By Jacob K. Lupai
May 22, 2012 (SSNA) -- The statement that no one is above the law is fundamental for good governance. Without the rule of law it is difficult to comprehend how good governance can be instituted. Failed states are characterized by breakdown of the rule of law. For a new independent state such as the Republic of South Sudan the observance of the rule of law becomes the foundation stone on which to build a strong united country. This may explain why on several occasions the President of Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has advised his countrymen with strong emphasis that no one is above the law. This is very important for people to steer clear of criminal activity in promoting the culture of obedience for the law and tolerance. This in turn may promote togetherness in nation building. South Sudan needs all the talents of its citizens to contribute to the building of a vibrant nation that is like a paradise for all. However, the greatest challenge of all is law enforcement. Heinous crimes are often committed but it is not clear to what extent the perpetrators have faced justice. Some people behave as though they are above the law. This could be due to nepotism where a blind eye was turned against a criminal activity, ignorance of the law or sheer incompetent and inefficient law enforcement agencies.
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement programme
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is the lead party in government in the Republic of South Sudan. It aims at the establishment of a strong government that will transform South Sudan into a nation of peace, freedom, unity, equality and prosperity for all. The SPLM aims at building a nation based on justice, a decentralized secular and democratic, transparent and accountable system where equal opportunities are provided. It endeavours to protect fundamental human rights and freedom for all the people of South Sudan irrespective of ethnicity among others. It can be seen that the SPLM has a comprehensive programme in order to build South Sudan as a strong united country with all its diversities. Nothing could have been more acceptable. However, the challenge is how to translate the programme into practically operational plan that is seen to satisfy people’s aspirations for a society of justice. Taking the advice of the President of Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, that no one is above the law and putting it into practice is a sure way of stability in nation building. Nevertheless, human beings are not perfect. There will always be a minority of people that defy the norm. The difference will only be made when people are committed to the rule of law for the benefit of all. However, there will always be some criminal minded individuals who will pass through the net. With nepotism and corruption criminals will always have feast days. Nonetheless, this situation can always be tackled with well coordinated and robust law enforcement agencies which mean business but not games. This means good governance as envisioned by the SPLM in its political programme for South Sudan.
Land grabbing a challenge to law enforcement
Land grabbing seems to have disappeared from news headlines these days. This may be because land grabbing has been totally ignored as though it does not exist. This is not true, however. Land grabbing exists but it is being ignored because land grabbers think they are above the law contrary to the advice of the President of Republic of South Sudan. Land grabbing is therefore a challenge to law enforcement. For example, there is a court decree affirming that a piece of land is the property of the plaintiff (owner) and therefore the defendant (land grabber) should vacate the same and demolish such structures as they were erected thereon within a period of twenty-one days with effect from the date of notification of the decree and that the defendant should refund the plaintiff court fee and the advocacy expenses incurred thereby as published in a newspaper. Nine months later the land grabber was still occupying the property in defiance of the court decree. The land grabber threatened to shoot to kill the owner of the property and even chased away the police sent to execute the court decree. The land grabber seems to be above the law and as of now the land grabber is still occupying the property, illegally of course. When will the law be enforced is an open question. Some land grabbers are soldiers in uniform who threaten to shoot to kill land owners who approach their property that the soldiers are occupying illegally. Now who is heeding the advice that no one is above the law. Soldiers who are seen in uniform are the symbol of liberation and of our independence are therefore held in high esteem. However, for soldiers held in high esteem to terrorise innocent civilians is worrying.
For the very soldiers held in high esteem to break the law and worse, to terrorise innocent law abiding civilians must be an embarrassment to the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, who always advises people that no one is above the law and who is also the Commander-in-Chief when some of his soldiers are violent and cruel to innocent law abiding civilians. It is of course not the majority of soldiers who are terrorizing civilians. It must be a tiny minority of soldiers that are a problem and who are spoiling the good name of our professional soldiers. This is a challenge to law enforcement agencies of the government of South Sudan to make the tyrant soldiers law abiding in the interest of building a united South Sudan as a strong nation of justice according to the SPLM programme. The government needs to take steps in addressing the problem of land grabbing by people in uniform. There is no one law for people in uniform and the other for civilians. The government should be seen to make South Sudan a nation of justice for all regardless of who is who as the President always advises no one is above the law.
