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South Sudan is not a failed state yet, but an emerging one: A Rebuttal to Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy Magazine’s Report

By: John Bith Aliap, South Australia

July 13, 2013 (SSNA) -- In recent days, a brief reflection of the major themes dominating our local headlines in the streets of Juba and other major cities in South Sudan – that South Sudan has joined the list of African’s failed states could lead us to throw our tongues on high gear. Talks of South Sudan being a failed have long existed in different domains. Khartoum for instance, has been a champion of such faulty claims that South Sudan is not yet ready to stand on its own feet; and if allowed to become an independent nation, it could easily crumble.

Historically, way back before the independence, the international community, regional blocs and other concerned citizens in South Sudan have long anticipated that South Sudan would soon likely join the list of failed states if things remain unchanged, but the SPLM-led government has always been swift to dismiss these speculations - assuring these folks that South Sudan won’t acquire a failed state’s rank. But recent bombshell report by Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy (Sudantribune 26th June 2013) reminds us to critically look into what’s happening in our country. Marial Benjamin, the Mouth-piece of South Sudan’s government reacted angrily to this report – dubbing it as a ‘random and meaningless’. Not only him, Mark Nyipouch- a former Governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal state joined the podium - saying ‘the SPLM ruling party worked very hard since 2005 to achieve its promises of peace, stability and prosperity; and that South Sudan still lacks behind because all resources were controlled by Khartoum that Could not provide a chance to South Sudan to have enough services to its people’.

In fact, the anger could boil high in South Sudan - labelling a newly founded country as a failed state is unfair and it could highly attract a closer scrutiny. However, for those who are quiet familiar with South Sudan’s system, these people might be easily misled to believe that South Sudan would likely rank fourth on the list of African failed states, but such thinking could be seen as barbaric, unwanted and unpatriotic.

According to Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s definition of a failed state, a failed state is a state which has a weak central government, non-provision of public services, wide spread corruption and criminality, refugees and involuntary movement of populations, sharp economic decline. While we can partially admit that South Sudan is facing multiple issues in different fronts, the assertion that it’s a failed state is highly premature and inconclusive in nature.  However, before we can confirm Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s report on South Sudan as a failed state, this article aims to walk you beyond Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s scope of understanding of what would be regarded as a ‘failed state’.  Based on Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s report,  I will  only highlight some issues which  i think if not addressed – will lead South Sudan to acquire a rank of a failed state sooner rather than later. To waste no time, there is no need here to rehash the narratives which describe a stuttering economy, levels of crime and unemployment, infant education system, public and private sector corruption - notably within the government backyard. The fact alone that the levels of corruption, human rights abuse, inequality, and the list goes so long, shouldn’t be enough to lend South Sudan a failed state status since it’s in the transitional phase in which  issues mentioned in Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s report are regarded as normal experiences of an emerging country.

Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy’s report should have only confirmed that South Sudan is showing worrying symptoms of illness, but on the highway to becoming a failed state if the government in Juba does not take bold steps. I would argue here that the signs of State’s failure are there in South Sudan, but understanding them requires a nuanced approach. To understand how far along the road of failure South Sudan is, I would holds that a holistic, three-pronged analysis is required. The three spheres that I am inviting you to share with me in this article so that we’re able to clearly understand and determine if South Sudan has failed are societal, international and political.

Not only in South Sudan, but every state is continuously in a dynamic position of interaction with domestic, regional and international spheres, as well as with itself as a set of political institutions. In this way, the societal sphere is concerned with the state’s ability to secure a centralised form of power.  State’s failure in this context as in the case of South Sudan, would occur with the emergence of notable armed or subversive strong men or warlords which pose a threat to state stability as they seek to secure some form of territorial independence. Yau Yau is our latest example, but his rebellion in my opinion is not a nationwide issue. It’s being contained and it doesn’t qualify South Sudan to be labelled as a failed state. 

