Charity begins at home and the originator of that charity most likely ends at home.
I was advised by some colleagues several times to join a certain policy forum. I refused three times citing the fact that the forum is too 'elitist' and most of the times the elites are out of touch with the average folks like me. When the reminders to join the forum became really constant, even from people I've not met personally but know me from my writings, I finally gave in and joined the forum.My innocent assumption was that the forum would merely be a discussion or critiquing of policies that'd be beneficial to the country. I expected to see policy suggestions [only] and how they could be modified and perfected into usable policies for the government of South Sudan.
Naïve me! I was disappointed to realize that the debates were no different from those vexatious ones on my Facebook wall: circular, partisan, hypocritical, dishonest with education taken at face-value. Big theories are suggested without context! Partisanship is so much intellectualized that it takes one through rigorous analysis to discern disguised partisanship. My disillusionment became so intense that I had to unsubscribe from the forum in less than two weeks.Believe me, if leaders argue with ‘take it or leave it’ conditionals then I wonder how the leadership we have (or are building) inside and outside the government of South Sudan can be salvageable. Leadership is about relationship building and bringing the best out of people (Corrales, 2007). The purpose of leadership, Corrales argues, can only be achieved through building of strong relationships. Are our leaders (inside and outside) the government doing that? Even Dr. Nyaba, who’s done more through writing than anyone in South Sudan to highlight the problems we have in the country, does little to build relationships with ‘the other side’ or even within the Chollo community leadership. It’s always a blame-game (see IGAD’s ‘Peace Talks’ & Arusha Intra-SPLM dialogue).
Perhaps the RISC model (Rapport, Initiative, Structure and Commitment) can help in our leadership purpose; and that is, influencing our people into coalescence of canonical togetherness…or simply, doing good (Corrales, 2007).If the learned, veteran politicians and the nation's elites have the same mindset my younger Facebook friends have, then Kiir and Riek aren't our major problem. It seems our ‘intellectophere’ is either irrelevant in national coexistence, or our national future is being intellectually crippled by intellectuals with holier-than-thou attitudinal ontologies. We are learned but we don’t know how to give our knowledge context and relevant usability. We seem to have what cognitive psychologists call ‘declarative knowledge’ as opposed the helpful ‘procedural knowledge’ (Van Greenen, 2004).
And this reminds me of a very excellent article written by Dr. Adwok Nyaba (SSN December 30, 2014) about ‘Our intellectual journey towards a coherent political ideology.’ Anyone who’s not read that article should do so in its entirety. The article pinpoints, with surgical precision, the problems in South Sudan and within SPLM. These problems range from poverty of democratic mentality and ideals, indifference to development of institutional capacities, incoherent sense of nationhood (post-1956 & post-2005), the infamy of militarism mixed with the malady of tribal essentialism, lack of essential development programs, the Siamese-twins problem of the SPLM-SPLA, the primal nature of our tribal relations etc.We can all agree that Dr. Adwok’s article is very crucial to our structural, functional and governance problems in South Sudan. The question then becomes: are the power holders in South Sudan able to easily apply the content of the article? If not, then the appropriation of what Dr. Adwok wrote needs to be procured in a manner that’d make it beneficial to us through the power holders.
Pointing out the problem is part of the solution but devising how the problem should be tackled shouldn’t be left out. Without intersubjective understanding among the political actors, nothing can be possible. Institutions aren’t ‘brute physical facts’ as Stephen Krasner (1999) has said. They exist because people exist.Political leaders are audience and consumers of intellectuals’ works. Understanding the general psychology, state of mind and intellectual capacities and consciousness of who is in power helps in devising mechanics and avenues of knowledge provision for purpose of ideological creation and reification.
Intellectuals (whatever that means) in South Sudan needs to remember that leadership is about relationship building and appropriation of knowledge with people-people relationships in mind. We in South Sudan seem to think of knowledge in the abstract or in self-serving appropriation!Besides, we have the problem of hypocrisy in South Sudan. Most, if not all of us, are mired in what I call ‘stuck-in-the-past syndrome’ in South Sudan Ideologically (2013). And as Adwok highlighted, some South Sudanese leaders don’t want to let go the past and embrace future-relevant ideas and facts to develop the country. We are all stuck in the past in one way or another.