My perspective on thematic issues of Governance, Security and Corruption in Lakes State under Hon. Maj. Gen. Makur Kulang, Governor of Lakes State:
Lakes state is where most cycles of cattle raiding, killing and revenge killing remain high since CPA was signed in 2005. Since Independence in 2011, Lakes state has lost over ten thousands (10,000) lives in inter and intra sectional and clan conflicts. All of us are well aware of what is happening now in Lakes: the community is grappling with causes and consequences of communal conflicts, displacement and hunger. Agar Community of Rumbek in particular has suffered self-inflicted destruction for over two decades dating back to around the year 2000 when a number of cases were not handled in a proper judicial manner by the then local authorities. (Gen. Pieng Deng has a testimony to give for his 2002 intervention that somehow brought respite).
The former Gok state now Cueibet county of Lakes state, in late 2020, experienced a new form of communal violence of targeting women in pursuit of revenge. The same inhuman act was replicated couple of weeks ago between Aluak-Luak and Akot. The former Eastern Lakes (Yirol) has also had its share of communal violence but largely cattle raiding that in June 2020 involved its Eastern neighboring state of Joglei. However, Yirol is now relatively stable thanks to the legacy of good leadership exhibited by Gen. Rin Tueny, Gen. Bor Phillip and Gen. Mangar Buong. Therefore, in Lakes State, it is Only Wulu County of Belli Community that is peaceful and stable but it sporadically tastes spillover effects.
Hon. Governor, as far as governance is concerned, there is an urgent need for multi-stakeholder conference. Governance basically is a process of public decision making and how those decisions are (or not) implemented. Governance is said to be good if characterized by fundamental underpinnings of accountability, consensus, rule of law, responsiveness, transparency, efficient and equitable management and distribution of resources. The stakes are so high that they cannot be limited to security issues. The first conference should be convened as early as possible and include all stakeholders; Governments officials representing Lakes in Juba, community leaders, intellectuals, church, youth and women groups both in urban and rural. Now is the right time for our community to come together, forgive one another and formulate a new strategy for a U –turn. With this conference, you will have incorporated people’s views into your policies and the governed would have a sense of ownership of policies paving way for effective implementation, hence good governance.
The good news is that the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of conflict in South Sudan (R- ARCSS) has ushered in a new political dispensation where you have Revitalised State Government of inclusivity. By having opposition sharing the government, both in the executive and parliament, you now have an inside mirror offering healthy vertical and horizontal checks and balance. Make use of the new parliament, let the MPs make and pass laws, let them go back to constituencies and bring grass root perspectives to your leadership.
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Globalisation effect and the role of Social Media in governance:
The world has become a global village. A gun short in remote Aguooc cattle camp is heard by someone in Australia before your minister of local government gets the information. A plan or an idea from someone in Ontario City in Canada can influence an act in Lekya-Kedu village of Yirol East. Therefore, it is pertinent to acknowledge that sons and daughters of Lakes State in Diaspora are stakeholders in governance. You can easily engage them through their various organizations or as individuals. They can as well mobilize investors as soon as there is stability. You can as well invite them in the suggested conferences. The advancement in information technology and mass communication has become a major tool in governance. You know well information is power, sharing it is mobilization; hence it is imperative to acknowledge that those who are active in using social media (mainly Facebook) are direct opinion leaders and deserve listening to. After all they are your brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who are concerned about the fate of their beloved state, take their criticism and critique positively for it is healthy for your leadership.
Hon. Governor, when you were appointed as the first governor of a reunited Lakes state, majority of Lakes citizens (me included) received the news positively. Judging from your records and attributes of handwork, self-reliance, entrepreneurship and humility epitomised by your farming schemes in Juba and Yirol, our common assumption was that lakes state is going to have a new beginning of fighting corruption under you. As far as I know, you have the best intention for your people of Lakes state. Your recent initiative of blood compensation for our late Comrade Yel Muordit Dhel was for the best interest of our state. However, the corruption and scandal allegations trending in social media, Mr Governor, are betraying our faith in you.
Generally, Corruption threatens to undermine economic development, thwarts any security efforts and diminishes the trust of citizens. It diverts much-needed public resources to individual interests with criminal intent, and fuels inequality and underdevelopment. Nepotism also erodes confidence in public institutions, promoting a culture of dishonesty and compromising the delivery of government services. In this regard, Mr Governor, my submission is that you need to form a committee to investigate all the allegations of corruption and make their findings public. Set the record of being the first governor of Lakes to persecute any corrupt official. And if (God forbid) it happened that you off tracked somewhere, it would not be too late to correct it; humans are humans and they are more humans in South Sudan and are bound to err. After all, power corrupts and when it is absolute it corrupts absolutely. Now with Revitalised state government in place, power ought not to be absolute.
In South Sudan the factors that drive people to retain their arms are multi-faceted and overlapping. Security forces are generally unable to fulfill the security needs of the population due to various challenges they are grappling with. There are many examples of this reality throughout Warrap, Lakes, Jonglei and Unity. Most notable was the unfortunate incident of 2019 of Luacjang Tonj East
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that resulted in the death of hundreds of government soldiers and civilians. Taking note of what happened last week in Rumbek East when the attempt by the commissioner to disarm resulted in “role reversal” where he ended up being disarmed by the very civilians!