State’s failure and [South Sudan is not an exception here in this case] in the international sphere, relates to a state’s paradoxical dependence on international aid and a simultaneous need to remove itself from international involvement. In the most extreme situation, a state’s inability to ensure the security of its borders from foreign interference or in the face of war could lead to an acute breakdown of functionality. With respect to the international and societal sphere’s South Sudan has in fact shown relative instability since its independence. It has not been able to secure a centralised power framework, and it has been at war with a quiet number of rebel groups; and this has not allowed it to relatively integrate well with the international community. While worrying signs have already started to show in South Sudan, pointing toward some deterioration in South Sudan’s functionality in the societal and international spheres, it is in the political sphere where we face the greatest threat of state’s failure. For example, Riek Machar quest of leadership overnight could potentially undermine South Sudan’s stability; and risks throwing the country into anarchy. 

In addition, a pronounced risk of state state’s failure in South Sudan is also manifested in the arena of political institutions and the apparatus of the state itself, where patrimonial rule appears to be the order of the day. Patrimonial rule here in this situation implies that a ruling party for example [SPLM] governs a country as paterfamilias’ property. Power is entirely personalised through complex and disperse networks of favour and patronage and authority no longer emanates from political institutions, but from politicians themselves, as the party chairman becomes more powerful than anybody else in the country. This dynamic may harbour fatal consequences for the functionality of South Sudan as a country. The practice of cadre employment has decimated expertise and capability in state institutions, from municipalities to para-statal enterprises.

In recent years, virtually overnight, accumulated knowledge was replaced with political ideology under the banner of struggle for freedom, justice and equality, Dr. John Garang’s famous ideology which attracted a good number of people in all corners of Sudan, but now the independence has been achieved, the resultant decay is staggering, as evidenced by last month’s corruption scandal that recounts the scandalous mismanagement of public funds in the government. In contrary, the mismanagement of public funds by government officials in South Sudan is at least coming to an end.

On the 28th of June 2013, president Kiir relieved finance Minister Kosti Manibe and his cabinet affairs counterpart, Deng Alor, lifting their immunities so they can be investigated over the request and transfer of $7 million to a private company without knowledge or authorisation of the president or cabinet (Sudantribune 28th of June 2013). However, the suspension of these heavy-weights, die-hard SPLM members on allegations of corruption confirmed that zero tolerance policy – ‘Kiir’s John Kudusey song’ – is in motion.  But do not give up yet.  The deterioration of physical infrastructure - electricity, roads, sanitation- in both rural and urban areas could also contribute to South Sudan being ranked as a failed state in the future if Juba’s government does not show seriousness to provide these lifeline public services.

The sustained nature of this squandering of state resources, coupled with the lack of political will to act decisively in remedying corruption will likely prompt a public backlash in the form of violence, most likely centring on the issue of service delivery - a major prospective fault line of South Sudan being labelled by foreign predators as a failed state. Another major concern in South Sudan is the systemic manner in which the common good, ‘public interest’ has been subverted for private interest.

For example, the current factionalism within the SPLM party (Riek Machar, Pagan Amum and Wani Igga versus Kiir) could potentially cause violent, as political assassinations will become more regular-hence leading the state to fail. As such, the true test for the integrity of South Sudan state will be when simmering party-political and public discontent boils to the surface and exacerbates the fault lines of failures that currently lay dormant. However, if such a disruptive dynamic emerges, South Sudan’s already-troubled domestic, regional and international spheres may themselves turn into arenas of conflict more violently than what we are currently witnessing.

In conclusion, South Sudan is not a failed state yet as labelled by Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy Magazine, but it’s still in the transitional period where, weak central government, lack of public services, corruption, refugees movement, economic decline and crimes are regarded as normal experiences of an emerging nation, but the flipside of the same coin is that the disquieting manner in which the SPLM and the state have become one, the latter seen as the personal domain of the former. This development allows us to ask this important question: will the SPLM-led government rescue the country from being labelled in the future as a failed state?

