Those of us who have been involved with Sudan related issues for a decade or longer feel some anxiety about the decision by President Salva Kiir of South Sudan to dissolve the government and restructure it, removing numerous key leaders. However, we also know well, it was obvious in fact, that the government as it had been constituted was incapable of functioning as South Sudan needed it to function. Whether this was because there was infighting among leaders or because people had been appointed to positions based upon what they did during the long war rather than based upon their ability to direct the ministries to which they had been appointed, we do not know. We do know that the people of South Sudan have seen corruption proliferate and conflict spread while the needs of the average citizen in many parts of the country have gone largely unmet.
We also know that while things could improve quickly under the right circumstances, it is all too easy for them to deteriorate as well. At this moment, there is a significantly increased military presence in the streets of Juba and there are heightened fears of conflict between the Dinka and the Nuer, the two largest tribes, with the former Vice President Machar a Nuer. There are also many voices praising Kiir’s decision, hoping for new faces in the government with reduced corruption. Machar himself is calling for calm while criticizing the Kiir’s decisions.
For the health of South Sudan moving forward, a true multiparty political system that encourages healthy policy debate is absolutely essential. The fact is that right now, the SPLM is so dominant that free debate is difficult to achieve and tends to occur within the party itself where dissenters are criticized or even ostracized, something not helpful to the advancement of the nation on the whole. In other countries, Kiir, Machar, and Pagan Amum might well lead two or three different political parties, offering criticism of one another while promoting different solutions to the problems faced by the nation. Perhaps, this is the direction in which the nation is headed, something that would be beneficial in the long run.
Our fervent hope is that the rebuilt government will be more effective at creating prosperity and renewing hope for the people of South Sudan. Only time will tell if our hope will come to pass.