An Overview of Governments Function and Politics in Africa: The case of south Sudan

By James Pui Yak Yiel,

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (L) shakes hands with rebel leader and former vice-president Riek Machar after signing an agreement at the end of talks ...(file by Nyamilepedia)

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (L) shakes hands with rebel leader and former vice-president Riek Machar after signing an agreement at the end of talks …(file by Nyamilepedia)


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.

Personalized leadership

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

  2 comments for “An Overview of Governments Function and Politics in Africa: The case of south Sudan

  1. Riaw Gatlier
    March 22, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    You knock the points comrade, this is exactly dysfuct salva kiir and his useless groups in juba are doing their businesses and day to day government businesses. They are running a country with no consideration of its beloved citizens. Shame on them mayLord the father curse them into rein we pray Amen.


  2. Ghol Chot
    March 23, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Riek Machar and some of our Nuer cousins don’t have a platform to lecture the South Sudanese people in the so-called democracy or democracies, in whatever form; as long as the Nuers continue to be mesmerised by some ancients and the obsolete believes of Ngundeng.

    Nuers have these days derailed from their Dinka, Shilluk, Anuaks and other South Sudanese people’s absolute democracy. The Nuers are fighting a war that will wipe them out in South Sudan with their Riek Machar and their Ngundeng ancient way of believing in superstitions.

    The Nuers and mostly Riek Machar, the sociopath has been acting against what the South Sudanese people’s have been fighting for all along; right when the South Sudanese people were fighting the so-called arabs of North Sudan. The Nuers have been acting against the South Sudanese people genuine demands from the So-called arabs of the North Sudan in 1991 and yet again in 2013 and our Nuer cousins believed their cousins like the Dinkas will stoop low to the Nuers’s ways of viewing the world, good luck to our Nuer cousins, but the Nuers evil game in South Sudan isn’t going to be allowed in South Sudan in whatever form whatsoever!

    Our Nuer cousins, are lucky to be borne with their Dinka cousins who are always very very cool headed and are always very very protective of their Nuer little brother, however their little Nuer brother often throw tantrums.

    No one chooses their relatives, otherwise, the Dinkas would have got rid of their Nuer’s cousins right after 1991, but no one chooses his/her relatives; but these days, the Nuers are going to be welcomed back into the South Sudanese people’s communities and the South Sudanese people are again going to endure their little Nuer brother just because the South Sudanese people can’t get rid of their little Nuer brother who the South Sudanese people would always want at all times.

    The Nuers have been used by the evil corporate America’s AFRICOM just as the AFRICOM used some low-lives arabs in Libya, Syria and now Ukraine to change the government in those countries for the evil corporate America’s ends. But in South Sudan though, the evil corporate America isn’t wanted in South Sudan.

    South Sudanese people would rather have no Nuers in South Sudan than allow evil people like evil white English men and white American men WITH THEIR SO-CALLED US and the SO-CALLED UNSC into South Sudan, never. Because if you welcomed an evil into your own life; you will become an evil someday—-South Sudanese people don’t want to live with evil people like evil white corporate Americans and white English men plus their evil juus attack dogs.



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