In a series of well received social media posts, Professor Alfred Sebit Lokuji articulated what he believes to be the most urgent considerations needed to get South Sudan back on a forward looking and progressive path. These posts were presented as 12 dreams, and are captured here in four volumes – Mindset, Connections, Motion and Measures – which will be published serially over the coming days.
Dream #1: Changing the Mind-Set of Leadership & Public Service
The church has been more explicit about the psychology of hope – which it sees as a virtue! By the same token, the loss of hope, prompted by the loss of faith, leads to despair – giving up; surrendering; preferring to drown rather than swim. The South Sudanese citizen has been immersed within circumstances that could logically lead to despair, fatalism! This mind-set needs to be altered.
Leadership in the service of the nation should primarily mean preventing the citizen from despairing! This is not going to happen if positions of leadership continue to be viewed as un-vetted entitlements, as rights to luxury above and beyond the ordinary. More explicitly, being in a position of responsibility does not, and should never mean sanitized robbery: salaries, allowances, vehicles, free medical, houses with utilities – amounting to monumental equivalents for the care of at least 50 citizens per month. You will lose your mind trying to understand why the Government of South Sudan provides officials with a V-8; or comprehend how and why such a decision was made in the first place. Being self-acclaimed revolutionaries, one would have expected to see the likes of County Commissioners criss-crossing their counties in open air military-style jeeps.
Offices are littered with impediments to proper work –resembling the living-room of an upper class family: sofa sets, refrigerator, side tables, and TV set with cable (satellite) television services! Not forgetting the tea tray that hardly dries up in the course of the day! What on earth is the daily “productivity” in that office? Admittedly, there is the usual fully loaded lap-top or desk-top but what work is done on it is anyone’s guess – that’s why everybody is a “Beny” or a “Zol Kebir”!
The mind-set that says “I am here!” or “Do you know who I am” – or even “amul hisabak” must simply change if leadership, across all ranks is to be calculated in hours of work in the service of the citizen in the various sectors of public life.
Today’s leader, along with all his civil servants and servicemen in the various forces are NOT the equivalent of the colonial officer whose home was thousands of miles away – and he was here to control these natives in the name of Her Majesty’s government. He was therefore entitled to “home leave”, “hardship allowance” – name it – in recognition of his being far away from home. Nationalist leadership and all positions under it should come to terms with the reality that the Citizen is King – and always will be whether you come to power by election, coup, or tricky extensions of terms. The citizen must be King – that should be the new progressive mind-set and motto!
Dream #2: Freeing Gender from Cultural Correctness
Think a while about the lip service paid to gender equity, at work, in education, in church, in life and in death! Examine the entire spectrum of South Sudanese life as it relates to gender. It’s comedy! We started paying attention to “girl-child education” even before the CPA, but now feel challenged about noble employment percentages for women in the work force – 25%, 35%, or 50%?
In most societies females tend to outnumber males! So, why are we not talking about 50% or above? The answer is both complicated and simple! The simple answer is that we have NOT prepared women the way we have prepared men for work outside the home. Furthermore, when it comes to qualifications, we wish to hold them to higher standards than men, thus disqualifying them at higher rates – and resorting to quotas for an answer.
The complicated answer is that we are all arrested by a mystical belief that the woman should be at home, cooking, cleaning, raising children and staying attractive lest she be devaluated in the eyes of the husband and significant others. Why else would many women spend so much time and money trying to look “right”? Much more complicated to explain, if at all, is the notion that a man cannot do housework even if logically he should take over while the woman becomes the bread-winner. The quickest explanations that would be shouted out by most men and some women is that it is “our culture” that the home-slavery status should be retained.
Bear with me! Your 10-year old daughter has to wake up very early to help her mother sweep the yard, make tea, or wash the dishes from last night’s meal – while her 12-year old brother stays longer in beg and can demand that his tea be served. The girl leaves later for school and might arrive late – with consequences!
At the end of the school day the girl has to rush home or she will be questioned as to where and why she delayed! The boy might keep company with his friends or play football. He gets home late and expects that there is water for his bath – not so his much younger sister! She will be helping her mother prepare the evening meal or do other chores till she drops dead! The boy might have time to do some homework, chat some more with his friends or prefer to sleep early without being called lazy! He does better at exams and it is concluded that he is naturally smarter than his sister. This parallel life-style follows these kids even to university, if she has not already dropped out.
The boy takes his time to get married. The girl is constantly reminded in stealthy ways that she is getting old! She might graduate from college and get married. After all that investment on education, instead of utilizing her skills at work, her husband demands that she stays at home – after all, who will host his visitors!
A tough call, but this deep-seated mind-set must be changed if we want to see women and men contribute equitably at home, at work, and wherever men and women are called to serve the nation.
>> Small test question for men: Can you cook and wash dishes without feeling a loss of your masculinity?
Dream #3: From Each According to His Abilities
If Dream No 1 is attained (pro-citizen leadership) and Dream No 2 (everyone IS ABLE regardless of gender), we would easily see the logic in developing the skills of everyone willing and able for a productive life. Only through the development of skills can society reach that plateau where each citizen actively participates in work according to his/her abilities. The greatest sin, second only to the “Original Sin” is a leadership that creates antagonism against education (skills development)!
The connection between both formal and informal education and a productive life should be obvious. We recognize that not all will turn out to occupy the celebrated occupations (doctors, engineers, teachers, etc.) Some, due to triggers in their young life, will choose to remain on the farm, navigate the rivers for fish, and explore the forests for wood – nothing in human enterprise below the dignity of humankind. It is heart-breaking to see Ugandans come in droves to provide water services on bicycles because South Sudanese consider it below their dignity. Again, Ugandans, living in a more competitive economic environment see “money” in washing and ironing clothes for others – while South Sudanese go into seclusion and mourning should their son dare get into the laundry business! I asked my cousin’s wife in 2006 to exploit the market of the hungry by preparing “mula nyete” with “asida” for sale! “Shameful!” was her response to close the subject – only to see the neighbourhood awash with Ugandan food vendors by 2010.
Roads need to be built and maintained, better longer-lasting dwellings to be constructed, pupil-friendly schools to be established, patient-friendly medical staff to be trained. It is individually, collectively, in high and low positions that the country will be faithfully served by South Sudanese cadres – provided that the class that charts the course of development understands the need to facilitate, support and motivate South Sudanese to get things done through the requisite skills.
In a South Sudan scenario of “one for all and all for one” we would see arrays of government employees at work, soldiers and students at national development work camps; villagers adapting and employing more productive farming methods and cutting the dependency on foreign imports or food aid! Once the national productive talent is recognized, developed, and deployed with each according to his/her ability and obstructions removed – the sky is the limit!
Now read: Dreams Volume #2 – Connections.