Articles & Analyses

What if there are no Reforms in South Sudan by 2018?

By: Dhol Nyala AKA Nyakuoyis

Opinion – To expect SPLM in government to effectively render itself redundant is for me naïve and stupid. Ask SPLM in government and other political parties, they had exactly the same experience with Omar El Bashir‘s prevarication on political reforms until they decided that enough was enough.

In 2010 before the April elections, I asked the question — what if SPLM wins? It turns out that I was unintentionally correct and the sad reality is that our opposition political parties (SPLM-DC & others) had not even considered that scenario in their strategies. They never had an alternative plan. As a result they were subsequently paralyzed by the shocking result and up to this day, we have all suffered for their inability to consider and plan for all probable outcomes. My greatest fear is that history may repeat itself once more, come 2018.

The most dangerous assumption we can make again is that SPLM will have implemented all the reforms that we want before the next elections and that we will all go to free and fair elections that will finally reflect the unadulterated will of the people of South Sudan. That will… is obvious — it is outright discharge of SPLM from government through a majority vote by citizens against the tyranny, which we have all reluctantly stomached since 2010.

We are assuming that we shall then have a new President and a new legitimate political leadership that can begin to build a multi-party democratic state underpinned by inclusive coalition politics and developmental economics. What if we are wrong again?

Given the current shenanigans within SPLM, I have no doubt that much is going to change in its form between now and the next elections. However, the crux of the matter is whether the nature of this beast will change enough for it to accept electoral defeat through a fair transparent electoral process that it voluntarily implements? I doubt that very much.

The economy is of course the major issue. It is speaking on our behalf and reflecting the reality that without fundamental political change, the country faces severe deterioration in the quality of life of most citizens. But whether this will be adequate enough to get SPLM to effectively surrender political power through the ballot box remains very doubtful given our experience with them to date.

We all know that the major challenge that decimated Bashir’s rule was the economy, where the then South Sudan became economically isolated and pressure was put to bear especially by South Sudanese, which was propping up the Bashir regime. In addition, of course, was the raging bush war, which created a continuous danger and risk to the El- Bashir regime.

However, the geopolitical conditions that existed then are significantly different now in that the international community, including Africa, do not view our current government as a rogue government. In fact, we have seen the international community re-engage the government, indicating a belief in those circles that SPLM-for Kiir remains a politically legitimate and acceptable option for the immediate future.

Without severe international pressure on South Sudan to change its political systems, especially from the rest of Africa and within the region, it is highly unlikely that we will achieve any fundamental change in our politics. We are on our own.

This makes our situation very difficult and inadvertently strengthens SPLM to the detriment of creating a new South Sudan that is significantly different from that of SPLM, total hegemony. So although the country has become economically weak, and this will worsen in 2016 and towards 2018, I am not confident that we can achieve any fundamental or significant political change by relying on economics alone.

As long as there is no increased international pressure for democratic change and the implementation of reforms in South Sudan, we will continue to muddle through to 2018. I have no doubt that SPLM is well aware that the implementation of reforms will be its undoing. It will, therefore, do all it can to delay and postpone any significant reforms, which would disadvantage its continued, hold on power. That is the reality which we must deal with now before it is too late.

What then should we do?

In my opinion, without significant action by citizens to cause fundamental political change in South Sudan, it is highly likely that come 2018, we will, have a stolen election because there is no other way that SPLM can continue to be in power legitimately.

As we speak, South Sudan’s formal economy has collapsed and has been replaced by the informal economy that is survivalist and a secret economy that is elitist. The latter is characterized by short term corrupt transactions that continue to feed the predatory cabal and political elite. As long as the army, the police and the intelligence services are paid their salaries, as has happened recently in December, SPLM believes that it is well protected against any eventuality of a mass uprising spurred on by the declining economic and social conditions. This thinking is also reflected in their most recent budget allocations to defense, security and intelligence services, which they hope will remain somewhat insulated from non-payment of salaries unlike civil servants, whose future remains precarious.

The questions we must now face as citizens, who desperately want and need political change are; what options, what can we do to cause political change in South Sudan? What is it that will ensure that come 2018 we have free and fair elections so that we may democratically and peacefully dismiss the dictatorship and create an inclusive democratic coalition government that revives the economy and begins to rebuild the morals and ethics of our society at large to create a new culture of political accountability and responsibility?

Clearly whatever we have done to date has not worked. The conditions pertaining in the country with regards to the role and responsibilities of opposition political parties as our change agents have not resulted in the change we want to see. Our opposition parties remain disempowered and ineffective in achieving democratic reforms.

This is the reality in South Sudan which I think we are ignoring and hoping that time will work for us on the side of change. It is futile for us to hope and wait on the assumption that SPLM will implode or that President Kiir will retire. What if this does not happen?

We must find new answers to these questions now and act accordingly as a collective before it becomes too late.

Reach me at dholnyala@gmail.com