government of south Sudan (GoSS) has a unique opportunity to not only champion the democratic transformation in the whole of Africa, but it has also the opportunity to prove to the southern Sudanese, and the international community at large that it (the GoSS) is more dedicated to adopt democratic practices than its National Congress Party (NCP) partner of the incumbent president Omer al Bashir.

 The so-called “Juba Alliance Forces” which is mainly formed of the SPLM and the major northern Sudanese opposition parties, is a political union that claims to be striving for democratic transformation in the Sudanese political system as a whole. The alliance has already staged a couple of   peaceful demonstrations in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, since its formation in October 2009 protesting the controversial Security laws, even before it was   adopted into law   by the National Assembly, but to no avail.

 With this vast involvement of SPLM and the other south Sudanese opposition parties in demanding changes to the National Security Bill as well as the other laws that govern the democratic transformation of the nation, has without a second thought painted a worldwide impression that our politicians are keen to adopt a democratic system of governance.   Unfortunately this enthusiasm is not been translated into the everyday lives of people inside south Sudan itself.

 Delays in the realisation of democratic practices as such would no doubt raise eye brows everywhere, because the autonomous status of south Sudan leaves no any justifications for that. The south Sudan Legislative Assembly had all the time in the world to draft the needed laws in its capacity as the lawmakers for south Sudan. This shouldn’t be a cause for them to frown their foreheads should they be accused of having been too slow on the issuance of the necessary laws during their terms in the Assembly.

 The new year of 2010 that came on after we had been through a lot of political ups and downs, will be a starting point in facing the realities of events   on the ground, with much focus on how much of our problems are genuine and of local origins. It is in this New Year that we should want to expose all those cunning individuals and groups who have so far been hiding behind the “all season proof”, scapegoat of “northern   hidden   hands” as a reason for our countless failures symbolized by our inability to provide    good governance for the South.

 Can the SPLM-led GoSS be trusted to provide the conducive environment necessary to make the coming elections a success and credible for the people of south Sudan? This is the question that doesn’t look for statements or rhetoric of any sort. It will be the deeds to count and it will also prove to all whether democratic practices do by any chance exist on our government and its prominent pillars’ worksheet.

 All those Western nations who believe in democracy, including the USA, should keep a close eye on the events evolving in the built up for the elections in the Sudan with an equal concern on what takes place in the South. The SPLM that has so far portrayed itself as the champion of democracy at the national level must be reminded that such a political claim can only be taken seriously when it (SPLM), leads by example within its territorial dominance of south Sudan.

 The sealing of the referendum bills that can now make the independence of south Sudan within the reach of its citizens provided that all the   other things remain   honoured, this bill shouldn’t be abused by the ruling SPLM party to consolidate any of the anarchical political realities that it has already established on the ground over the last five years.

 Nation building as such is a time consuming exercise, but most importantly is the foundation on which such a nation is built. This is what basically matters and counts. It is not for any common good should we hurriedly build our dreams on foundations that don’t accommodate multi-partisan democracy, and do not promote a broad political inclusiveness nor is it willing to comply with values that will promote national reconciliation.

 It will be the challenge for the US Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration who said that, “more pressure will be exerted on the political parties in Sudan in order to change the current situation in the country which he described as unacceptable!. He has the moral duty to report    exactly to his administration should democratic values fail to be part of the political    revolution and emancipation in south Sudan.

 This long walk of the people should not be allowed to be hijacked by the countless pseudo-military quasi political organisations (existing all over south Sudan) in the name of liberation struggles without guaranteeing a system for future peaceful transfer of power. South Sudan doesn’t deserve to breed another Mugabe. At least our complex ethnical and political backgrounds are too fragile that domineering politics can just make things worse.

 Security is central to seeing peaceful elections in south Sudan, though issues like trans-tribal voting would be too much to expect especially in areas where inter-tribal fights are ripe. However equally important is the creations of a very strong constitutional court if none already exists at the moment. This court should be above everybody including those in the highest positions (President or above), and it should rule on any disputes related to the elections. (pre, intra, and post elections events)

 No political party should have to decide the fate of the other political parties as to whether they should exist in the first place or not. Secondly it should be the secretariat of political parties that should approve the eligibility of registration of any party in accordance to its regulations and the Interim National constitutions.

 To start with, it should be made plenty clear to both the NCP and the SPLM that all parties registered at the General Secretariat’s Registry must be allowed to run for the coming general elections, and should anyone have anything against a particular party, they should do so through the legal avenues. An example here would be the illegal attempts by the SPLM’s (mainstream) leadership to prevent the SPLM-DC party, led by the controversial   ex- Foreign Minister, Dr. Lam Akol   Ajawin   from operating in south Sudan.

 There is no need to be too emotional about settling our political scores as long as we are about to embrace democracy as the only way out. The ruling SPLM party should revisit its manifestos and slogans during its decade long history. National issues are better tackled through sound dialogue and without looking down at others. It is never an issue of a majority against a minority, but rather the forging of a relationship where all can comfortably fit in. Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior once was quoted saying that, “no one is anybody’s majority or minority, for we are all equal citizens”.    

  South Sudan cannot afford to indefinitely be the hostage of supporting political groups who are explicitly programmed only to counteract the north without developing and putting forwards clear policies for the future of its people, not even for the coming half a century. Those whose contributions cannot exceed the basic levels of military skirmishes and political rhetoric, must be made one way or the other to acknowledge that there is no such a thing like leaders for all times without risking to mess up their own achievements.

 Shying away from the badly needed fact-finding, justice and reconciliation exercise will continue to cost us even the more. We have now carried forwards brutal crimes committed over the twenty years liberation period and they keep surfacing in most our discussions.

 As if the above are not enough, we have also now accumulated a huge record of corruption, embezzlements (US $8.0 billion), grafts, and massive frauds all of which have not been properly tackled so far. To sort all these and put the south Sudanese house in order, we need to vote into office a government that can among many other things, reclaim these huge sums of the embezzled monies and put in place the feasible institutions that can deter future corruption.

  No doubt that many people are currently hooked in the myth that any change in the present political leadership may result to a disaster despite its very bad performance and reputation. However we should not be fooled into believing that those in office today are the best that south Sudan can produce. And even if it means that the whole population has to participate in defending our boundaries with the north, it can still happen and even better under a democratically elected and a non-corrupt new leadership that can guarantee inter-communal harmony within the south Sudanese community at large.

 The quest for democracy in south Sudan shouldn’t sound as if people are demanding for a favour from some immune group of aliens. Our people deserve to have a better government and nobody should deny them that right. South Sudan cannot afford to lose another billion dollars just to enrich these clowns who call themselves leaders when practically they have already become dealers, engaged day and night in selling our homeland in bits to the international big sharks or their local agents or anyone for that matter as long as they   pays handsomely.

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