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By Prof. Peter Adwok Nyaba - 4 Nov 2018

Opinion: Felicitations … Congratulations, and looking beyond the celebration [2]

“African peoples lived side by side as ‘negotiating ethnicities’ before colonial rule turned them into ‘competing tribes.’ John Lonsdale In this second part I would like to discuss the national democratic revolution. This is not a new concept in political discourse. The concept of NDR sprouted on the political stage immediately after the Second World War and in the wake of colonial peoples’ struggle for independence and sovereignty.

The decolonization process was at a crossroads between continued struggle to consolidate national independence and people’s sovereignty on the one hand continued intimate social, economic and political relations with the imperial powers on the other hand. This choice taken by the nationalist leaders then reflects in the level of social, economic and cultural development of the postcolonial states.

The progressive nationalist and anti-imperialist leaders chose the road of national democratic revolution as a necessity to address the socioeconomic, cultural and political development of their peoples. The People’s Republic of China (1949), the Arab republic of Egypt (1952), Cuba (1959), the United Republic of Tanzania (1967) to mention a few, exemplify the pioneers of this development trajectory.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (1991) emerged in the footsteps of Derg’s revolutionary anti feudal action to launch the national democratic development state in Ethiopia. In essence, national democratic revolution means asserting the role of the state authority and responsibility in directing the socioeconomic and cultural development of the country. This is dictated by the character and level of development of the country’s productive forces. Thus, a country like South Sudan characterized by extreme condition of material and cultural underdevelopment fits into the scheme of national democratic revolution to accelerate its development, improve the quality of life of its people and contribute to human civilization.

As mentioned above, NDR is not a new concept. We have raised it before in the electronic discussion fora but as usual many of our intellectuals were reluctant to engage in ideological debate, while others express disgust and fear of ‘revolution’. Many of us participate in the war of national liberation.

The SPLM/SPLA itself was part of the national democratic revolutionary forces in the Horn of Africa alongside EPLF, TPLF, NRM, RPF but somehow it lost its compass somewhere in the middle. The slogan of freedom and justice (equality) we chanted were slogans of this stage of national democratic revolution only that they remained slogans we did not translate them into their material content.

I am bringing this debate up in the context of the revitalized peace agreement. My assumptions are that the cessation of hostilities shall continue enforce; that the revitalized TGoNU will be commissioned as scheduled in April 2019. I assume also that the political leaders and the leaders of the civil society and faith-based groups shall engage in the public discourse on the future of South Sudan and determine its socio-economic and political development trajectory.

Mine, therefore, is a modest and personal contribution to that public discourse. Emerging from the five-year civil war, let us ask ourselves. What is at stake in South Sudan? I am convinced beyond doubt that answering this question objectively and honestly will open up the debate to addressing other critical questions in our realm. For instance, if the answer were to be ‘power and whoever wields it’, would deviate the debate back into turbulent waters that was the civil war. This simply is because people would be talking about personalities and ethnicities not ideas and political program of action.

However, if the response were about consolidating the independence of the country and how to address the suffering of the people, the reaction would be different. I believe this would galvanize the debate into a movement for uplifting South Sudan from the abyss. I wished the IGAD mediators had steered the revitalization process in that direction from the beginning; we wouldn’t have wasted valuable time from June 2017 to 12 September 2018.

Therefore, what essentially is at stake is the country; South Sudan and its people in their different ethnic and cultural formations. And thinking about this problem they are in, I see clearly how far down South Sudan and its people are in the scale of human development indices that to catch up with the rest of humanity I reminisce the words of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (RIP) that “we must run while they walk.” This is the gist of my contribution.

The task of building South Sudan is enormous. Had we been conscious of it from the beginning we wouldn’t have wasted the resources in the senseless war. Even power and whoever wielded it shouldn’t have been a problem to trigger the war because each had a job cut. The public discourse, which is democratic in nature involving all sections of our society, therefore must be about evolving a framework for:- constructing a national democratic developmental state it South Sudan; socioeconomic development of the country and building the national productive forces in agriculture, business, engineering and medicine; managing the social and cultural diversity of South Sudan promoting ‘unity in diversity’; and foreign policy that promotes pan-Africanism and regional cooperation/integration, peace and fair trade between nations.

This framework would then be the programmatic platform of the TGONU. It is obvious that this implementation of this programme will outlive the three years transitional period provided by R-ARCISS. The intervening elections will be a disruptive moment in the implementation of the programme agreed by the political and social forces in the public discourse.

Now, you can see from where I am coming with the idea of the national democratic revolution. As soon as the political and social forces that engaged in public discourse about the future of the country and its people agree on a programme of action, they then constitute themselves into the national democratic front (NDF) to implement this programme.

The NDF then becomes the TGoNU without much qualms. This suggests that the largest, i.e. the SPLM together with the other smaller parties will make up the National Democratic Front and the programme agreed upon will become the programme of the NDF. One of the most important decisions in the NDF is to institutionalize its public power and authority.

The personification of power in the liberation movement was the very unmaking of the revolution through splits and splinterism, as well as the deviation from the concept and vision of the New Sudan. This answers the question, what happens if the NDF programme outlives the transitional period. The NDF can simply renew its life to continue the implementation of its programme aimed at improving the quality of life of the people addressing the spectre of poverty and ignorance.

We should not imprison ourselves within the precincts of the thirteen years [2005-2018] experience. Let us be forward looking and innovative in our thinking. Let us not repeat the mistakes of 2011, building a constitution that fits somebody in our mind. Let us build institutions and instruments of power that are sustainable under the changing conditions of this world. [To be continued]

The author, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, is a prominent South Sudanese academic and politician.

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.