Sunday, July 31, 2011

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Tribocracy

Tribocracy: The New Political Philosophy for the New Country
For her to avoid the pitfalls of her fellow African countries and be
successful, the new nation of South Sudan must fully embrace and
constitutionally legalize tribalism as a system of political
representation at the state and in the national governments.

By PaanLuel Wel, Washington DC, USA

July 23, 2011 (SSNA) -- As South Sudanese are enthusiastically
clamoring for the first ever cabinet of the newly independent republic
of South Sudan to be unveiled in a week or so, Sudan Tribune, a South
Sudanese online newspaper based in France, reported that "the first
President of the newly born Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir
Mayardit, has announced that his next government will be formed based
on qualifications of candidates and not on tribal representation."

This latest salvo from President Kiir, who would go into history as
the founding father of the new republic, is in addition to stringent
of conditions that he had already outlined after independence in
relation to the formation of the next government. The next cabinet, of
which President Kiir and VP Dr. Machar have comfortably secured their
respective places, will be "lean and broad-based in order to
effectively deliver services to the people of the region" or so
President Kiir reasons.

In this article, I am going to argue to the contrary: the best form of
qualification for a political office in a tribal country such as South
Sudan is tribal representation, not educational qualifications.
Logically, the next cabinet appointment should, accordingly, be based
on equitable tribal representation of all greater regions of South
Sudan, not just educational or whatever qualifications President Kiir
had in mind. The fact that President Kiir stated "qualification" is
vague at best and misleading at worst make it susceptible to political
manipulations of which the next cabinet may actually end up with one
tribe taking the lion share of the prized ministries, if not all, in
the name of "they are all qualified."

To assert that the evils of tribalism will be the ruination of the
Republic of South Sudan would be to affirm the obvious. The horrendous
spectacles of bad leaderships and poor governance; unbridled cases of
corruption and nepotisms; unabated accounts of inter-tribal conflicts
and chronic addiction to political rebellions; general malaise in
socio-economic development and political immaturity in Africa in
general and in present day South Sudan in particular are just but mere
symptoms of the underlying principal illness: tribalism.

In the 1960's when most African countries were shaking off the heavy
yoke of colonialism and embarking on self-rule as South Sudan is doing
it today, the then young inspiring leaders of African countries were
greatly troubled by the illness of tribalism. However, many amongst
them had hoped that, with democracy as system of governance, education
and the promise of economic prosperity in hand, they would combat and
defeat tribalism in its infancy, once and for all.

However, those promising tools and weapons they had pegged their hopes
on to fight and eliminate tribalism—democracy, education and socio-
economic development—never saw the light of the day. The poisonous
thorns of tribalism choked them off and kill them in the womb as sheer
ideas. The rest is history as we can all see today in each and every
country in the Sub-Saharan Africa. That no single nation has succeeded
to realize her inspirations and harvest the fruits of her independence
is the plainest testimony to the resilience and embeddedness of
tribalism in our society.

Yet, listening to President Kiir talking about evading tribal
representation in the forthcoming cabinet appointment, one is left
wondering if he is not inadvertently walking into the same booby-trap
that befell and doomed young independence African countries in the
1960's. Instead of trying in vain to avoid tribalism, we should rather
unflinchingly embrace it, adopt it and officializing it as our core
political philosophy of government. The legalization of tribalism
would herald the age of political fairness, tribal equality, societal
harmony, long lasting peace and sustainable development.

The officialization of tribalism is what I would refer to as
tribocracy. Tribocracy is therefore a political system of governance
in which equality in political representation in the national
government and/or at the state level is achieved through the principle
of tribal representation. As each and every tribe got a small
proportion of the national seats, the benefits accruable from those
high portfolios would trickle down to every tribe.

Thus, numerous cases of corruptions, nepotism, poor leadership and
general mismanagements and abuses of political offices would be
individualized instead of being tribalized as is the case currently in
South Sudan where everything and anything bad about the government has
been Dinkanized, Gogrialized and Warrapized. Each and every public
official who misbehave, engage in unethical practices or sleep on the
job would, first and foremost, be held accountable and prosecutable by
his own tribal members who would never have a pretext to engage in the
usual political gamesmanship and game-blaming of other tribes as

