OMAHA—In July, South Sudanese saw the closing of one era and the opening of another. The embattled President Kiir reached into his rare political calculus and , in one fell swoop, fired the vice president and the entire cabinet--a decision with predictable consequences. So far the country has witnessed the announcement of those time-sensitive cabinet appointments minus the VP. So far the president along with those civil servants seem to indicate a readiness to get right to work on the people's business, perhaps starting with making lean this leviathan state/government. As for the political calculus the president has employed, the deans of politics are yet to conclude whether or not his actions are the beginning of the move away from the longstanding politics of personal accommodation to one of political alignment or re-alignment. In any case, the question becomes: what is the statecraft for this next era?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word statecraft as wisdom in the management of public affairs/the art of conducting state affairs/the art of leading a country/the art of government and diplomacy.
The word itself does have a profound impact when it comes to how we view the evolution of the once exultant and transformative SPLA/M. The statecraft effect is so profound considering the vast experience of millions who got to witness what the one and only revolutionary movement aspired to and accomplished in terms of its visionary pledges and how the vision ultimately culminated in the historic birth of a republic and what it has come to mean, for the first, to be citizens of the Republic of South Sudan and how those at the forefront of crafting/laying the foundation stone of the very country have underperformed or lost track over the years. Eight years that is.
Statecraft for the SPLM would have meant taking the vastly available wisdom of our liberation and communicated it better vis-a-vis governance. It would have meant taking the wisdom and the passion that allowed the late John Garang and his commanders to know all Sudanese really well, politically and ethnically, to inform the creation of the now badly needed Institute/Center for Ethnic Reconciliation as a means for South Sudanese to heal the scars of the longest civil war ever to be fought on the African Continent.
That governing would be the very thing that would now give the SPLM headache is something even those who have given their lives for this nation would have hard time believing let alone those of us alive. So, yes, statecraft has eluded our leaders, essentially making it the unfinished business of the SPLM party and of our generation too.
How that came to happen, no one will know. Perhaps the answers are with future civil war/postwar historians. But will 2013 become a fork in the road moment for the SPLM as well as the country as a whole? Will it be the deciding year the leaders of South Sudan begin to embrace and capture what we at The New Sudan Vision call the 'postwar eloquence' of this current generation of South Sudanese and channel that into one socio-political development agenda for solving the nation's intractable security and economic challenges? I don't know, but it is what must inform and underpin any nation-building project going forward.
For nearly a decade now, the SPLM has sadly struggled with squaring statecraft with its original identity. It is as if it has been robbed of the burst of energy that once defined it. The government in South Sudan has come to represent Corruption Inc---that corruption industry which for years has allowed looting of state resources with impunity. The president has failed to communicate better to the country all the ideals and aspirations that once gave the SPLM its originality/the credibility/the popularity as a people's movement. The administration has failed to inspire confidence in the institutions of the judiciary, the army/security forces, the legislative assembly and, sadly, the executive branch.
And, this recent postwar experience, to me, is predictive of two maxims with which people are beginning to view the very essence and concept of countries: that first, there are countries and then there are countries in name only and that second, it matters what century you are creating a country in.
Because creating a country in this rapidly changing world will require leaders to be quick on their feet and think constantly in order to adapt to the fast changing trends of the 21st century environment we are in. There are no easy answers or short cuts. Plus no leaders are immune to it. But that seems like it has not yet dawned on our leaders in South Sudan.
Such a colossal disappointment and acquiescing to political malfeasance on the part of the SPLM has brought one thing: the untold suffering and misery into the lives of fellow country men and women. This is utter transgression. It is unbecoming.
And, since I cannot think of any other capable governing alternative anytime soon, my fervent citizen plea is for the SPLM Party to quickly turn things around for our vulnerable population by stabilizing and shaping a country worth of our shared sacrifices, a country worthy of the memories of all the fallen heroes or else the epitaph will soon read: We lost the first republic in ten years following the epic struggle for self-determination—anecdotally rendering us a 'country in name only.'
But I'm sure no one would ever want to imagine such a declaration. Because if that were to happen, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice including future generations would not forgive us.