Liberation War Mentality Stifling South Sudan
By: Cde. Sirir Gabriel Yiei Rut,
August 16, 2015(Nyamilepedia)—The psychology and behaviors of the liberation struggle continue to negatively impact our socio-economic development.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” (Karl Marx, 1852).
From this quote, I now have a much deeper understanding of the challenges we must face in transforming south Sudan into a modern democratic State. We are fighting a very real and unremitting mentality of struggle politics simply because SPLM existed and was legitimate in a past that today weighs heavily like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
In my opinion, we can only begin to create a new future once we have banished the ghosts of the past that are stifling the unimaginable potential of South Sudan.
Masiphula Sithole aptly warned us in his book: Struggles Within The Struggle (1979), in which he cautioned that, because our struggle politics were characterized by “leadership by assassination” and not “leadership by persuasion”, this trend was likely to continue after the struggle and would likely result in the emergence of an oppressive political system after independence; a system fashioned and led by men and women who have an inclination to want to solve issues through the barrel of the gun and not through democratic means or persuasion. He was correct.
I would argue that the political management structures, psychology and behaviors during the war are still dominant today in South Sudan. In fact, they continue to negatively impact our socio-political fabric in a manner that can only be described as repugnant and regressive.
The fear by many to challenge the status quo, the continual threat of the use of violence, the centralization of political power in military hands, the meddling in all social and economic affairs by the SPLM politburo, the control of the media and continual drivel of dumbfounding propaganda in State media, the entitlement to power, tribalism and the secretive and opaque political leadership style are all signs that the past, like an incurable virus, continues to weaken who we can become as a nation.
SPLM has failed to transform from a liberation struggle organization to a civil government with a professional military as has happened in South Africa, for example; hence the existence of entities such as the Joint Operations Command today and the contentious and common use of military terms and language such as “operation this” and “operation that” in most civil activities. We are indeed damned.
In his book, Sithole describes a liberation struggle organization as one which has an ambitious aim of overthrowing the existing political order to control wealth and therefore how to whom this wealth shall be distributed. It is hardly about governance, liberty and freedom of the masses, but about power, intrigue, control and management by instilling fear.
In such a situation, neither a country nor its people can live up to their full potential. The resources of such a country can never be fairly allocated or fully utilized to the benefit of its citizens, but rather, to the self-actualization of those in control. The commander- in-chief rules and decides who gets what, when and how, while the masses are merely a means to an end.
We saw this with land reform, we are seeing it with the oil, and I have no doubt that we shall see it once more with indigenization. In all cases, the people and their needs are secondary, a necessary inconvenience.
As we propose and argue for an alternative democratic and inclusive route for South Sudan, we can see that as long as the military is at the Centre, we are unlikely to achieve a democratic transition.
As long as struggle mentality remains a dominant force within the political leadership of the country, any means to try a dislodge them through the pen will be met with unequal counter measures that draw and “conjure up the spirits of the past, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language”, as Marx puts it.
Our battle therefore is a psychological one.
South Sudan’s politicians must be psychologically cleansed and emancipated from a past that rears its head at every corner and in every nook and cranny; a past that continues to inform the present to the detriment of social progress and the self-actualization of many ordinary folk.
I am convinced, however, that this past will through time have lesser of a hold on the future; this past must at some stage disappear or diminish. However, our role now, is to accelerate its demise and if necessary, force it out of the brains of the living so that we may create a new social order in South Sudan. The costs have been just too great.
If we do not do that, or if we ignore that, our freedom, our liberty, our dignity and the right of each one of us to pursue our ambitions without a centre that seeks to dominate us, control us and if necessary assassinate us, as happened during the struggle, we shall continue to be stifled and arrested by men and women who refuse or are powerless to let that past go.
The choice is clear.
I have spoken my words and may the gods of land hear my voice………………….
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