In contrast to tribocracy—the legalized version of tribalism, illegal
tribalism, if you would allow me to call it so, is the main enemy that
is threatening to tear South Sudan apart. It is the denial, or unequal
sharing, of political offices by and/or amongst various ethnic groups
that make up our country. And because political offices such as the
coveted cabinet seats do translate into goodies, illegal tribalism has
been, and will continue to be, the socio-economic and political
undoing of South Sudan as it has been across Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is because politicians operating under tribalism, as oppose to
within tribocractic system of government, would always manipulate and
abuse glaring shortcomings in democracy for their political endgames.
Election in many African countries, Uganda for example, has been used
to legitimize and perpetuate impunity, corruptions, bad leadership,
and greediness for power, and despairingly, to undermine any prospect
of economic transformation. Without the prospect of democratization
taking place due to the prevalence of tribalism, the entire Sub-
Saharan African countries, for the last decades, have been left
wallowing in abject poverty, illiteracy and political mediocrisy.
South Sudan too has no chance of riding itself of tribalism by
counting on democratization.

And so is the educationalization of the citizenry. Tribalism breeds
intoxicating environment in which no plausible policies would emerge
to encourage and promote education in the first place. Unless with the
help of a divine intervention, no adequate and well-functioning
learning would occur so long as the government is corrupt, inefficient
and mismanaged. And if that is not bad news enough, rest assured that
most African countries with the highest literacy rate—Nigeria, Egypt,
Tunisia, Kenya etc—do register a staggering numbers of corrupt cases
each year in their countries. Even in South Sudan, the few who are
thought to be the most educated are the worst kinds of corrupt and
divisive people relative to the laypeople on the street. Education may
not offer much after all, if recent Sub-Saharan African history is
anything to go by.

When you have no democracy in the country, couple with an embarrassing
rate of illiteracy, the chances of economic development and political
stability are next to nil. Consequently, it is urgent and imperative
that South Sudan should never trudge the same path to self-destruction
as did her counterparts in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Pure liberal
democracy, under the present conditions in South Sudan, is a mirage.
Even in the Western world, it was along arduous, never-straight,
process. To expect South Sudan to democratize just within a week,
months, and even few years after independence is a comical exercise in
sheer self-delusion.

The way out of the political quandary is to adopt and institutionalize
tribalism. The constitutional implementation of tribalism, previously
referred to as tribocracy, would mean the end to most of our current
tribulations prompt by the evils of tribalism. I am cognizance of the
fact that some readers here might suppose that I am merely
contradicting myself by, on the one hand, decrying tribalism, and then
immediately, on the other hand, calling for its official approval as a
system of government in South Sudan. Quite to the contrary, I am not.

The truth of the matter is that tribalism is mostly condemnable, by
South Sudanese standard of course, insofar as it is being exclusively
practice by the other tribes but not always when it is being carried
out by the sons and daughters of your own tribe. In other words,
corruptions and mismanagement under tribocracy will never be
considered as tribalism since there would be a revelation and a
tendency to hold each and every public official as an individual but
not his/her tribal ambassador send by the tribe to plunder and take
home the spoils. Leaders will not have the luxurious freedom to stole
public money for their personal use and then run to the community for
protection—in the name of "they are against us"—when caught red-
handed. It would be, for corrupt government officials, everyone for
him/herself and God for them all.

Therefore, President Kiir must base his appointment on tribal
representation, not on educational or loyalty or liberation struggle
qualifications or whatever he meant by that word. After all,
Tribocracy has always guided almost all previous President Kiir
governments and political appointees. A brief preview of the first
cabinet in 2005, second cabinet in 2010 and even the current
caretaking cabinet of South Sudan in 2011, were all partially based on
tribal representation. Where people have been complaining are areas
wherein tribocracy was never fully implemented like the alleged cases
of Dinka occupying most important ministries of the government or the
alleged marginalization of Greater Equatoria region and other minor
tribes, Anyuak for instance.

Had all the ministries and the presidency been shared equitably
according to the philosophy of tribocracy, President Kiir would have
won the award of the most-beloved-people-president-of-the-year. But
because he chose to practice tribocracy half-wayly, he ended up being
labeled, rightly or wrongly, as a Dinka tribalist whose members of his
ethnic groups are free-handedly plundering South Sudan national

After all, the Dinka people have a saying: "kou ayekon ne kou" meaning
a thorn is remove using a thorn, while the Waswahili people advise:
"dawa ya moto ni moto" to mean that the remedy for fire is fire. If
tribalism is our predicament, it may as well be the case that the
solution to tribalism is tribalism itself, though be it in different

Thus, contrary to his public declaration that his next cabinet would
be based on qualifications of the potential candidates rather than on
tribal representation, I would conversely argue that President Kiir
must base the political appointment of his next cabinet on tribal
representation, not fuzzy qualifications.

You can reach PaanLuel Wël at , Facebook,
Twitter or through his blog at:

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