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 #10: Measuring Success
You know that the mind-set of the leadership and attitudes about public service have changed using indicators such as corruption, nepotism, patronage, or the incessant quest for easy gain. Professionals can design the appropriate statistical tools to achieve more reliable evaluations.
One can gauge the liberation of gender from the shackles of tradition by simply looking at – gender frequency tables in Church (sitting patterns), schools, at work place and wherever males and females have a challenge to interact. Employment figures – wage labor, self-employment and white-collar occupation – can all reveal the extent to which gender is amicably incorporated. Within the same breathe, the ultimate test of utilizing human resources according to individual abilities can also be discerned from labor market figures. It should be remembered that when specific statistical measures do not seem to fit a situation (internal or construct validity problems), nothing prevents the person so-concerned from designing a more credible measure.
The communication connections of all regions of the nation with appropriate infrastructure are not difficult to measure. For instance, percentages of citizens with mobile phones in per county; new road surfaces opened in kilometres in a year per Payam, County or the Boma; number of boats in use or estimated amount of goods transported in kilograms, etc..
South Sudan can also design its own power utilization index if it is dis-satisfied with existing indicators. One can count the number of families in a Boma who use power; the number of individuals who have lights in their own rooms; and the number of businesses/ enterprises that use power.
Institutions such as UNICEF and UNESCO have been engaged in the field of education for decades; the indicators they use are good enough for South Sudan – down to percentages of literacy, people who read newspapers, novels, etc. It would be quite easy to monitor improvements in adult literacy!
Health indicators abound, broken down by region, providing such information as infant malnutrition, or mortality, maternal mortality, incidents of the various common diseases: malaria, typhoid, diarrhoea, etc – broken down by Boma, County, State, or even boarding schools.
The volume of trade on the nation’s highways, broken down by product and origin in weight or dollars; as well as the number of persons, by various occupations using the highways can be determinants of progress. A reduction in the number of incidents of roadside stops (buabas), demands for ID, etc can point to a growing unfettered movement.
Others may want to utilize the more sophisticated hierarchy of needs (Abraham Maslow) – a controversial but nevertheless excellent way to conceptualize human development – a far more superior methodology to that of a party politician who saw tarmac roads and glass buildings in Juba as signs of national development. It is the life of the average citizen, not the V8 owner, which better indicate’s the nations development.
Dream #11: To Deny Mistakes is to Postpone the Solution
It is human nature to seek recognition and high esteem. However, most people hate individuals who crave attention, appearing to be vain. It is the rare Donald Trumps of this world, who might be allowed to boast of their successes. A South Sudanese tried that repetitive boast and he became known as “Shufuni”! It is far more devastating when institutions of state resort to excessive boasting, followed by its twin brother: denial of mistakes – the most deadly enemy of success. Socrates comes to mind: if someone says you are wrong, and you are NOT, simply ignore if the facts you have do not persuade him! BUT, if indeed you ARE wrong, why not just accept it! That is, try to remain objective – without resorting to “Do you know me?” or “Yakhi, mah I am also a graduate – after all who are you? You finished after me!” This is a fallacy in logic known as “Argumentum ad hominem”! – to jump from facts at hand to the person presenting the facts. This fallacy is often heard in government as well: “You know, we are still a young nation,” or “Even in America they make mistakes!” The issue is not how old you are or whether the same mistake occurs in America: have you failed to protect citizens or not?
It gets complicated when other people, TV, Newspapers, Radio make claims about individuals or government. These claims might be right or wrong. If wrong, individuals can resort to libel suits – but what does government do? In the case of government, if the claims are wrong, the party in power will go to all lengths to SHOW the falsehood of the claim to its citizens. And if the claims are right, such a government will make strenuous efforts to correct the wrong, to please voters (if they have the power to vote freely)!
There is much room to dream about becoming better individuals in a better country. Personal denials of negative observations can be attributable to personal vanity. Can a government also be vain? Too often, when confronted with an unflattering claim, the great sin in logic is committed –– that is to begin to focus on the person that makes the claim rather than staying on the facts about the veracity of the claim. In universities, the ability to absorb criticism is attained through seminars, paper presentations, debates, etc so that students learn to focus on the facts presented, and not on the person presenting the paper. It is tough but highly rewarding after a long practice. Do you know about “logic”? “ukef yakhi!”
Dream #12: Ideology-based Political Parties
Almost everyone I know dreams about South Sudanese nationalism – and that’s good for a start. However, like a good crop, nationalism does not grow on barren ground; a ground full of tribal rocks and pebbles; a ground that is the quarry of political machinations; a ground that is the real estate of extremely ambitious warlords and their affiliated upstarts. South Sudanese nationalism will have to be built on solid nationalist aspirations grounded on ideas of the common good. To a very large extent, that is the story of John Garang’s success with the SPLM – an organization that has withered and dried because it was left in the hands of far less capable get-rich-quick turn-boys and girls with a Red District mentality. I offer no apologies for these conclusions.
A bona fide political party does not begin with registration – that is only a legal formality. It begins with a solid body of comprehensive ideas about moving society forward – often referred to as an ideology. Although it often came to be a term associated with forms of extremism (Left, Rightist, or Anarchist) during the Cold War, the term nevertheless expresses the idea of bold thought and action positions on a spectrum from Left to Right. A far left party would, for instance, advocate the common good through public ownership; on the other hand, the far right party would, as a minimum, call for minimal government engagement in providing the public good. Communism, a leftist set of ideologies, would, for instance have public-owned companies as in Cuba, China, North Korea, and to some extent, the Venezuela of Chavez (now Maduro). While Capitalism, a-la USA is down to almost pure individualism. This is not the place to cover the various shades of ideology – only to show that it is absent in the theatres of political party conglomerations in South Sudan, complete with kaleidoscopic characteristics.
We have a tendency to ally with a politician on a number of identities which deal mortal blows to political party ideological development orientation: he/she is our son; a fellow combatant in the trenches; has name recognition; has money; is a “Dr.” etc. This has encouraged political ambition to be based purely on the self and the community of origin, rather than a broad ranch of neatly-related ideas that would benefit the Citizens of South Sudan. Most of us are unable to develop and apply a simple litmus test to determine if “This Leader and His Party” has political ideology. Our dream should be to snub out ethnic-based party following and replace it with ideological affinities.
This is the fourth and final installment of the dreams series. Our thanks to Prof Alfed Sebit Lokuji for granting Equatoria Online permission to republish.