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Opinion: The SPLM’s ideological vacuum: A great concern for South Sudanese state

Some of us may be more knowledgeable about the political U-turn that transpired in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)’s camp immediately after the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. As a ruling party of an infant Republic, the SPLM unilaterally administered in PRACTICE the abandonment of its own authoritative philosophical vision of ‘’New Sudan’’ and its ideology of ‘’Socialism’’ instead of rebuilding it with South Sudanese characteristics. The New Sudan was a political concept critically developed and contextualized by the late Dr. John Garang De Mabior Atem with his comrades in arms as a political vision of the Sudanese rebel movement (SPLM/SPLA). As such, they conjoined it with the ideology of Socialism to serve as a consortium of steering political wheels capable of prompting up the Sudanese politico-military and psychological supports during the liberation struggle to realize what the leading protagonists envisaged as, ‘’A free, just, and prosperous New Sudan.” From its inception in 1983 to the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, the SPLM had been using its political trinity of the ‘’New Sudan’’, the ideology of ‘’Socialism’’ and the conceived slogan of “Oyee” to summon the Sudanese people and the international community with a promise that it would be the only alternative political force to salvage the socio-economic and political marginalization of Sudanese people regardless of their race, religion, language, ethnicity, or gender. Such a political rhetoric augmented by a substantive political trinity set up the SPLM’s standing political and military grounds across the Sudanese State and beyond. However, in the aftermath of the Southern Sudanese referendum in 2011, some chief architects of the SPLM subjectively reasoned that the impression of the New Sudan and its ideology of Socialism would be completely irrelevant to the contextual realm of the South Sudanese State, for its political, economic, and social interpretations were predominantly rooted in the notion of building, “A Secular United New Sudan.’’ Ultimately, such a suggestion led to the hasty desertion of an illustrious vision and its ideology. 

Having withered away in PRACTICE the philosophical vision of New Sudan and its Socialist ideology (although they are still catalogued in memories and SPLM’s documents) from the SPLM’s political reality, it has become so imperative to raise this simple question: What political ideology is SPLM currently using as a governing political party of South Sudan? The answer to this question must be unpretentious. For more than eight years at this instant, I have been assessing the ideological position of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, and it has eventually come to my close observation that the SPLM has not yet been ideologically redefined after the departure of the New Sudan and its Socialist ideology.

Consequently, the Republic of South Sudan has been overwhelmingly punched by a colossal amount of problems both internally and externally due to this ideological vacuum. Currently, our country is undergoing a profound economic decline, educational imperfection, health impoverishment, abating physical infrastructure, the cycle of inter-communal conflicts, and widespread rebellions. These domestic challenges have been fostered by institutional flaws, systematically endemic corruption, and cultural inclination between conventional South Sudanese cultural setups and imported lifestyles, which in their entirety have been nurtured by the ideological shortfall. At the international level, South Sudan is so feeble to withstand geopolitical and global competition. Nonetheless, these tactful problems are pounding our country, not due to her lack of diplomatic strengths, but because the ideological question is dissuading our historical friends and emerging allies.

With these problems now nodding on the altar of our Republic, a powerful ideology becomes a necessity for the Republic of South Sudan. Ideology as ‘a systematized set of ideas about socio-economic and political organization of the society as a whole’ plays a vital role in governing a republican state. For example, it clearly spells out a vision for the country, presents and elucidates the existing political programs, serves as a roadmap for execution as well as interpretation of political agenda and works as a mobilizing force for political support. In addition, a well-contextualized ideology can help shape the country’s foreign policy. Therefore, SPLM as the ruling party of South Sudan has a political responsibility of redefining itself in this direction.

