13 Aug 2020


“Not Holding My Breath” On R-ARCSS Without Genuine Shift

"But as we now plan to implement that peace agreement, we must keep in mind that it too can collapse in our faces if we continue to do things just the way we’ve been doing since 2005."

By Jok Madut Jok

Once, when I was asked to be undersecretary of our nation’s Ministry of Culture and Heritage, I wrote two statements, charting out what I thought South Sudan, our baby nation, needed in order to move ahead and catch up with the rest.

In the first statement, I said that “We have to quickly embark on a dual project of state building and nation building.” I went ahead to state what’s needed in such a project. I declared, quoting from an Italian statesman of the 1860s when Italy was united as one country, that “nations are made, not born.”

The program included commemorating our shared history of struggle and displaying that on a national stage so that every citizen sees himself/herself represented in the country’s body politics. It included the Culture Institutions, National Archives, the National Museums, the National Library, the National Theater, the Cultural Centers in all the state capitals, all of which I reckoned addressed most of the issues that had propelled South Sudan to stage a liberation movement.

In the second statement, I declared that government functions in the same way the body of a living thing functions, each organ having a unique role in the life of the organism but only able to fulfil that role if all the rest of the organs are doing their parts. I said if our institutions don’t heed this basic and obvious fact, we would be doomed.

I went ahead to state so in a few cabinet meetings that my Minister took me to, and I gave speeches in the various forums of undersecretaries and IGAD training sessions for our senior government officials.

Needless to say, none of this materialized, mainly because there was no strong political will at the top, but also because there was sabotage at various levels of government, from Cabinet to Civil service to Finance to the Parliament. The whole thing was thwarted and I had to abandon the ship.

I left government, for I could not see how one would succeed if the rest of the national institutions were elbowing each other. We needed a centralized command to ensure that the government development plan was executed, each institution showing how their endeavors fed into the over all program. This was not to be.

Once I had left, I wrote a piece just a fortnight before the fateful December 15, 2013, warning that there was a risk of our country’s blow up. What with all the reports of corruption, currency manipulation and the injustices there in.

My point in jogging our memories about this is that we’ve not done a single thing of all the promises we made to each other. None of the things we said when we fought North Sudan were being pursued.

We all know what the consequences of failure to pursue our National promises have been. The unnecessary wars we’ve gone into speak a story of betrayal, of a departure from these basic promises and from the ideals of revolution.

Let’s hope that we have learnt some lessons now that we’ve wasted precious lives in useless wars, for nothing, and that the peace overtures we’ve exchanged in signing a peace agreement, Revitalise-Agreement on Resolution of Crisis in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), that they mean something.

But as we now plan to implement that peace agreement, we must keep in mind that it too can collapse in our faces if we continue to do things just the way we’ve been doing since 2005.

I am not going to make any new warnings, but I’ll say that I, for one, am not holding my breath, until I see a genuine shift in how we conduct public office. If the agreement is merely about sharing power and juggling the control of resources, the way I suspect it is, then I tell Junubeen to sleep with one eye opened.

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