opinionBy Justin Ambago Ramba
Although the first cabinet of the government of South Sudan [GoSS] was representative of most political forces within the region, unfortunately the person in the driving seat was nowhere to provide the much needed leadership.
On the other hand the SPLM as a political party has itself never matured into an organization that can criticize its underperforming or out-right corrupt officials and especially so if such a criticism is meant for the Chairman.
All in all it didn't in fact take the world opinion very long to conclude that the SPLM's leadership style is inevitably a clear recipe which will surely secure for South Sudan a permanent membership in the infamous club for the word's failed states.
In light of all these facts one wonders as to why the political elites in South Sudan haven't till now reached this simple conclusion that the persistently poor government performance under the current SPLM leadership squarely lies with the president's lack of capacity to name a cabinet of truly competent and honest people?
Affirmatively the president has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he lacks the personality and the courage to discipline his ministers and any other senior government officials. His handling of the $2 billion Dura scandal and the stolen $4 billion by 75 senior SPLM party officials (well known to the president) are clear examples.
Talking about cabinet reshuffles, after all this time it should be clear to all of us that changing of faces isn't in any way the panacea for what now looks more of an inherent defect in the system.
The SPLM party's first remarkable reshuffle took place in the government of national unity [GoNU] in Khartoum. And soon it turned out that the whole thing was indeed carried out just to eliminate only a single cabinet member who held the portfolio of foreign affairs, none other than Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin.
Ironically Dr. Ajawin who is now the chairman of the splinter SPLM-DC party was dismissed for being cooperative with the National Congress Party [NCP] which was the SPLM party's partner in what was supposed to be a government of national unity. Anyway that's the history of SPLM for you.
Thereafter all reshuffles that followed were no more than mere recycling exercises where failed ministers are recycled from one ministry to the other only to perfect their failures and embezzle more public money. And no doubt two ministers of finance were successively replaced one after the other with each making away with millions of dollars from the public coffers.
Lastly came the independence, and it was the wish of all patriotic South Sudanese all over the world to see their new country starting with a lean government and preferably comprised of technocrats so that the country can realize its true potential after things were messed up by the SPLM's kitchen cabinet.
Unfortunately that wasn't to be and following an unjustifiable long wait of nearly two months from the day South Sudan was officially declared an independent country, president Salva Kiir came up with a cabinet of around 56 ministers and deputy ministers. In His Excellency's view maybe 56 cabinet ministers was indeed a lean government or at least should be seen as such.
Not too long this bloated government was to prove a curse to the country as it failed to achieve any substantial project on the ground given the sudden financial crisis that ensued as a result of the Oil shutdown. What could they have done, somebody may ask? Well hey should have initiated a robust debate in the council of ministers in order to place a plan B.
Without an alternate source of revenue, what was rightly meant to be a government for accommodating old buddies immediately went on to become a government where politicians are paid full salaries for practically doing nothing while the entire country undergoes the infamous and selectively implemented austerity measures.
At the height of these crises and the talk about the implementation of the austerity measures, it was thought that for the holistic approach to the problem, there was indeed a need to slice down the size of not only the central government in Juba, but also those ten state governments. Despite the clear reasoning that underlines this argument, surprisingly enough the president remains oblivious and stuck with his old cabinet.
A quicker reaction however came from the governor of Unity State [Bentiu] who so far is the only state governor to reduce the number of his cabinet ministers. Whether the other state governors will follow suit or will they wait for the center to start first is what we will have to wait and see.
Of course there is no denying about what appeared in the Sudan Tribune about the president contemplating announcing yet another lean government. This time who knows maybe the President is considering a true lean cabinet given the opposition to the idea by his fellows of the so-called SPLM senior members who are afraid to lose off.
Those who read the Sudan tribune of 09th February 2013 will have come across the news that appeared there under the heading: South Sudan president plans leaner cabinet.
"In August, Kiir formed a technical drafting to conduct an assessment to provide clear findings and recommendations on how to restructure the government". The news article reads.
The reason given for president Kiir's contemplation to form a lean, non-partisan and technocratic cabinet is said to be aimed at saving the financial resources of this poor country after it has lost its only source of revenue which he [Kiir] shutdown last year during a brawl with Khartoum government over the latter's unilateral decision to confiscate South Sudan's Oil that passes through the Sudan territory to its port of Port Sudan.
In other wards although a lean cabinet of technocrats in a good way to go, but this should have been considered right away in the august 2011 cabinet when the time was more conducive and ripe for such a cabinet to deliver good results.
As from the start of the year 2013 president Kiir together with his bloated government have totally failed the country. How worse can it be when the transitional institutions itself has expired while the anticipated permanent constitution is nowhere to be seen. Is this not by itself a shameful development?
This is no longer a time for any government under president Kiir's leadership as he has obliviously driven the country into a constitutional vacuum with the fates of many institutions and projects stranded in limbo.
With all those records of failures, not even a government of angels, leave alone technocrats can save South Sudan under the lethargic leadership of Salva Kiir Mayardit. Instead of beating around the bush, he is better off taking a bolder decision of either appointing a prime minister to run the government for him or he simply calls it a day. To resign in such circumstances is in fact to be realistic to ones' self.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General - United South Sudan Party [USSP].