opinionBy Justin Ambago Ramba
Let me start by wishing you all a happy new year although belatedly. Nonetheless a new year is always a thing to be optimistic about. It is thus my wish that the year of 2013 will bring along with it the much needed political will from all the stakeholders in our new country which unfortunately was made to spend its eighteen months of independence in misery, misrule, corruption, lawlessness , insecurity, and impunity. In short we are a failed state right from birth if not from conception as such.
The challenges ahead of us are numerous, but there must be a way out of it. Many of us have unfortunately stayed behind instead of stepping forward to actively play their national duties. It is only the people of South Sudan who can sort out their own mess. Sticking one's head in the sand and pretending that all is alright when everything around you is degenerating is but a betrayal of your country.
We have all witnessed how our country has rapidly degenerated into the dire socioeconomic and political chaos. Our economy which was in fact "a single item (resource)" economy has now been grounded by political amateurism. The other talk about the diversification of the economy is at its best a political rhetoric, much more so used by the leadership as a form of a political smoke under which much more money from the public coffers went missing. Or simply stolen as put by Salva Kiir the country's head of state.
The freedom of speech is now a punishable crime in our country. When we differ on policies and views, it is meant to enrich the debate in order to find better and informed choices for solving our national problems. That is the essence of the debate.
As citizens of one country we can differ on opinions and that makes us rivals, but never ever as foes or enemies. The sad facts that marked the past eighteen months where the ruling SPLM-led government openly demonstrated to the world that it is not ready to hear dissent voices not even amongst its ranks and files, speaks volumes.
Incommunicado arrests of activists, intimidation of known SPLM supporters turned critics, of opposition party members and censoring their activities, harassment of civil society members and assassination of opinion writers have all contributed to taint a very nasty and horrible image of our nascent country.
What Hopes do we have in 2013
It is now an open secret that since its inception in 1983, the ruling SPLM party as a result of its gross mismanagement of the new country is currently suffering its ever major unpopularity amongst most sectors of the South Sudanese communities at home and in the Diaspora. It is against this background that the embattled and corruption ridden party is about to hold its convention in 2013. But the million dollar question still is will it come out with changes to the wider community?
Will the SPLM's 2013 party convention find solutions to the countless and the immense mess that the party has got the new country into as a result of its amateuristic policies and conduct?
For if anything good is ever to come to the country then much change in the attitude of the ruling SPLM towards other political parties and civil societies that exist and operate in the country must be a priority, otherwise the result of failure to do so is everybody's guess.
However better still we hope that the SPLM can be able to change its " rotten to core" leadership which has practically run out of ideas, otherwise what we are seeing is a country being rushed into a totalitarian rule under a one man dictatorship.
On the other hand the same year of 2013 can be considered a year for the opposition political parties to start preparing for the coming 2014 elections. They will need to start making plans for a strong coalition, strong candidates and start organizing themselves to lead a political campaign of their life time.
The memories of the 2010 Sudan General elections that brought the current corrupt politicians into office is still fresh in every one's mind. All can still vividly remember how the SPLM internal electoral politics were carried out and the same can as well be reminded of how those who refused to confirm with the ruling party were made to pay the ultimate price.
The Sudan 2010 General Elections were widely fraudulent. All opposition candidates and their supporters were intimidated, harassed and the whole electoral process was terribly manipulated in favour of the SPLM. This must never be allowed to happen again, for despite the fact that all the above mentioned malpractices by the SPLM during that infamous election were tolerated, however those circumstances were different and they have so far changed. Any attempt to repeat any of the countless "politics of bullying" will no doubt have a detrimental effect on what is left of the new nation's fabric of unity!
The anticipated Political coalition of the South Sudan's opposition parties must see to it that the country's new constitution comes into existence through the right process. In other words it has to be approved directly by the people through a popular ballot and never ever by the current SPLM's rubber stamp parliament.
The Political coalition of South Sudan opposition political parties is the only way out to defeat the corrupt SPLM. There must be an end to what our beloved country is now going through. The inherently corrupt SPLM politicians and party officials have all stolen from the public coffers and many are squarely behind the gross deterioration in the security situation the country wide. To continue under this era is in fact to reverse our sense of independence and freedom.
The international community should still continue to play its vital role in helping this country to embrace democracy. It has to press very hard for the first ever post-independence election to be held on time. It must also start to prepare the platform for free and credible elections. Elections that's far away from fraud, gerrymandering , vote stuffing and all kinds of political malice if we are to avoid the Kenyan experience of 2007.
To wind it up all, one must stress the importance of a free press, and the freedom of speech. This has to start immediately if we are to mark a line between the dark moments that extended throughout the 2012 period. Without these freedoms not only the talk about a new constitution becomes meaningless, but even going for an election becomes an act of ticking the boxes and an outright political hypocrisy.
Hence there is only one conclusion here and that the year 2013 must be a busy year for all those who want to see South Sudan come out of its current man-made misery.