By Ajangj Yong
OPINION – On the 30th of August 2021, South Sudanese worldwide were anxiously waiting to experience first-hand what a political demonstration is, as organised by the People’s Coalition for Civil Action known as PCCA. In Australia and New Zealand, they were constantly checking time on their mobile phones, to see if it has turned into a day already in the East African nation (South Sudan). While in Northern America they were continuously flickering their social media Apps (Facebook, Twitter) for updates. In expectation to see posts reporting people matching on Juba streets and elsewhere in South Sudan, with banners painted with an acronym of “KMG” slogan. Overall these activities were literally and barely rewarded, as they were subdued by the government’s show of arm in the capital.
From the day’s aftermath, two of the following became apparent to whoever are focusing on the nature of things in the world’s youngest nation. First of these ensconced our understanding of government’s comprehension about the nature of things in the Republic of South Sudan, and the fear it has for citizens. Whereas, the second establishes a fact of what PCCA has achieved. While also noticing where improvement is needed for PCCA and its likes organisations to fully grasp the potential of what it has aspired to do.
First, the government is aware of its inability to deliver services to people. It (government) understand that as the origin of its dissatisfaction with citizens. Despite, the level of awareness the government have, it seems reluctant to amend strategies to improve on services delivery. It “seems” because is hard to tell whether the government even knows what underlying problems are there, to begin with. Thus, the government and its branches have no capability of improvement. For things they try to do, they do not measure up to the standard of service’s life expectation. A case in point is a Juba-Rumbek highway that was washed away by rain storms without a mere resistance. It’s unheard-of for Rain flooding to uproot the road from its foundation: is nothing of any 21st – century national road standard. Alternatively, funds are hardly there or are barely sufficient for a project, like the situation of Juba-Bor road where construction halted because of insufficient funds. Whether the project budget was underestimated or the funds were mismanaged, is an issue of another day.
Nevertheless, the government is determined to pre-empt any sort of provocation that has an agenda or audacity to challenge the way of authority in J1. Unfortunately, challenging J1 led to the assassination of a journalist and a veteran freedom fighter Isaiah Abraham (Diing Chan Awuol) in December of 2012, and the 2013 South Sudanese civil war respectively.
Secondly, the tactic of a military deployment to sabotage a peaceful organised public protest, vividly give away the fear a government have for its citizens. Such fear is what the PCCA have achieved for the nation of the Republic of South Sudan. So, people must know that their impudent government is afraid of them, though it disrespects their decisions. Knowing that is crucial for civilians’ power. So that they can press government to grant them their rights. To South Sudanese, this initial step by PCCA is the beginning to the end of unnecessary suffering at the hands of unscrupulous leaders. Though, it can only be accomplished when people seize the opportunity to pursue the course of indefinite change that the government will relent. Therefore, PCCA in conjunction with other Non-Violent Civil and Political Organizations with public support need to orchestrate further moves to continue on course with the initiative it has already initiated.
Subsequently, before embarking on the story of PCCA’s shortcomings, its essential that the government’s incompetence is put into perspective. As this will elicit why it’s indispensable to remain on course with the demand of political change in the world’s newest nation.
The SPLM’s government is lacking so much on how to deal with issues troubling the nation. This is why solution to every problem seem to be settled in the same way as the former. No wonder every time there is a political disagreement, rebels are formed and another rebel is awarded a higher ranked position than he had previously held, when he joined back the government. The strategy of using bribery or intimidation as a mean to settle dispute is unfathomable to bring upon any viable solution. It is unrealistic for all the problems to have similar way of solving. Imagine, if the logistical work of the military equipment (at estimate of 200 counts) unleashed to the road on the 30th of August 2021, in the name of restraining anticipated civilians protest were to be given an economical estimate. It could amount to a significant monetary estimate, which would have helped solve certain issues in the civil servant sector: had the government had people with absolute abilities to problem solutions. This with other valuables often spend on bribery; if were well utilised, would have helped translate the potential effort government’s making to meet public needs amidst government incompetency.
On the contrary, the government’s figureheads care less about the people, instead they are in place to protect the power that feeds them. To the dismay of the national development these figureheads are simply investing none in the country, but in the neighbouring countries and beyond. Buying apartments and houses in foreign lands as well as taking their children to study abroad in foreign nations. In fact, the only times these guys ever spent money in South Sudan, is when they booked to hotels their late comrades freedom fighters’ widows or daughters as the only way to earn support they ever need from them. This group with president Kiir in helm of power have rigged the country to the point that every one is made to appreciate begging as a standard mean to survived with.
This time around to effect the change, it’s imperative the citizens remain vigilant to be able to decipher the common narrative usually adapt by the SPLM-Juba, when election days are near. The story such as from Minister Makuei calling for a peace that is not fragile while ridiculing oppositions in a 2.22 minutes’ audio clip, and that of Mr President saying if you attack me once, and again, I will respond in self-defence; are examples of narratives to pay attention to. Such narratives are what President Kiir and his pack of degenerates use to stir up further conflicts in the country. Because its such conflict opportune that the SPLM-Juba always explore to amass political misunderstanding, to stirs things to their advantage of retaining power. Whereas they adapt a scheme of accusing the other side for peace’s failure. This is how often Dr. Riek become President Kiir’s punching bag of his political mismanagement.
Salva Kiir and his guys are never going to let citizens have normal peace rather than the contractual peace. Since it’s never the first, nor the second neither the third time President Kiir have appeals to the citizens to support his course of unsubstantiated peace. Of which he ever retaliates by initiating a military solution to whoever that disagrees with him in the nation’s political arena. Its important people realise the attitudes ruling party members adapt when the agreed elections date according to any peace treaty arrived.
