By Emmanuel Monychol,
The battle for President Salva Kiir’s legacy and that of the SPLM will be won or lost at the state level. Success or failure will rest on the caliber of people chosen as governors in the transitional period. Choosing new and fresh talent is of critical importance for President Kiir’s legacy as well as for preparing the SPLM for the next elections after the interim period.
More than ever, the states constitute an important area for the SPLM in the next elections because they are the first line of defense in winning the trust of the people. It is at the state level that the President needs to consolidate his legacy and that of the SPLM. The peace agreement therefore offers a new opportunity for President Salva Kiir to think differently when he selects the next state governors.
In most of the states of South Sudan, governorship has been lackluster. Lack of services, corruption and nepotism are some of the hallmarks of past governors. In the oil-producing states, there is nothing to show for it because constitutionally-mandated oil dividends that were supposed to be ploughed back to the people, were diverted for other purposes by governors. In the northern states in the Greater Bahr El Ghazel, governors performed poorly in curbing inter-clan warfare and attacks by nomadic Arab tribes. This shoddy performance in Greater Bahr El Ghazel is replicated across all states in the country, and is complemented by the failure to build roads, deliver health services, food security, cleaning drinking water and education.
But things should not be this way in the transition period. The people in our states deserve better.
President Kiir should look to the future, in particular, the issue of the upcoming elections after the transitional period. How governors deliver services in the states is going to be critical to ensuring a win for the SPLM and a continuation of the legacy of the president.
The key to cementing a proper legacy and winning the next elections rests in appointing able governors in all of South Sudan. This is especially critical, also, in the president’s base in the northern states, such as Warrap, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, and others.
What criteria should be the criteria for selecting governors in the northern states?
First, President Kiir should consider cutting ties with any past leaders aspiring to be governors. Recycling people who did not deliver is going to anger people and turn them away from the SPLM. This is not going to be an easy task as different powerful lobbies linked to rich businessmen and politicians are likely busy at work trying to convince the president to appoint such people as governors.
Equally important is the fact that the president himself has declared zero tolerance for corrupt politicians. Given the fact that the international community has lobbed sanctions on some of our leaders, it is important that the president uses the transitional period to mend ties with the friends of South Sudan across the world and eradicate the stigma of corruption. This is also important for the objective of attracting development aid from the international community. In this regard, President Kiir should not consider any sanctioned individual for the office of governor anywhere in South Sudan, including in the northern states in the Greater Bahr El Ghazel. Neither should the president consider appointing proxies tied to anyone under sanctions or accused of egregious corruption in the past.
Over the years, the capacity of South Sudanese has improved tremendously. We now boast a respectable population of well-educated young people, both at home and in the Diaspora, who have gained immense work experience in various leadership positions since the CPA. These young people have borne the brunt of the stigma of war and corruption and now think differently with regard to how the country should move forward. It is this crop of South Sudanese, the generation that grew up during the war that President Kiir should turn to when looking for governors for the ten states.
This new breed of South Sudanese will bring a new dimension to the governors’ table; one that is steeped in efficiency, honesty and nationalism. Their experience in government and non-governmental sectors, has ensured their exposure to international best practices. These skills will be instrumental in propelling the states to a new level of development, accountability, and service delivery.
The old and rich businessmen and their political allies who are currently busy at work to ensure that their proxies are appointed governors do not have the interests of the president and the SPLM at heart. They represent a past that is tainted by lack of accountability, sanctions, and non-service delivery.
In a nutshell, the president can thwart this backward quest by looking into the future and not the past if he appoints young and ambitious leaders with a clean record, good reputations, and solid work experience.