The Plight of the Africans in Their Big Men’s Pistol.

By Stephen Par Kuol,
South Sudan ANTI-government forces posting with a huge missile they captured from the government forces in Panyinjiar County, Unity State(Photo: Via Abraham Majak)

South Sudan ANTI-government forces posting with a huge missile they captured from the government forces in Panyinjiar County, Unity State(Photo: Via Abraham Majak)

May 30, 2015(Nyamilepedia) —- With its compact cartographic shape and susceptibility to violent armed conflicts, Africa, the second largest continent on the globe has been metaphorically described by some western pundits as a loaded pistol whose trigger is located somewhere in the Gulf of Guinea (Western Congo and Southern Cameroon),with its ammunition magazine somewhere in the extreme Horn of Africa (Somalia) and the barrel on the southern tip of the continent (Cape Province, SAR).

This literately means that the African people live inside a loaded automatic handgun ready to fire at any time. Some African gurus of history and political science have dismissed that as Euro-centric prejudice. Arguable or not, the home truth is that humanity has never experienced real peace in the continent since the era of slave trade, colonial conquest, and scramble for Africa and unfortunately up to the independence in 1960s.

Things have only gone from bad to worse with liberation and independence. While most of what we have to deal with today is the aftermath of colonialism, bashing the long gone colonialists for everything is really shirking leadership responsibility. Like Asians who have so far overcome the bruises of colonialism, we are masters of our own destiny to make this continent a hell or paradise for our people. We have all it takes to make life fun and liveable in this cradle of humanity. What is missing is the statesmanship in African politics. The African leaders in their club of dictators called African Union (AU) talk very big but do very little in their countries as their own people continue to wallow in misery.

Today, from Eritrea to Zimbabwe and from South Sudan to Uganda and Burundi, the African people have been trapped in what Professor Patrick Lumumba of Nairobi University Law School has called “Martyrs syndrome”. Martyrs Syndrome is a political psychosis of the liberation armies/movements turned –ruling parties in post war African countries. The most common symptom of this psychosis is the paternalistic conviction on the part of the so-called liberators that they deserve everything in the country they martyred liberating.

This pathological mentality prescribes that the liberated (the populace) are the ruled and the liberators are rulers with unquestionable authority over them. My own sojourn in Post War South Sudan politics has exposed me to the spectacle of this thing called liberated –liberators discourse.  In this discourse, the liberators see everything in their liberated country as dividend of their sacrifice and success. This includes public resources and the political power they earned through bullets (not ballots). Even the term corruption has by implication gained virtuous currency in the society where the so-called political leaders are entitled to loot the country straight faced.

One South Sudanese political scientist at Juba University has called those illegally amassed resources “SPLA I fought Wealth” That is called “graft” in the civilized world of sane and sober, but in the world of those goons, it is called “payback” for the time and opportunities lost during the liberation struggle. Even the demand for the freedom we all fought for is now branded as errant nuisance of the west. Meritocracy and institutionalism have been deliberately eschewed to advance this thing we have called lootocracy in our Juba English of drinking joints.  Subsequently, South Sudan has been long condemned to the reign of political ineptitude, mediocrity, ethnic bigotry and corruption of the ruling overlords. All this is called “payback”, of course, without term limit!

In Robert Magube’s tradition, revolutionaries can be retired only by the Mother Nature. In solemn term, African liberation leaders do not retire without political violence. No wonder, civil wars are raging in most of the African countries ruled by those hooligans who call themselves revolutionaries. I call those “wars of liberation from villainous liberators”. In most of the African countries with former guerrilla leaders at the helm, those “war made politicians “(in the word of Prof. Peter Adwok Nyaba ) have created a sterile world of  oppressors.  They usurp the rule of law and place themselves above the law and the whole justice system, to the point where a few conscientious judges and lawyers have absconded.

The rest have been knuckled down to live with the hollow that even the President can also be the lawmaker when it comes to his throne. The supreme law of the land (the constitution) is amended at the behest of His Excellency the President to extend his own rule of gun. This has been witnessed in Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and so many other African countries. Yowery Musveni of Uganda, the guerrilla commander turned life President has been running his country with iron fist amending the constitution three times since 1985. He shunned multiparty democracy through physical elimination and intimidation.

Robert Mugabe, the infamous liberation leader who led his country to independence in 1980 ordered killing of thousands of people who refused to vote for him during the last elections he shamelessly rigged through intimidation and bribery. He has been the only president Zimbabweans have known since then. President Isiyias Afiworki of Eritrea has executed many of his former comrades in arms and introduced a red terror that has cowed everybody to political servitude in the country. The Red Sea despot has been leading an anti-intellectual movement that has exiled the national intelligentsia and the best cadres of the liberation struggle. He has been the only presidents Eritreans have known since independence in 1991. In truth, what happened in the SPLM of South Sudan, EPLF of Eritrea, ZANUPF of Zimbabwe and NRM of Uganda is a case of chicken devouring its own eggs.