John Bith Aliap is an Adelaide-based political commentator and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

July 11, 2013 (SSNA) -- As South Sudan celebrates the second anniversary of its independence from Sudan, the world will better remember it as a country which made it nonstop to the league of the failed states, less than two years from the moment it was declared sovereignty.  However its traditional pride continues to be the resilience of its people whose support for the decision to secede from Sudan never wavers. They have recently even shown more maturity in their nationalism by successfully differentiating between the current state of affairs in their country and the opportunities that still lay ahead for many generations to come. No wonder at all, that they received the second anniversary of their hard won independence with reflections and contemplations.

It is true that, despite claims by the government that vast sums of money, in their billions of dollars that came from the Oil revenue and the International aid funds have been expended on investment in infrastructure, there is very little to show in the way of roads, medical services, and education for millions of South Sudanese who greeted the prospect of independence with eagerness and hope.

But down inside, the people are optimistic, that sooner than later, they will be able to get rid of the current corrupt administration and replace it with one that will have a clear vision and a set path to reposition this resource rich state in its rightful place, where it will lead the continent in areas of good governance, stability, security, economic development and food production.

Nothing of the kind mentioned above can ever be achieved without first bringing about drastic changes in the political landscape all across this country. How mysterious nature is to make possible the antidote of fatal conditions, attainable from what is left of the assailant, and the reaction produced by the victim. In many instances vaccines have been successfully developed from dead or attenuated organisms that used to cause the diseases in the first place.Today South Sudan is on a rendezvous with this discovery.

The emerging split within the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in recent months, with several senior officials publicly challenging Kiir’s bid for a new term,   if anything, it signifies an imminent end to president  Salva Kiir Mayardit’s visionless and clannish leadership. And our country is about to change course and sail towards a new direction with ultimate change of the old guard. But will Riek, Pa’gan and Nyandeng lead the split this time around, and salvage the country from the imminent collapse under Salva Kiir’s leadership?

From all the writings on the wall, SPLM is undoubtedly heading towards an inevitable breakage, more than any time in its entire history. Whether the outcome will be two or more factions, the end result is that they are likely to be more manageable political units, than what the “mother party” has lately become. We look forward to that and we encourage it as we look forward for multi- party democracy and encourage the realization of both for a better South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir has only himself to blame, because his party had unanimously given him all powers that an emperor can dream of in this world. Instead of using those powers wisely, he plunged the country right into an unfathomable mess.  As the South Sudanese poet, author and publisher living in Canada,  my fellow compatriot  Kuir ë Garang has stated it eloquently  in his article : ‘Accountability as the Golden and Cultural Phenomenon’, that appeared on the on July 2, 2013 (SSNA), that :

“Corruption isn’t going to end through the arrest of few individuals. What the government has to do is to establish systemic instruments that can act as deterrents for would-be corrupt employees”. I can’t agree more.

The president should have used his unlimited powers to establish deterrents to corruption in public offices, but he didn’t.  What he did was to use corruption as a tool of blackmail, in order to secure loyalty. And today we are seeing long standing ‘Corruptions Lords’ only are being confronted after they have fallen off with the boss.

To say the least, most of the state governors are up to their eyebrows, in corruption, but as long as they remain loyal to president Kiir, nothing bad will happen to them. All state governors, National Ministers and senior government officials who have been in office, starting well before the independence of the country, have all without exceptions, enriched themselves through the misappropriation of public money.

Of the many ironies in the country, the Vice President Riek Machar has publicly broken his silence and has criticized his boss on several occasions for the inevitable demise of the regime and the party. In an interview with The Guardian, published Thursday 4 July 2013 16.40 BST, VP Riek blames President Kiir for having failed to tackle the rampant corruption, rising tribalism, overwhelming insecurity, dwindling economy, poor international relations.  And he went further to stress that the SPLM as a political party has lost vision and direction. […ek-machar-south-sudan-ambition... ]

On the other hand it is already an open secret worldwide that those who have benefitted in South Sudan and have become wealthy by misappropriating government funds—have often sent their families outside South Sudan, their children to private schools abroad, and have obtained the best medical services available in the world. “This occurs while ordinary citizens who remain in South Sudan cannot afford even basic health services or modest educations for their children" lamented a group of US-based activists that calls itself the “Friends of South Sudan”, in a letter they wrote to President Salva Kiir, warning him of the imminent collapse of the new country, should he not hurry up with crucial reforms.…orld/2013/jul/09/south-sudan.....

