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By . John Deng Diar Diing

John Deng Diar Diing






Matters of power and state management have always determined success or otherwise of a country. As South Sudanese start thinking beyond President Salva Kiir’s reign and thereto succession at the time it’s necessary and possible, who comes next to hold us together not by coercion but by consent must predate all ideas.

Also, South Sudanese need to appreciate as they think of succession that leaders are never built in the vacuum. They are built in and by their systems. It’s how a leader behaves while in position of authority that’s looked at not whether he or she had worked for the system or not. In fact, it’s safer to vet someone who once held a public office than dealing with some greenhorns who only imagine governance or ride on criticism.

My experience with the government of South Sudan for four years made me appreciate that a sheer outward appearance of a governance problem is not sufficient to provide one with ability to propose workable solutions. In the words of Ronald Heifetz, an adaptive leadership challenge requires that we appreciate what to preserve, what to discard to be able to correctly appreciate what to create to bring about sustainable change.

I believe President Salva Kiir loves South Sudan, and must be thinking of his successor as someone who can fulfill Triple A requirement of Ability, Acceptance and Authority. Someone who has the credentials to politically hold the nation together as appreciated by the people and has the capability to pull us out of current socio-economic crisis.

By ability, I posit that the next leader to fix the current mess should have both leadership and intellectual prowess to appreciate the dynamics around our current socio-political and economic turmoils, and who is capable of crafting adaptable yet stable solutions modalities. He or she should be able to be pragmatic and adaptive enough to guide implementation of such interventions, which require stable theory of change with often a need to authorize positive deviations. That leader will not only need to possess military experience with liberation portfolio considered in pre-eminence to appreciate the politics of Liberation that has informed our current crisis but he/she must also be academically savvy enough to have the ability to conceive solutions and guides implementation.

By Acceptance or legitimacy, I mean the next leader should be seen as a natural choice of succession, not an advancement of the current power-wielding cohorts who may want to preserve their influence in the next government. Any perceived rigged succession will assure fragmentarion of the country. A sense of legitimacy by a leader goes a long way in holding embattled nation like ours together.

We must all appreciate the ease at which President Salva rose to power and thereafter govern with unchallenged authority. It’s not because of his strong National Intelligence and Security Services or numbers from his region as I hear from his simple-minded beneficiaries. It’s all about his legitimacy. Regardless of his strained relation with Garang shortly before his ascension or his capacity as often quoted, Commander Salva Kiir was the next in the chain of governance and had remained stable in politics of liberation in comparison to his peers who also had the chance to fight for succession. Because, he never allowed bloodshed to occur regardless of his indifference with Dr. Garang, he was easily entrusted and trusted to lead South Sudanese through turbulent interim period. Another important factor at the time was that he was not from the same politico-geography with Dr. John Garang. He was neither from Bor nor the rest of Upper Nile, regions perceived to have had large share of dominance during the struggle.

My experience in Nairobi in late 90s and early 2000s in youth politics had it that youth and young leaders from Bahr Al Ghazal held some deep-seated views that they were dominated by Buor. They thought they had been marginalized. I could not and still cannot appreciate how they were but there was that serious outcry. Probably they had a point as power can blind objectivity. This discourse dominated our WIMPY POLITICS at the time and in my opinion, it largely contributed to Yei Crisis.

So ascension of Commander Salva to power in the aftermath of sudden demise of Dr. John Garang was not only a matter of hierarchy or procedure but existential if South Sudanese were to have secession after peaceful Interim period. Gen. Kuoldit, Mama Rebecca and uncle Elijah acted with this understanding. Very wise of them!!. It’s for this reason that core members of the liberation struggle only criticize President Salva without taking serious armed rebellion against him. He is seen as a Legitimate leader save issues of performance.

The choice of President Salva Kiir’s successor should therefore be viewed in the same lenses if territorial integrity of South Sudan is to be maintained. A part from his or her ability to pull us out of our current stalemate, the next leader should and must come from Equatoria region if South Sudan has to remain a united country. The current deep-seated feeling of marginalization by people from regions other than Bahr Al Ghazal and tribes other than the Dinka can only be assuaged if the next leader comes from Equatoria assuming that Dr. Garang had sojourned for Upper Nile and Salva Kiir has reigned from Bahr Al Ghazal.

After all, Nelson Mandela had to delay rise of Cyril Ramaphosa in favor of Jacob Zuma, a Zulu, after two successive Xhosa leaderships almost ostracized Zulus from ANC. It also took the white establishment in the United States to realize that time was ripe for a leader of color if United States of America had to remain united and as a beacon of democracy around the world. And Barack Obama became the man of the hour. A need of woman and that of color to sit in the White House was also seen necessary, Kamal Harris became one.

Our succession political cannot be predicated on book-conceived democracy or dirty play of power but on the survival of our beloved country, South Sudan. A rise to leadership by someone from Equatoria but strong with proclivity to nationalist ideals is heretofore existential if we shall have a country that’s functional and peaceful for us and the next generation. This must be born in minds by powers that are if South Sudan has to live beyond President Salva Kiir’s reign.

This country, South Sudan, must succeed!

John Deng Diar Diing,
A concerned citizen of South Sudan and the world, and a former child soldier in the war of liberation.

Last rank in active service of the SPLA ( May 1992) was a Corporal.



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