As always in the forefront, the President is disgusted with the filthy heaps of garbage scattered along the streets and residential areas in Juba. However, we need environmental laws to protect the residents of any village and town in South Sudan. The SPLM programme, nonetheless, is clear about the environment with a vision of sustainable use of environmentally sound waste management system. Nevertheless, rules and regulations need to be formulated that can prevent the damping of hazardous waste and any practice that leads to environmental degradation. Critical observation seems to suggest that garbage is being deliberately damped on the streets in Juba. Probably in the dark of night the culprits find it easy to damp their cargo on the nearest spot possible and this seems to be the streets of Juba city and residential areas. Formulation of environmental laws is therefore essential in preventing the rampant damping of toxic waste along streets and in places of recreation in Juba. It is only a pity that sometimes the advice of the President seems to fall on deaf ears. The President advice on law and environment should have been acted upon promptly by the agencies concerned. On law the advice should have made law enforcement agencies busy in developing strategies to ensure security and justice for all. For example, court decrees should be executed swiftly for justice to be seen done. On environment there was no need for the President to repeat himself as in the media on 17 May. The President was clearly upset by the sight of garbage strewn in the city centre when he expressed this in public a month earlier on 17 April. Why wasn’t action taken in the one month interval only for the President to repeat himself again.
On agriculture the President is always clear. He strenuously advises people to be self-reliant in food production instead of relying on food imports. The implication is that agricultural technocrats should have developed policies and programmes to focus on food production. For example, there is a forest of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) many claiming to work in the agricultural sector. What difference are those NGOs making in terms of food production and security since 2005? This is because there is no improvement in food security situation. On the other hand what are the people contributing to food security? People’s contribution to food security is minimal. For example, we have a horde of youth idling around congregating under trees and any shade they can find, seeping tea and loud in talking. No doubt such horde of youth encourages corruption because they need to be fed as they may hardly produce enough to feed themselves. One way of attracting the youth to the agricultural sector is to make agriculture a profitable business. Inputs have to be provided on credit with technical advice available. Farm machinery should also be provided with spare parts under the supervision of a technical committee. Distributing farm machinery to individuals or communities means the powerful will have the machinery in their private compounds rusting away without the desired effect. In agriculture laws are also needed so that farmers are neither cheated nor deprived of their rights, and also to regulate access to land for cultivation.
South Sudan land of abundance
Greed may narrow people’s vision that the main preoccupation is to amass wealth in the shortest possible time at the expense of sustainable development and nation building. South Sudan is a land of abundance with untapped vast quantities of natural resources that will make per capita income one of the highest in the world. Unfortunately there is inequitable distribution of wealth that poverty is high. Poor planning also seems to contribute to poverty. Investment in agriculture is so poor that since 2005 South Sudan has depended on food imports. Investment in farm machinery for large scale mechanization is not visible. Also, investment in extension worker and farmer training in a large scale is absent. Piecemeal investment in farm machinery and farmer training if any is haphazard. With this type of investment in agriculture it will be centuries before South Sudan becomes truly self-reliant leave alone being self-sufficient in food production. The alternative is permanent dependence on the mercy of neighbours for all food imports to satisfy consumption needs of South Sudan. This, however, shouldn’t be the case. Putting the right person in the right place may do backed up with the necessary resources for investments.
In conclusion, the advice on no one is above the law is noble. However, the challenge is the enforcement of the law. South Sudan has laws already but the main issue is that there is no justice without the enforcement of the law. One example of injustice is in land grabbing. People in uniform are the main land grabbers and defy the law with impunity yet people often hear that no one is above the law. It makes a mockery of the law when the law itself is not enforced or when enforced in a discriminatory manner as in when people abuse their office. It is important that the SPLM is to improve its image drastically as a party of justice to match its own political programme if it aspires to be the ruling party in South Sudan forever. Sadly the SPLM seems to be miserably failing people on several counts including turning a blind eye to land grabbing by people in uniform, near chronic food insecurity and a high level of poverty as salaries have not been reviewed in line with spiraling commodities prices that seem to be out of control. The SPLM must do something sooner rather than later.