If SPLM resuscitates its authoritative ideology or initiates a new one, it will bring about fundamental transformation in the Republic of South Sudan, helping to assimilate the incompatible interests of South Sudanese which will lead to a peaceful co-existence and economic prosperity. Peaceful co-existence in particular, will come to pass simply because ideology will yield a culture of self-identification for South Sudanese as citizens of one political community. A Senior Political Science Scholar once remarked, “Ideas may help shape the ways in which individuals perceive the political world and their positions within it.” In spite of prevailing differences among South Sudanese societies, ideas if explicitly expressed as an ideology may well integrate them as one nation. Also values, norms and interests composed in an ideology can transform the country’s foreign policy. Since they influence people’s thoughts about things they do, values, norms and interests can attract some countries with similar principles towards South Sudan and this will mend South Sudan’s position on the international political stage. Equally, an ideology will caution the SPLM’s political leadership of our adversaries. With these opportunities now floating on the surface of our Republic, it becomes safer to say; as a bullet is to a gun, an ideology is truly to a sovereign state, and SPLM as the ruling political party of South Sudan ought to seize this vision.

For better understanding whether or not an ideology is practically necessary for a nation-state, I can precisely cite the experiences of only two countries in Africa. The most republican state that has adopted an ideology and has gained so much from it in the post-colonial Africa is the United Republic of Tanzania. After attaining the political independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1961, the first leader of Tanganyika, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere developed and contextualized an ideology known as “Ujamaa.” Ujamaa is a Kiswahili socio-economic vocabulary which socially translates as “Extended family” or “Brotherhood” and in an economic interpretation, “A cooperative economics,” in the sense of ‘’local people cooperating with each other to provide for the essentials of living’’ or ‘’to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.” Nyerere contextualized this ideology in African characteristics and advanced it to piece together the diverse nations and nationalities (tribes) of Tanganyika as one people. In subsequent years, the same ideology ministered his political dream when he embarked on the political unification of Tanganyika with the island of Zanzibar in 1964. More so, the Ujamaa ideology turned out to be not only a pragmatic approach for melting down socio-political problems, but also a tool for stimulating economic growth and development. As such, it can be boldly said the United Republic of Tanzania has never experienced some sorts of violent political conflict that we usually witness in many post-colonial African states because the philosophical vision of Ujamaa has grasped her people together.

Nevertheless, in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali has also developed a ‘’Medemer’’ ideology. Medemer is an Amharic word which laterally means, ‘’Becoming together’’ or ‘’Getting added as one for a common destiny’’. This Ethiopian home grown idea has significantly fastened the Ethiopian populace with Abiy’s Prosperity Party against what they collectively (Ethiopians) termed as, ‘The Trojan horse’ and ‘External enemies’ during a two-year existential conflict. So, an ideology is fundamental in the emergence and consolidation of a heterogeneous republican state. Only the emulationof these countries’ ideological experiences can have a powerful South Sudanese State.

Since our beloved country is faced with enormous challenges, I can with conviction conclude that the SPLM ought to cave in this concern by either reviving in PRACTICE its egalitarian vision of New Sudan with South Sudanese characteristics or initiating a new political ideology capable of bringing about socio-economic and political transformation in the Republic of South Sudan. In one of his renowned publications about the building of the Communist Party of China (CPC) titled, “The Communist Party of China and Contemporary China (2014)’’, the Deputy Director of the School of Marxism Studies at Renmin University of China, Dr. Zhao Shumei stressed the importance of upholding the party’s ideology as he wrote, ‘’The Communist Party of China believes that deviating from or abandoning Marxism, which is the fundamental guiding ideology for both the Party and the country, would lead the Party to lose its soul and direction.’’ This statement reveals how the CPC’s leadership thinks of losing its vision, mission, and guiding principles should it put aside the Marxist-Socialist ideology. In this sense, many ideologically defined nation-states around the globe have steadily thrived because an ideology guides and holds people and their government together and the People’s Republic of China under the CPC’s leadership is just one of them. Thus, a well-contextualized ideology is really worthy for the SPLM in particular and the Republic of South Sudan in general.


The writer, Amaju Ubur, is Political Science student at the University of Juba and can be reached via

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.