3 Dec 2020


Tyranny Of Political Numbers In ITGoNU In South Sudan

"Peace in our country is a source of pride for all of us and we must jealously guide it from spoilers and bloodthirsty individuals who are doing everything possible to undo it."

By Mading Peter Angong.

I read with tears of joy falling down my cheeks in February when our rival leaders finally put their differences aside, embraced and promised to work together for peace and end years of ruinous conflict that has wiped out over a quarter of our population and forced millions from their homes. This was after Dr. Riek, the First Vice President, was sworn in alongside Taban Deng and Rebecca Nyandeng.

Like all other South Sudanese who are tired of this senseless war, I found myself dancing. Until now I am yet to explain how I found myself jiggling to the soundless music ringing in my head but I don’t regret it.

Peace in our country is a source of pride for all of us and we must jealously guide it from spoilers and bloodthirsty individuals who are doing everything possible to undo it.

Allow me to congratulate my fellow compatriots for proving our haters wrong to achieve tranquility and wish our country a permanent peace, development and prosperity.

However, we need to address an immediate concern after the formation of our government. Now for clarity’s sake, this article is meant to provoke debate on the composition of our government and avoid future pitfalls that may negatively impact our hard-won peace. It is not intended to incite anyone.

On Thursday March 12, 2020, President Salva Kiir announced a full cabinet, ending an anxious wait for the formation of Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU). Many pundits and observers were quick to applause this step and declare it as historic and long-awaited.

Again, I welcome this new government and I hope the sons and daughters tasked with various responsibilities will live up to people’s expectations.

However, as citizens of this nation, we have responsibility to speak out when something is not right. I dare say something is not right with the composition of this government and must be pointed out without fear or favor. To be blunt, our government is beset by tyranny of majority, an African disease that seems to be perfected by South Sudanese.

Stuart Mill in his 1859 book on liberty stated that tyranny of majority is an inherent weakness to majority rule in which the majority of an electorate pursue exclusively its own interests at the expense of those in the minority. This results in the oppression of the minority groups comparable to that of a tyrant or despot. Is South Sudan falling into the trap of majority rule? What are the consequences of this trajectory for our nation?

To understand the problem of majority rule, which in our case is synonymous with ethnic domination, we need to look at the demography of our country. As of 2019, the latest census figures and projections from Trading Economics estimated South Sudan population at 11.1 million people. There is a dispute over the actual figure but that is a topic of another day.

Our constitution legally recognizes 64 ethnic groups though other sources put it at 60 while still other at 80 ethnic groups. Our Constitution describes the country as “a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-racial entity where such diversities peacefully coexist”. It is from this lens that we need to judge the composition of our government.

According to WorldAtlas, the Muonyjang (wrongly called Dinka) are the largest of many ethnic groups making a total of 36% of the population follow by the Nuer at 16% and Azande, Bari, Shilluk and Toposa at 6%, 4%, 3% and 2 % respectively among many other different groups. The other remaining groups make a total population of 33%.

Let us be fair to ourselves for once and look at our government with somber mind. Statistically speaking, The R-TGoNU is made up of Presidency (5 members), Ministries (34 Ministers) and 10 Deputy Ministers. Let us exclude the governors, county commissioners and ambassadors for now because as per the writing of this article, they were yet to be appointed.

Excluding the President and his Deputy who are national symbols, Muonyjang has 2 Vice Presidency, 12 Ministries and 7 Deputy Ministries. If one combines the 2 Vice Presidency positions to 12 Ministries, then Muonyjang controls 37.83% and 70% of Deputy Ministries.

On the other hand, the Nuer controls 1 Vice Presidency and 8 Ministries, translating to 24.32 %. The two large ethnic groups therefore control a total of 62.15% excluding the Deputy Ministries. My analysis is open to correction but one cannot dispute the fact that tyranny of numbers is at play here.

One can conclude that this domination is because the top guys holding power come from these communities or because of their numbers. Either way you look at it, numbers count as much as power control was at play in the way our government was formed.

Now it is worth noting that our leaders have always warned about ethnic domination and its potential consequences for us as a nation but I suspect that they are simply paying lip service to this matter and are not serious about fixing it.

After six years of war, we seem to have learned nothing and still follow the old ways that took us into the dark tunnel in the first place. The proof is lying bare before us. Two ethnic groups occupy more than half our government.

If these ethnic groups control a vast majority of government, what happens to the other remaining 62 ethnicities? Are they insignificant?

To build an inclusive nation where everyone is proud to call home, all the parameters of South Sudanese society must be included in the governance. I know some argued that the government is too small to accommodate everyone and they are 100% right. However, is it legally and morally justifiable for two groups out of the 64 to have a major share at the dinner table at the expenses of others? We must shun the politics of majority and domination of the minority.

Dr. John Garang, arguably the founder of our nation once said this in his speech after signing the CPA in 2005:

“In our view, the attempts by various Khartoum-based regimes since 1956 to build a monolithic Arab Islamic state with the exclusion of other parameters of the Sudanese diversity constitutes the fundamental problem of the Sudan and defines the Sudanese Conflict. The Sudanese state hitherto has excluded the vast majority of the Sudanese people from governance and therefore their marginalization in the political, economic and social fields. This provoke resistance by the excluded. There have been wars and there continues to be wars in the Sudan simply because all the Sudanese are not stakeholders in the governance”.

As South Sudanese, we would be wise to heed such a message and avoid this simply mistake of exclusion in the name of majority that often prove to be costly. By excluding others in the name of the government being too small while others take more than their legal share, it will provoke resistance and conflict. The consequences are unmanageable and must be avoided by all means through dialogue and fairness to all.

Dr. Garang once reminded that no one’s anyone majority or minority. If we are to avoid the mistakes that split us from the old Sudan and took us through the dark tunnel for the last 6 years, we need to reassess our relationship and try as much as possible to bring everyone on board in governance.

Directly talking with each other to chart our common destiny is cheap, easy and most importantly the only best way forward for now. The alternative is confrontation and destruction and we have already seen enough of that.

In this sensitive time of political reconciliation among ourselves, it is important that we honestly engage each other, address our fears and move forward as a unit. To that end, we must shed the mentality of majority and dismantle the politics of numbers and equally share our national construction burden base on qualification and prudent deployment of human resources to build our institutions. We must take pride in our diversity and celebrate it. God did not err by putting us together as a nation.

Once again, I wish our people permanent peace, development and prosperity.

The author, Mading Peter Angong is a South Sudanese Student at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya. He can be reach via madingyar@gmail.com

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