An Overview of Governments Function and Politics in Africa: The case of south Sudan
By James Pui Yak Yiel,
March 22, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — The colonial legacy has a very negative influence on the African politics and south Sudan is no exception. However, being a plural society composed of many nations, south Sudan failed to put a viable political system in place and this call for the establishment of institutions and structures that are capable of sustain political order in the country. The system that exists is a confused mixture of authoritarian and democratic parliamentary/ liberal entity. The absence of a meaningful harmonization policy to reconcile the three concepts led to a gap between a strong and effective government struggling to modernize and integrate and the liberty of the citizens, who were hoping to translate the pre independence rising expectations into a concrete developmental fulfillment but the government is only preoccupied with how to maintain his grip on power and to appropriate for themselves the privileges of their respective offices. It is a wonder that in south Sudan the nation precedes the state unlike what is happening in the rest of the world where the state precedes the nation. Consequently, it is difficult to wrest national consciousness from among the plethora of ethnic groups or forge a national identity where centrifugal forces are strong. The party politics in the country are based on tribal allegiance rather on party affiliation and the opposition often a minority find it difficult to understand their permanent exclusion from power along with the privileges its confers. Thus under these circumstances, the political process boil down to a quest for domination or even repression and not alternation in office.
Features of African politics and by extension south Sudan
Crises of legitimacy
Legitimacy simply connotes wide acceptability of the government in power by the entire citizens of the country. According to S.M Lipset (1963) in his book titled “political book” legitimacy of the government is determined by three factors, how power is acquired, the performance or efficiency of the government and the level of freedom and welfare by the citizens. However, it is to be recall that government in Juba under Salva Kiir made it a slogan that it has the legitimacy in spite of the absence of those three factors mentioned above. Though, they may claim election into office by the south Sudanese people, yet this democratic right is marred by the obnoxious reign typical of an illegitimate government with which they rule the country for the last eleven (11) years to say the least.
Corruption and monetized politics
Corruption is defined by Awolwo (1966) as abuse, misuse and disuse of power, corruption remains the bane of south Sudan political system. It is characterized by rampant misused of public fund, favoritism in dispensing patronage, nepotism in the awards of government contracts and the list goes on. While the ideas of the supremacy of the law, transparency and accountability are consider the basic tenets of democracy and should be embrace by any democratic state, they are mere expression than actual deeds in the context of south Sudan and this has hitherto cultivated a culture of impunity where public fund meant for development are diverted for personal use. However, it is for this reason that the country economy got stagnated and underdevelopment become the perfect way of life, therefore Karl Marx’s notion of primitive accumulation – acquiring wealth in excess of what is reasonably and economically justified and JF. Bayarts coinage of the term “politics of the belly” has both become the norms in the country.
Ali Mazrui (1997: 7) identified five leadership styles among the African leaders:
- Intimidator leader, who relies primarily on fear and instrument of coercion to assert his authority and specialized in the use of threat of force to extract compliance from the fellow countrymen
- The patriarchal leader, one who commands high reverence – a near father like figure
- The leader of reconciliation, who relies for his effectiveness on qualities of tactical accommodation and capacity to discover areas of compromise between otherwise antagonistic view points
- Mobilization leader, whose main drive is ideology with a dose of charismatic qualities which help in mobilizing the population in the direction of particular social action
- Bureaucratic leader, who relies on efficiency rather than evocation, procedure rather than passion.
If one is to judge our president Salva Kiir in term of those leadership qualities, surely you would agree with me that he belongs to the first category of African leaders. detention without trial, daily disappearances, suppression of dissent, lynching and political assassinations, lack of the freedom of the press and the massacre in Juba, these systematic human right abuses that took place in south Sudan prior and after the country independence are a clear testimony of this leadership quality. While laying claim to be democratic, he behave in the manner of maximum military ruler but he should take note of J.J Rouseau view that “the strongest is never strong to be master unless he transformed might into right and obedience into duty”.
Sit tight syndrome
This is the desire and consistent refusal of rulers and leaders to leave office at the end of their tenure even when they had become unpopular. Whether elected or accede to power through a military coup such leaders begun to scheme and plot how to stay in power indefinitely. President Salva Kiir when seeking another term in 2010 general elections following his rule for six years as president of the government of south Sudan and 1st vice of the republic of Sudan, publically assured the people he will not run again in 2015 should he be elected into office for the second time. Unfortunately, when the term was almost expiring and the SPLM party was preparing to nominate candidates to compete for the SPLM flag bearer who in turn shall compete for the country presidency come 2015 general elections, the president refused to let this process move forward by relegating on his past promises to relinquish power and hence started the war. Evidently, if the president could obstruct internal party political process such as the one of SPLM, do we have the guarantee for the upcoming elections to be free and fair? It is abundantly clear therefore that in taking those actions, the president is absolutely implementing the sit tight syndrome policy so that he remain indefinitely in power and this justifies the maxim which says “those who refuse peaceful change makes violent change inevitable”.
South Sudan is a plural society divided along segmental cleavages which are ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious and ideological. Moreover, having emerged from a protracted liberation struggle, the country has so ill to correct and many problems to solved. Therefore, the implementation of the aforementioned policies in a diverse and segmented country as south Sudan is at the heart of the current crisis afflicting the country and the president is squarely to be held responsible, it is believe where there is power and discretion there is always abuse and this is what exactly what happened in south Sudan. Finally, given the scale of the problem at hand it is imperative to find a visionary leader who will not equate opposition with treason and who would be at the same time capable of frontally confronting challenges facing the south Sudanese people.
The author can be reached at PuiYak@outlook.com