Everyone who loves South Sudan, including this author, has repeatedly called for the complete overhauling of the SPLM party. This position has recently been echoed by the ‘Friends of South Sudan’. While this could have been the solution one year ago, it is no longer the case now, for as the SPLM stands today, borrowing the words of its late founder Dr. Garang de Mabior, this party has become “too deformed to be reformed”.

Worse still, the spill overs from the internal power struggles are now about to choke the entire state machinery and set yet another precedent, where political manipulations by a “one party” state, ends devouring the party itself.   President Kiir’s last minute efforts to save his regimes’ image unfortunately are bound to fail. They are too little, too late!

This far, haven’t we learnt any valuable lessons yet? For it will be completely unfair to put all the blames on Mr. President alone without equally condemning the SPLM stooges who for reasons only known to them, chose to empower him [president] absolutely. Have we forgotten that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? We don’t want this mistake repeated and our people should do
everything to avoid it from happen again.

Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba can be reached at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

We shall celebrate our independence

By Elhag Paul

July 8, 2013 (SSNA) -- For most countries celebrating their day of independence is an event eagerly awaited.  It is celebrated with pomp and razzmatazz.  From early morning hours one sees parades, children taking parts in various activities with towns and cities creating their own carnival like environments.  At night, fireworks of unimaginable sorts are shot high into the sky bursting into tiny balls of various colours and formations creating captivating mental sensations.  The boom sound s from fireworks not only dazzles sending hearts pumping but psychically creates a feeling of its own that is indescribable.   People beam with happiness and exude confidence with expressions of deep feelings coming from their sense of freedom and pride.  They go to pubs, bars and night clubs to enjoy themselves.

Heroines, heroes and the fallen are fondly remembered.  History comes to the present to be lived for moments in this important day.  Epic stories of struggle are told, re-lived and proudly owned. 

In healthy states, the fruits of freedom and independence can be seen everywhere in functioning institutions reflected by the provision of quality of services in health, education, security etc rendered to the people.  In contrast, we have our newly liberated country: Republic of South Sudan. A country of 8.2 million people with an area the size of southern Europe.  The mood in this beautiful country endowed with abundant natural resource ironically is sombre as if there is not a very important day to be celebrated. 

The majority of the populace look dejected, under fed with few extremely beaming with happiness in the most expensive automobiles one can imagine.  For example, Hammers and V8s land cruisers.  The physique of this group of people can not be mistaken.  The most noticeable thing they carry around with them is their amorphous bodies, a sign of overfeeding from unnecessary abuse of food itself.  Ignorantly as they are, these know-nothing identified by Gerard Prunier as “idiots .......rotten to the core” believe their distorted figures are a sign of riches.  Unfortunately for them, health experts have a different view of this self inflicted shapelessness from gluttony.  The locals see it as a sign of thievery.  Their greed can be seen from their blobby faces, fattened with oil bags around their eye lids threatening to shut them off.  Oh dear!

Welcome to South Sudan, the land of thieves for liberators.  This group is the only one celebrating the independence day with happiness.  Blinded by ultra corruption and oblivious of their environment they can not see the sea of suffering surrounding them.  One of them, who may not fit the above description recently got fed up.  Inspired by Mr Gerard Prunier, he declared the system “rotten from top to bottom”.  That is starting with president Kiir at the top and ending with Ateny Wek at the bottom.  Wow! At last there is an Oyeeite who dares to speak out the truth.  Had there been many like him, perhaps this second anniversary might have just been refreshing.  Unfairly, this Oyeeite got himself sacked.  I can only say to him – welcome back to the world of the oppressed.  The very bottom filled with rot he helped construct and later discovered before he started yapping to the dismay of his boss.

