Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Quiet Monologue with SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum (Part 2)

For some of us, telling it as it is, is much easier than any attempts at conjuring up a pleasant but non-existent reality

John A. Akec


This is my second instalment of a series of articles in which I would like to bring up a number issues to the attention of Secretary General of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM), Pagan Amum, pertaining to South Sudan.

The first article brought up to Secretary General’s attention what many of us have noted as SPLM’s double standards, even hypocrisy, when it has come out in full force to sensitise the world and mobilise aid for the citizens of Abyei who have been displaced by recent fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). At the same time the party in form of government of South Sudan (GOSS) has been unable to exert even a fraction of effort, comparatively speaking, to cater for the needs of those displaced by intra tribal conflicts in Warap, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria, and Jonglei, among others.

The situation in East and West Gogrial Counties is particularly desperate where 3-year long conflict has been raging between Apuk and Aguok Dinka sections. The government of South Sudan led by SPLM has been suspected by citizens of the affected counties of official cover up, partiality, and blocking media access to the area and thus preventing the public and the world to know the statistics of those displaced and real scale of the devastation caused by this conflict that has displaced thousands of people from their homes. While the GOSS lack of enthusiasm to conflict has bordered complicity.

The effort to sensitise the world about situation in Abyei and mobilise aid though commendable and essential, it has been difficult to reconcilable with SPLM response to similar situations in Gogrial East and West Counties in Warap State and other areas in South Sudan affected by ethnic and tribal wars.

And if we correctly read the recent speech by SPLM Chairman following the signing of the Roadmap agreement on Abeyi, it suggests that SPLM can cooperate with National Congress party (NCP) to "make Abyei a model of ethnic coexistence," while the same SPLM finds it impossible to help the people of Apuk and Aguok in Warap State, for example, to live peacefully with one another.

To put it differently, SPLM will work hard to make a lamb and lion live side by side in Abyei, while it has been unable so far to help sheep and sheep share a stable in Gogrial East and West in Warap state.

And as much as I rejoice sincerely with the giant steps taken forward in Abyei by the SPLM through the recent signing of a Roadmap Agreement with NCP, I am deeply saddened and troubled by continuing backward march of the Party in many places in South Sudan, as far as security and peaceful coexistence between tribes and groups are concerned. This is a backward march that threatens to sink SPLM popularity.

In this second part of my monologue with Secretary Pagan Amum, I want to touch on issues related to spending of our financial resources on poorly conceived and badly manned institutions. I will mention some of GOSS’ commissions as exemplary cases.

I would like to assure comrade Pagan at the outset that for some of us, telling it ‘as it is’, is much easier than any attempts at conjuring up a pleasant but non-existent reality.


Commissions are very useful institutions for doing great good for the government and the citizens of a country if they are well conceived and manned with people with right skills, expertise, experience, and aptitude.

Commissions are a way to bring transparency and good practice to, and widening public participation in government. But most importantly, I think, commissions are a means for channelling knowledge, expertise advice, and feedback about the impact of policies on the public back to the executive, judiciary, and law-making bodies of a government.

In order to be effective, commissions should be ran as quasi-governmental organisations (QUANGOS) that are government-funded and accountable to the executive and legislative body yet enjoy a large degree of independence from the government. This independence allows commissions to be objective advisors to the executive and other branches of the government by telling truth even if it is painful and not what the government expects to hear. And by their very nature and mandate, commission are distant cousins of research and academic institutions, albeit much more closely grounded in policy-making and daily reality.

Commissions should be staffed with people with right expertise and rich experience in the core areas of mandate and can bring into them transferable skills and experiences. Experienced and veteran politicians with clean and good track record, ex-company executives, and "bright’ and high-flying academics make for good and successful commissioners. There is no shortage of people with such credentials in South Sudan today if any one cares enough to look for them.

Measure the above criteria against what we call GOSS commissions, and you would agree with me, Comrade Pagan, that this has been too tall an order for the SPLM party to match when it formed these commissions.

From what I know about these commissions, GOSS did not prioritise what commission to form and what to delay until later time given our limited resources and the necessity of making a maximum impact on citizens’ lives in as shortest time as possible. It would appear that the commissions were hurriedly formed with help of enthusiastic but myopic SPLM members without wider consultation with those in the know. Some commissions have been given very narrow mandate when it should have been wider. Others were ill-conceived. And yet other important commissions that should have been created have been left out.

The HIV/AID Commission, for example, should have been named and mandated as Health Commission. HIV/AID is a grave health issue among many others. But we know that malaria and water born diseases alone kill more people in a year than all other diseases combined. There are no commissions for environment, energy, communications, and transport. And yet there is a Land Commission. Again with very narrow mandate when it should be more inclusive. What is it supposed to do without putting into consideration sustainability and land use issues which are essentially environmental in nature? At this stage where we are laying foundations to national infrastructure that is very fundamental to our future economic growth and development, protecting environment by pursuit of sustainable development should be top priority at the outset. Further good communications is also essential for economic growth in our increasingly globalised world. Land Commission should have been named and mandated as Land and Environment Commission.

Then we have problem of appointing the right commissioners. Again we have seen many square pegs being placed in round holes. And would appear GOSS Commissions became the targets for employment of relatives, associates, and friends of SPLM commanders with little regard to competence, expertise, and aptitude.

And the result? Not many of these Commissions have published a single worthy report since their day of inception except the Anti-Corruption Commission which has been more visible and vocal than any of GOSS Commissions.

Top of the list of incompetence is the GOSS Human Right Commission. Three yeas after launch, the Commission recently published its first report. Unfortunately, the report said nothing new but talked about Commission mandate and urged MPs to campaign for human rights. It said that that all conflicts in Sudan have been caused by abuse of human rights. This we all know besides being too general to be of any use. That Commission has "started realisation of a long journey of human rights in Southern Sudan", without explaining how. That "The [presidential] Decree gave us [them] obligation to ensure the Establishment of Human Rights in Southern Sudan…." But what has the Commission done so far to achieve this goal is any body's guess.

In short, there was nothing to report except to say that "[the Human Rights] Commission would produce a report on human rights situation in Southern Sudan at the end of the month."
The question is: Why all this fuss when Human Rights Commission should have delivered its first report on this coming big day at the end of next month? This is nothing but self-professed incompetence and waste of public resources, typical of many GOSS Commissions and institutions of governance.

What SPLM should have done in its Second Convention was to evaluate all these Commissions after experience of three years. Here as in many areas of governance the SPLM party has so far been incapable to showcase New Sudan beginning with South Sudan.
I wonder, Camrade Pagan, how feasible it is that the SPLM will take us to New Sudan by following the same methods that created the Old Sudan.

To be continued.