In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza, the former guerrilla leader has been violently wrestling with the people to extend his despotic rule in blatant violation of Arusha Peace Agreement enshrined in the constitution with clearly defined term limit. Despite wise counsels of so many world leaders to yield to the demand of his people, President NKuruniziza insists that there is no Burundi without him in power. He is thus adamant to glide the country back to another civil war to ensure that he is made life president like Mugabe and Musevene. One wonders what President Nkurunziza wants to do with more years in office after squandering ten years without accomplishing a thing for Burundi! This is typical of the so-called African liberation leaders. The typical African dictator will use every tool at his disposal to cling to morally decayed power.

In South Sudan, the cowboy clown called Salva Kiir Mayardit has turned his newly independent country into a bestial human butchery to extend his reign of terror, genocide, widespread insecurity and economic depression. Kiir’s oppressive regime has reduced to nothing the meaning of “the rule of law.” It has created a state of affairs in which “terror” has become its definition of liberation. Anyone who does not toe its line is treated as enemy of the state. More than that, he/she may be actually executed by the President’s personal hoodlums. Salva  Kiir has built a violent kleptocracy fighting for its own survival at the expense of the nascent nation.

It is a cult of mediocrity without any program for nation building, if any, it is quite the opposite: “subversion”. One ugly scar Kiir’s regime has inflicted on the psyche of South Sudan is the polarization of the nation into sectarian cocoons of mutual hatred. In terms of the quality of life, the economy, morality, culture, justice system, health facilities, quality of education, have pitifully degenerated. Suffering, pain, poverty and oppression have become the core characters of South Sudan independence. Even the freedom of assembly or speech provided for in the national constitution is thwarted by Kiir’s Police State. So the question is: where is the freedom we toiled and martyred for as a people?  It is unbelievable but it is self-evident that “the self-rule “generations of South Sudanese people have been clamoring for is now synonymous with “self-ruin” under Salva Kiir. In a word, life is miserable!

I have dwelled more on my native country of South Sudan but what is happening there is not necessarily peculiar to South Sudan. It is a common African neo-colonial experience. Although few did well at governance, majority of the liberation leaders throughout the continent have been political disgrace. The leap to borrow as models could be from that of Melese Zinawe and Paul Kagama in term of institutional reform and the economic development, but the two are also guilty of dictatorship and prima donna. Only Mandela was the polar opposite.

Most of the rest have reduced the very noble meaning of the term liberation to what Christopher Clapham of Cambridge University has called Curse of the Liberation”. In my book, political liberation means much more than taking the means of power from a foreign colonial power or from an ingenious dictator. With specific reference to South Sudan, the meaning of political liberation goes beyond hoisting that blue star flag, composing a national anthem; building mansions, palaces houses and having our own currency. This is, but a very limited meaning of liberation. Liberation must be intellectual .It must be found in the minds and the hearts of the liberated. In another word, it must be holistic for it to mean what we wanted it to mean in the first place. Ultimately, it must include getting rid of neo-colonial greed, which illegally exports national assets off shore.

Historically, there was a time during our liberation struggle when we thought all we wanted was to rule ourselves. The pioneers of African independence movements like Khwame Nkhuruma , Mzee Jomo Kenyata, Emperor Haile Selesia, Mawlimu Nyareer gave it all they had.  Paradoxically, the very heroes of the African independence who replaced colonial powers emulated their colonial oppressors and made themselves demigods in their newly independent countries.

Preoccupied with self-aggrandizing projects, they miserably failed to deliver on democracy and economic development. That is why so many decades into our political independence, Africa is sinking deeper and deeper into not only material poverty but also spiritually and morally in the midst of political sovereignty.  Instead of practicing the founding values of their liberation movements (freedom), the African freedom fighters became anti-freedom. For the worst part, the big men of African liberation movements have introduced vicious political tribalism (politicized ethnicity) which has not only consumed the sense of nationhood but also tends to promote miss rule and dictatorship.

In African political culture, national political leaders take refuge in their tribal constituencies whenever the center can’t hold for them and that has terribly undermined progress toward democratic transformation in so many African countries. We keep voting back to power the same few greedy, self-centered, corruption-oriented individuals because if we do not, the ruling party will murder us.  Even when we do not vote for them, they steal the vote with our permission, knowing that there are no reprisals against them.  This is humanly much harsher than residing inside a loaded pistol. Hence, it must not be left to posterity.  This continent must be liberated from the greed of its dictators, poverty, disease and ignorance. This must commence with ousting inept tyrants like Kiir, Museveni, Mugabe, Nkurunziza and all their likes. Only then can we realize the true meaning of liberation and turn this loaded pistol into the Garden of Eden God meant it to be from the Genesis.

Stephen Par Kuol is a researcher and freelance writer on African political and humanitarian affairs. He can be reached by e-mail at

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