By Mapuor Malual Manguen
On August 25, 2013, the National Legislative Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution requesting the President of South Sudan to remove Caretaker Governor of Lakes state, Maj. Gen. Matur Chut Dhuol. This followed reports and recommendations of both Lakes state parliamentary caucus in the National Assembly and security Ministers who were summoned to Parliament to explain the deteriorating security situation in Lakes state. All are said to have recommended removal of the Governor so that reconciliation processes are started under new leadership in the state.
The anarchy that has ruled Lakes state for over a decade has claimed thousands of lives as magnitude of conflicts have continuously kept worsening with new conflicts arising and old ones moving to more complex and complicated levels. This anarchy has been manifested in ruthless sectional vendetta killings, cattle rustlings, land disputes, robberies, and complete breakdown of law and order.
With all these crimes, the authorities whether state or national government have not tried most of these cases in courts of law nor did they make significant arrests of culprits (with a few arrested individuals detained without trial or escaped from detention centers). Thus, the relatives of the deceased would resort to taking law into their own hands by using channel of revenge killings. And anarchy and lawlessness began to reign in the state. The result of this condition is that youth armed themselves to teeth to the extent of overlooking and overwhelming state authorities.
The central government has tried to address this “cancer” as some people may call it, by changing state leadership intermittently. But this largely became a window dressing as new administrations failed to rein in killings and all sorts of crimes. Since inception of the Government of Southern Sudan in 2005 through to independent South Sudan, Lakes state has been governed by six governors (two of whom were under caretaker base including incumbent one). The intervals to which these Governors were appointed or relieved are short and very close because each of them could not address the major task – the restoration of law and order – in the state.
So, will recommendations of Legislature and security Ministers not suffer the same setbacks? Will it not be another window dressing? Is change of governors an appropriate solution to the cancer of Lakes state? Are/were Governor(s)or politicians part of Lakes state vendetta? Has the President been appointing incompetent Governors? Is it the system of governance (decentralized system) that failed Lakes state? Why can’t citizens of Lakes state be able to cooperate with any single Governor including the one they democratically elected? And above, are people of Lakes state anarchic and ungovernable?
The Legislatures and Security Ministers should answer these questions under which they should make concrete recommendations to President on the way forward. Moreover, the President should this time review his sacking and appointing spree of Governors of Lakes state. He should no longer bow to demands of egotistic politicians of Lakes state who always want to feed on anarchy of our state. They have never been honest in addressing this cancer head on but rather use the situation as bait for political appointment.
For example, majority of Lakes state Politicians in Rumbek and Juba are united in their call to remove Maj. Gen. Matur Chut from the helm but, divided on who shall replace him. This is because each group is fronting their own candidate on the pretext of going to arrest the situation. Unfortunately, they are the same politicians who made previous demand for removing former Governors. This is pure window dressing and can no longer solve this cancer but aggravate it.
Since several approaches have been exhausted – including sacking and appointing spree – there is no need to follow the same approach that failed before. Two issues must be option in my own view.
First, maintaining the current Caretaker Governor but under certain conditions. He should be armed with all necessary resources that will enable him handle that wild situation. There should be more deployment of police and SPLA in the state to undertake comprehensive disarmament of all civilians and arrest all suspects currently at large. The central government must shift complete attention to arrest the situation by establishing special body to investigate all accumulated criminal cases and start legal procedures immediately.
Secondly, state of emergency must be an option should the President agree with recommendations of the National Legislative Assembly and Security Ministers. The Military should be sent to Lakes state and handle that situation until no single gun is in the hands of civilians.