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Articles and Analysies Last Updated: Dec 20, 2009 - 3:34:53 PM

Shall we come to our senses and stop the mayhem in South Sudan? By: LB Lokosang, SOUTH AFRICA

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Shall we come to our senses and stop the mayhem in South Sudan ?

By: LB Lokosang , SOUTH AFRICA


It's horrible! It's shameful! South Sudan plummeting into turmoil at cruising speed! As this article goes to press, lives are being lost of our young men quite unnecessarily. All of a sudden, old tribal grudges are exploding out of control. It is difficult to guess the underlying causes of the ethnic violence at this point in time.

There is no question these are frustrations of a suffering and desperate people. There is anger in them that they do not know the cause of. Yet, it's possible that some readers would brandish these outcries as overstatements, prophesy of doom and uncalled for overreactions. To this section of people a question is posed: Should we not look at the trends, take deep reflection and find out where it is all leading to? Come to the bottom of it all; there’s no time for the enduring pretence; standing by and watching events unfold will drench the war ravaged region further into uncertainty. No amount of self-denial will rescue South Sudan from heading to another Sarajevo in Africa .

As to the causes of frustration, the writings are all over the cracking wall. Hardly a month passes without hearing, reading or seeing stories of bloody inter-tribal attacks. Hardly a day passes without getting earfuls of corruption, cases of graft and shameless suspicious deals.

If we should examine ourselves inwardly, we will see that it was a bad start right from the word go. Examples abound to even the most naïve. It started with billions of American cash thrown to unsuspecting people – a people with the least idea of where that money came from. What a temptation it was for an ex-guerrilla soldier just in the yester-year was receiving zero in monthly pay, suddenly to discover himself pocketing over a thousand dollars in bonus! What a disbelief for the average man to start thinking of where and how to spend the money!

All that money is handed out in raw cash without a bank being involved! Salaries were pegged in US dollars without any knowledge of how another country’s currency could be worked out in a budding economy. You would ask, ‘where were the bankers?’ The answer is: It was run by executives with no track record of working even as banking interns.

It was a Cinderella story of a national bank whose CEO decided to establish bank branches without prior feasibility studies, with no data on the demographics of the branch location and without the necessary capacity stock-taking.

It was a case of a breed of central bank executives without certificates in banking, managing a young national economy, with only common sense. A letter-headed testimonial of economics, commercial studies or business management was enough to earn the holder a position at a bank. The inevitable consequence is senseless spending, a market economy run with four currencies: United States Dollar, Ugandan Shillings, Kenyan Shillings and Sudanese Pounds. These currencies are exchanged uncontrolled along filthy market streets and under broad day sunlight. Guess who operate these mobile exchange bureaux. Former herds boys and school dropouts whose only appreciation of schooling is learning how to add, subtract, divide and multiply using Chinese handheld calculators!

Yet another consequence: careless spending. Garden vegetables and rudimentary household items, such as brooms and papyrus mats, started to flow from Uganda like the Nile water. All of a sudden Ugandan boys and girls dropped out of school heading to at least see for themselves the stacks of brand-new US Dollars sold in streets of a country whose people were refugees just a year or so ago. A manual pit-latrine digging worker, who charged an equivalent of 2.5 U.S. dollars per square meters in Uganda , charged 50 dollars for the same service!

If that does not sound crazy and abnormal to you, here are some more realities that should hopefully not elevate your blood pressure level. Without a central strategic planning unit, inflation has soared because spending is not controlled and done according to set priorities. The inflation is heading to double digits and, while the average man’s pot bellies are receding, some generals, brigadiers, colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors and captains, without assigned units, and roaming the streets without the least required qualification, are draining the coffers big time.

These over-ranked “leaders” are without the least idea of what leadership entails. Yet they are all over the place agitating for war; making it a way of eking out a living. With the economy plunging, their “gold mines” are running dry, peace time seems to be giving them prominence. Hence, that old character in them – of war-lordism – seems to be urging them to create a state of confusion. Still you are not satisfied? How about learning that two forces armed to the teeth might clash anytime in any of the major towns of South Sudan ? This is not a false alarm. Paper and online media sources have pointed out to these events and yet there seems to be no admission of the failure and call for firm assurances that might instil hope.

All the mayhem mushrooming is against the gloomy backdrop of long awaited political elections. Elections meant to involve a voter with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world; a voter who has never faced a ballot booth before; a voter without knowledge of what a parliament and democracy is all about. These elections are to take place in five months’ time.

Alas, up till this date there is no mention of stringent security measures, there is no plan of how people will make informed decisions. It is not generally unknown how violence and clashes can be controlled when prejudice, mistrust and lack of confidence are the vices that loom at the moment.

Who is, therefore, to blame? The answer is obvious. Of course, all of us are to blame as well, for watching with folded arms right from the start. For few are the whistle blowers, corruption is perpetuated unabated. The real worry is when the corrupt and the undeserving reach an intoxication level they begin to hurl punches at anybody looking at them suspiciously. They may use every trick in the book even to burn the house so that at the end nobody lives to become a saint. As it is said, “corruption bites back”.   

What can then be done? As the wrong start has exposed the ship to head to turbulent waters, the passengers in it must quickly decide what to do with their fate. There is absolutely no point in turning against one another while the ship’s fate is unknown.

People must discover that the cause of the problem is the case of gross incompetence. Since the antidote of human errors lies with the man himself, let’s work toward giving it our best shot, with our brains; not emotions. Let’s start checking our steps.

Yes, time for stocktaking has come; and if South Sudan has genuine friends out there, the time for real help is NOW! Like the cliché goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. The aim of this article is therefore to call for concerted intervention of concerned friends and intellectuals of South Sudan , philanthropists and activists to come together and brainstorm on what can be done.

I would propose a well facilitated focus forum of delegates to take place in Kampala or Nairobi , to examine how to stop the crisis and map a way towards the promised Referendum.


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