The consequence of being led by “rotten” people has obtained the bleak situation in the country to the extent that people do not have the energy to even celebrate the day they are supposed to be most proud of.  Understandably, also there is a section of the society that regrets South Sudan getting its sovereignty from the Arabs due to the shocking abuse of the current rulers.  All the abuses in the country must be put in context.  These are the result of the Jieng usurping power at independence through the SPLM/A Oyee.  It was unfortunate that at the birth of South Sudan, it was delivered into the care of the Oyee machine which is a deranged organisation and so the present mess is not a surprise to some of us. 

Nevertheless celebrating independence is important.  It should not be confused with the current poor governance and the sentiments of those who did not vote for the secession due to Jieng abuse of power.  It is a truism that oppression and discrimination know no colours of skin.  This is a fact.  Arab oppression and discrimination was and is not different from the current Jieng one.  It must be recognised that oppression and discrimination stems from abuse of power, poor knowledge of human relationship and poor management of diversity.  All these unfortunately are things that saturate the government of South Sudan.  Even with all these I still argue that our independence was an absolute necessity visa viz our humanity and self determination.  The abuse of power in Juba is a temporary thing in the development of the state.  It will be gotten rid off and it may take a couple of governments and sacrifices before it stabilises.  In a sense these are inevitable teething problems.  What is important is for the people of South Sudan to continue fighting for a decent and fair society until it is achieved.  With the Arabs out of the way, the fight for democracy and good governance in South Sudan is achievable.

Why independence from Arabs was a priority and a must?  In the Sudan, the South Sudanese African identity was under a real threat.  The definition of the Sudan as an Arab country with all the consequences that flowed from it was in direct conflict with our normal way of life.  Basically, Arab culture automatically criminalised our cultures and way of living.  All of us saw how Arabic language and culture was foisted on us by the state.  The naming of all the land mark places in South Sudan with Arab names. The operationalisation of a state policy of Islamisation and underdevelopment, stealing of South Sudanese resources for developing the north only and the list goes on endlessly.  Being in the Sudan was no option for anybody who valued their own worth and humanity.  So, the key to get out of that mess was attaining sovereignty and this could only come through secession.   South Sudan fought for it and rightly achieved it. 

Now, problem one solved.   The second problem is what we have at hand in Juba: the abuse of state power by the so called “born to rule”.  They terrorise people at will.  With full control of the media they use it to spread lies and division while creating havoc throughout the country.  For example the ruling groups have developed an insatiable appetite for land grabbing.  This issue was recently articulated by the amnestied General Johnson Ulony.

On 15th June 2013, Malaak Ayuen, the chief propaganda officer of SPLM/A Oyee on SSTV initially appeared content with himself in preparation of his interview with General  Ulony.  He beamed with confidence as usual.  But this time he was hyperactive and looked like a cat that had just caught a mouse and was about to play cruel games with it of tossing it up and down.  Allowing the prey to run and then again pounce on it and so goes the torment.  Watching the programme, at first I was disgusted but as the interview progressed I had to slowly change my mind.  Certainly Ulony was no easy prey.  As usual Malaak was trying to milk the interview to strengthen the Oyee machine.  But to his surprise Ulony told him point blank and through the programme to the people of South Sudan and beyond that the government in Juba is a Jieng government and the reason he rebelled was because the Jieng dispossessed the Chollo of their lands. 

Malaak became agitated, uncomfortable fidgeting in his chair and wanted to divert the issue but there was no let up.  Ulony drove the message home to all the South Sudanese.  For once SSTV became a carrier and conveyor of truth that the Jieng do not like.  The important thing that has come out of this interview is the public exposure of Jieng policy of land grabbing and their use of the government machinery for that purpose.