Due to this ‘security gap’ communities develop their own mechanisms to protect themselves and their property. This reality is a significant deterrent to surrendering of arms by civilians in disarmament campaigns. A common sentiment throughout South Sudan is, ‘we will disarm, but only if all the other communities disarm as well’. The paradox is that small arms are sought out and retained by civilians for personal security. Therefore, the new disarmament should be more comprehensive and conducted simultaneously. Prior to this exercise is heavy presence of security forces at the borders particularly at the triangle of Lakes, Unity and Warrap.
The local conflicts in Lakes are attributed to accumulated grievances over unresolved or unfairly resolved disputes; cattle rustling instigated by poverty; breakdown of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms; proliferation of illegal arms; disputes over water points and grazing land; Breakdown of judicial system; high food insecurity; insufficient provision of security by concerned authorities; corruption and maladministration that involves supply of arms and ammos to relatives, bribery and assertion of conflict fueling utterances, and general national deficiency in security sector that encourages flow and proliferation of illegal arms thanks to armed rebellions.
Immediate tasks include but not limited to provision of enough joint Security forces at the triangle of Lakes, Unity and Warrap to provide security at border areas and guarantee the safety of communities and their cattle; comprehensive disarmament; intensive and extensive community dialogue to involve all citizens in resolution of various conflicts across communities; rapid improvisation of joint security routes to enhance mobility and connectivity; establishment of Truth, Reconciliation and Community Healing Commission to draw its membership from spiritual leaders/church, Spear masters (bany-biith), Academics, Youth, Women and Diaspora; empowerment of local authorities to play their role in supporting disarmament and peace making processes; mobilizing communities towards adopting agricultural activities to attain food security and livelihood sustainability; establishment of court of tribunal to investigate and try perpetuators of any crimes committed in various conflicts. Crimes such as cattle raiding, raping, highway robbery, cold Blood killing etc.; immediate strengthening of Law Enforcement Agencies to engage in local mobilization, sensitization, training and effective maintenance of law and order; encouragement of communal work/teamwork for Societal prosperity; and above all, apology to the victims and the communities at large. The new state government should accept the responsibly of previous administrative failures and say sorry to the public.
To my fellow youth of Lakes State, I congratulate those who have been actively engaged in the affairs of my “once beautiful and glorious state”! I know some of you whose consistent efforts yielded fruits in various tenures of our state administration. However, I equally appeal to you in your different walks of life to come out and support efforts of Governor Makur Kulang and the new state government of R-TGONU. I am motivated by inclusivity and representativeness of this government. I see myself in the young Deputy Governor Hon. Poth Madit and young
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Commissioners of Rumbek North, Rumbek Center and Cueibet Hon. Arop Kumbai, Hon. Kaman Matur and Hon. Dr. Akhol respectively. I feel represented by the young ministers and Members of Parliament in numbers unprecedented from Awecrial to Chueibet. Their achievements and failures are ours, not Kulang’s. I believe our future has begun with them regardless of their political colors, thanks to R-ARCSS.
Finally, but most importantly, I congratulate H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit for identifying Maj. Gen. Makur Kulang to lead the Revitalised Government of Lakes State! To be honest Gen. Makur was not a popular choice of the people of Lakes state. The people of Rumbek in particular, if they had been asked who they wanted from Yirol, majority would have gone for Gen. Rin Tueny whose pragmatism was and is still thought to be relevant to their conditions and prevailing circumstances. Nevertheless, it came to attention of everyone across the state that Gen. Tueny supported Gen. Kulang’s candidacy, thus, leading to wider acceptance. In any case, the problem of Lakes state, especially that of Rumbek, needs your focused attention, Mr President. So many Governors have come and gone but their tenures were similarly characterized by security failures barring a few exceptions. So many lives have been lost, thousands of human skeletons are scattered unburied across Toch of Rumbek, children and women are the ones burying their dear ones, mothers have shed their tears to exhaustion, at least every household has lost a member at one point. Men of God/gods have given up their intercessions and prayers, acts of curse have been committed; mothers, teachers and religious leaders are killed innocently. Citizens have lost hope and faith in leadership; they are also giving up their faith in God! As a Christian and father of the nation that you brought forth, you are the only one, I repeat, the only one, with the wherewithal to end this suffering and despair. Start this renewal with pronouncement ordering resumption of disarmament, this time with you launching it in Rumbek; otherwise, changing governors yearly is not a solution. With your intervention in Lakes under Gen. Kulang, you will see the results.
Oh God Help South Sudan!
By: Moses Thon Majok Mathiang
Student of M.A in Security and Strategic Studies
University of Juba
Can be reached on Tel: +211923399955, Email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are 100% personal; they do not in any way represent any institution that I work for or affiliated to. I apologize to whoever might have been unintentionally offended