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BY Fareed Musa Fataki - 20 Feb 2024

Opinion| South Sudan’s struggle for effective governance

The promise of a well-functioning government delivering high-quality public and civil services, fostering trust and participation, ensuring political stability, and upholding the rule of law seemed within reach with the Independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011. Unfortunately, these aspirations have dwindled under the dictatorial rule of President Kiir, who appears more as a village paramount chief than a national leader.

Despite numerous Peace Agreements inked, South Sudan continues to grapple with persistent conflicts, exacerbated by the absence of a clear roadmap for economic transformation and equitable wealth distribution. The dearth of political will, marred by tribal and regional sentiments, further undermines any meaningful progress.

Regrettably, South Sudan under Kiir lacks the capacity for peace. The Peace Agreements entered into thus far contradict the fundamental components of Peace Talks: Procedure, Substance, and Organization. The rushed nature of these talks overlooks the root causes of conflicts, rendering the agreements ineffective.

While most agreements mention the cessation of hostilities, they are rarely respected or adhered to. Instead, the focus often shifts to sharing political positions to exploit the country’s resources, further eroding the prospects of genuine peace. The agreements lack substance and organization, resulting in recurring cycles of violence that impede service delivery and perpetuate fragility.

Since 2011, South Sudan has suffered from a dysfunctional government under Kiir’s leadership. The president has failed to establish a secure and development-oriented environment for all citizens. Evidenced by numerous claims and counterclaims on border encroachments by neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan, there is a glaring lack of effective control over South Sudan’s territorial integrity and borders.

The Juba regime is notorious for its unlawful arrests, extrajudicial killings labelled as ‘unknown gunmen,’ and the endorsement of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment towards opposing views. The country grapples with harsh prison conditions, limited free flow of information, high levels of human capital, widespread corruption, and poverty.

The business environment is marred by violence, lacking principled conflict resolution techniques that society members can employ in non-violent traditions. Moreover, economic conditions are deteriorating, marked by skyrocketing inflation and heavy currency depreciation.

The absence of a well-functioning government in South Sudan has severely deprived its citizens of dignified living conditions. Under Kiir’s leadership, democracy has faltered, with the security sector being effectively manipulated to strip people of their legitimate power and deploy it unlawfully against them.

The regime in Juba has militarized politics and politicized the military, resulting in a fragmented and tribal army lacking professionalism and capacity.  South Sudan consistently ranks among the most corrupt nations globally, standing at 178th out of 180. The government has not undergone an audit since 2011, diverting budgeted funds for personal gain and leaving salaries unpaid for several months. The promised 400% pay raise for civil servants remains unfulfilled, and the economy relies heavily on humanitarian aid. Widespread armed community violence has led to reduced harvests, exacerbating food shortages and fuelling poaching and cattle theft, perpetuating further violence.

South Sudan is grappling with misrule, as leaders lack legitimacy and the mandate of the people.

Kiir, who assumed power in 2005 without being elected, governs without accountability. The Parliament, nominated and loyal to political party leadership or war factions aligned with Kiir, neglects the suffering populace, resulting in a nationwide lack of service delivery—manifested in the absence of schools, hospitals, roads, markets, despite substantial daily oil production.

The revenue from crude oil, a critical resource for the country, appears to be misappropriated for personal gains. Despite receiving a monthly remittance of $65 million from oil revenues, the government, particularly Kiir and associates, is accused of rampant corruption. Reports suggest that large sums are distributed among inner circles at the Juba international airport, diverting funds from the treasury intended for national services. This personalization of national income hampers service delivery.

Corrupt leadership is undeniably the root cause of South Sudan’s service delivery challenges. It’s not a lack of resources but rather the result of a leadership characterized by corruption and moral decay. Allegations of alcoholism, kleptomania, and sex addiction plague Kiir’s reputation, with accusations of spending millions on illicit activities.

Tim Edwards, in a leaked book circulating on social media, reportedly refers to Kiir as an ‘alcoholic and kleptomaniac’. The need for a change in leadership is evident, as a sober and accountable leader is crucial to providing the necessary services for the nation.

The prevailing corruption in South Sudan, which deprives its citizens of essential services, is attributed to the absence of institutions promoting accountability and monitoring the performance of appointed public officials. The nation is facing a dire situation not due to a lack of funds, but rather a result of poor priorities and inadequate expertise among those in power, hindering intended service delivery to the masses.

To address the current predicament, a crucial step is the conduct of Credible, Free, Fair, and Transparent Elections that can usher in a government mandated by the people. This government should prioritize high-quality public and civil services, instil trust and participation, demonstrate political stability, uphold the rule of law, and respect and protect fundamental human rights.

However, before elections can take place, the legality of electoral laws must be embedded in a constitution deriving legitimacy from the population. This involves allowing public participation through inclusive forums to gain public understanding, trust, and support throughout the constitution-making process and the subsequent elections.

South Sudan urgently requires a leader who can instil democratic ideals, values, and principles to improve service delivery. Achieving a people-centered government depends on well-organized elections to ensure free and fair voting. Such elections are crucial not only for guaranteeing fundamental freedoms but also for laying the groundwork for sustainable peace and development.

The nation must transition from the negative peace resulting from poor leadership to positive peace, eradicating the structures and cultures of violence that fuel violent behaviour among South Sudanese. Establishing and embracing institutions and structures that generate and sustain peaceful societies is imperative.

Harmony among the 64 tribes and ethnicities is essential, and drafting a Popular Constitution can serve as a common denominator for all, fostering a united national identity. It is crucial to move beyond reliance on individual leaders and build a governance system empowering the people to monitor and intervene in actions that may lead the country into turmoil.

Fareed Musa Fataki, is a Human Rights Defender and Non-Violent Activist. He can be contacted via email at

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