Similar story is going on throughout Equatoria.  Recently, in Yei Kiir’s government advancing Jieng interest arrested 6 paramount chiefs of former Yei River district based on flimsy accusation.  It was alleged that the chiefs were collaborating with M23 rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo with the aim of breaking up South Sudan.  Subjecting this allegation to analysis, even before getting to the depth of it, it falls apart.  First of all M23 is an organisation mainly of Hima and Tutsi people of the great lakes region.  This group has no relationship with the people of Yei district in any way be it by ethnicity or culture.  Geographically Yei River district is almost a thousand kilometres to the north of M23’s area of operation.  The people of Yei have no any source of weapons to help the M23.  So the whole allegation is baseless.  However, the main reason for this facade is to threaten and humiliate the entire people of Yei district with the aim of stealing their lands.  The Jieng had wanted 15 miles square of Yei land to be allocated to them which the chiefs rightly refused and as the result the chiefs are being punished and intimidated to give in with the support of some stooges from Equatoria in government.

The determination of the Jieng to displace the other tribes in South Sudan is a very serious thing.  Its magnitude can be deduced from these two examples:

Dmajak  (a Jieng) commenting on my article ‘Jay Johnson: the anxiety of the general election of 2015’ published in South Sudan Nation on 7th June 2013 said: “To Paul, you have said many bad things about Dinka, but you should know that Jieng will not leave any Equatoria land very soon because this land has taken blood of Dinka who defended it during the war with Arab people.  To be honest with you, we are not leaving Nimule, Yei and other towns in South Sudan to either Uganda or Congo.  There is no way out.  If you are South Sudanese, please do not waste your time writing nonsense about Dinka, they are true owners of this land of Equatoria.” Now this kind of blatant assertion of rights over fellow country man’s land is not any different from the behaviour of the Arabs or early European imperialists.  The Jieng have clearly by their actions chosen to be domestic colonialists.

Lukudu Gatkouth Garang (another diluted Jieng) commented on the, ‘Press release: Western Bahr El Ghazal community in Diaspora’ published by South Sudan Nation on 17th June 2013 saying: “They (Fertit) have already taken their chances and actions against the so called idiots. Now it is the idiots turn to either forgive them or punish them severely.  Please stop instigating war between Jieng and Fertit in Wau and plan for your own safe exit from your own backyard.  Those SPLA/M idiots are everywhere and watching and monitoring your every move and they will catch up with you one day at the Konyokonyo market of wherever you may be on this planet earth.  Mouse, keep dancing around on the SSN while cats are watching you planning their next move on you.” 

This comment conveys what goes on in the mind of the Jieng.  The Jieng basically have dehumanised the ‘others’ and this is why they are able to abuse people without any remorse.  Imagine calling fellow countrymen ‘rats’.  As social theory posits that the abuser in the process of abusing others dehumanise himself/herself too. I wish to pray for them by saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

As I argued elsewhere, with all its immense pain, this is not comparable to the Arab problem because it is easily solvable.  In South Sudan there are about 63 tribes and out of these one tribe or so is deluding itself that it can lord it over the rest because they make 18 percent of the total population of South Sudan.  This is what I call fantasy.  Which is greater – is it 18 percent or 82 percent of the population?  Obviously 82 percent is the majority and this is what really matters in deciding the fate of the country.  Once all the other tribes converge on the view that Jieng behaviour must be addressed, the current nonsense in Juba will be history and South Sudan will be one step closer to total independence.

However, with dogged insistence from the people of South Sudan the next government can be made to see to it as a duty to arraign the current criminals in Juba to ensure that they pay for the mismanagement of the country ranging from wanton looting to killing of innocent people.  The proceeds of their loot must be legally confiscated and this includes animals like cows bought by looted cash.

South Sudanese should not accept anything less than total righting of the current wrongs.  There must be a total overhaul of the system so that people get the message that crime does not pay.  Knowing that we can do the above, why not then celebrate the independence of South Sudan.  South Sudan is bigger than any ethnic group and this should assure us of good things to come.

With the above I am of to Queen of Sheba restaurant to entertain myself to a large dish of Ethiopian cuisine downed with a bottle of Chateau Moncontour Vouray wine in celebration of independence from the Mundukuru.  After which I will go home and listen to Bob Marley’s: ‘Get up stand up, stand up for yours rights.  Get up stand don’t give up the fights.’   Yaa oppressed, are you listening!  Let us celebrate our independence.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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