This is best illustrated by the actions of J1’s suspensions of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, which were subsequently followed by the military deployment around the nation capital on the suppose day of demonstration. All these actions plus crackdown on religious and civil society leaders, internet shutdowns and dissidents arrests were intended to deter the planned protest. Much to the surprise, its uncommon for such privileges to be struck by a government that often pride itself by being democratically formed. Well, it is sometimes important to rely on the analogy of people’s actions: So, in this case it’s certainly essential to rely on the President’s remarks to fully appreciate the meaning of what a democratically elected government means in perspective. In his words president Kiir said, “People should not judge me on what they hear. Let them wait and see me in action. Then they will see how I serve my people.” So, in his own words and confirmed by his actions Salva Kiir is determined to exit power like his predecessor: perhaps not in a plane crush. And that means no stability for the country. In Rick Riordan’s words we are warned that knowing too much about our future is never a good thing. Thus, for South Sudanese citizens the deal is already sealed and is never a good thing.
Thus, step one of The People’s Coalition for Civil Action was a success, as its already established. But, the question remain, was it enough to get us what the PCCA Organisation has aspired to do? The answer is certainly a no. Therefore, shortcomings are what the organisation need to identify and strengthened against to mount a robust support and make the impact expected. The organisation was not thorough in its approach, which limited its capabilities to attract a myriad of civilians nationwide. The organisation was limited in four of the following ways, which are interlinked.
First, PCCA like its predecessor Red Card Movement committed a similar sin of rushing to surface with this vital agenda of political change, before making clear, how to target civilians specifically with the information. The People’s Coalition for Civil Action did not attempt to study why the Red Card Movement failed to materialised. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to repeat the same mistakes of online campaign without a backup strategy. And this was why it was easy for the government to shut-down the 30th of August 2021 protest before it has even begun, by just putting-out the Internet Service and using the same military strategy. The People’s Coalition for Civil Action initially failed to maximise its coverage through the choice of choosing to fully rely on literate/learned society of social media and technology: while paying less attention to non-literate. This approach did not vouchsafed both citizens (literate and illiterate) the privilege of enjoying the same information simultaneously. Moreover, the approach neglected the vast of people in the hundreds of thousands (illiterate) suffering as the consequence of national crises, who are constantly fed false information, to back either the regime or any disgruntled general. Mathiang Anyoor (Dot ke Beny) and White Army) are respectively few amongst others, who unfortunately, were products of pure bad politics originating from Salva Kiir’s and Dr Riek Machar’s wants of power.
Though social media ways are good (as instigators) and timely effective sometimes, its effectiveness in the situation was limited as a significant majority of its users are in diaspora and few in areas within technology capability. Priorities need to be enacted to give both citizens equal power of driving the imminent change.
The second reason PCCA campaign failed to spark a nationwide attention was the language used to reach out to civilians. This stemmed from the preferences of social media as a platform to preform PCCA’s activities. With English being the primary language of the social media world and its inventors, it was subconsciously adapted to be the language that majority know: negating the influence Arabs have had in spreading Arabic across the then regional Southern Sudan. Arabic which is spoken at every shopping point, police stations and also used at the judiciary system did deserve priority in promotion of such a vital cause for change. Not only are English and Dinka not significant, but other language such as Nuer should have been given a consideration too. Because numbers are often needed to prompt such a fight against elites such as Juba’s. This could only be attained by directly eliminating the service of a middleman or translator. To put it into perspective, PCCA unlike its predecessor organisations, instead of prematurely running to open with such a vital agenda, should have allowed time, particularly, to bring on board members of various ethnic backgrounds to help them spread the message wide. That would have undoubtedly yield propagators, mobilisers, thinkers, etc. for the benefit of the organisation.
Thirdly, the social media approach intensely constricted PCCA’s campaign coverage to areas with technology capability. This approach ignored the general population within South Sudan who are experiencing the circumstantial events in the cattle camps, rural villages, and internal displacement camps who have no access to technological services. These places have the advantage that masses could easily be congregated and weaponised as instrument for change, unlike those top towns of Juba, Wau, Torit, Bor-Town and Yei where the National Security and the unknown gunman are a synonym to death sentence.
The final and the fourth reason of PCCA’s failure is the lack of organisers, propagators, mobilisers etc. for whoever were running the campaign. Its unheard for such kind of operation to succeed without the influence of organisers and mobilisers on ground. Such lack of organising and mobilising team members guarantee no firmness and faith in decision-making for the people the organisation was seeking to influent. Because, these people would like some of their doubts to be answered, which the organisation’s teams would have been there for. We know that humans are delicate animals: in order for them to associate themselves with something, they often look for cues, which would tell them otherwise. The cues include those of facial expression, hand and other gestures, that emits personal beliefs about the thing of concern. Thus, the only way to have drown the doubts was to be presently there through mobilisers, propagators etc., as that can answer some of their latent questions. Otherwise, being associated with ghost campaigners could undoubtedly smear the entire project of imminent change needed and possibly bring upon its death before its maturation. In the end more work is required to recruit members who should be physically there on the ground to act as the face of the movement.
All as a South Sudanese regardless of literacy level have the ownership and responsibility to liberate South Sudan from the abject malfunctioning of its unscrupulous government officials. PCCA have to engage local populations at home and in refugee camps both internally and externally than to rely on technology know-how. Hence, the idea of full reliance on technology services (of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc.) has to be relaxed a bit and more focus on other methods to engage the local populations without tech privileges. The information about change needs to be sold to citizens at every corner of South Sudan and ought to be extended beyond the boundaries. The language has to be moderate such that every other citizen is accommodated in the work of attaining absolute government for the people. Only then, when the people own the idea shall they be able to form a formidable force that will be able to drive the change they want.
The writer is a concerned citizen of South Sudan. He can be reached via: email@example.com.
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