OpEd, Politics

The Social Contract and the Plight of South Sudan: A Critical Analysis of Elite Rule and Governance


By Gama Hassan Oscas

A government is often viewed as a social contract between the rulers and the ruled, where the governed surrender some freedoms and power in exchange for protection and the facilitation of societal harmony. In South Sudan, a young nation struggling to establish its identity since gaining independence in 2011, this social contract appears to have been skewed, with a few elite rulers wielding disproportionate power and making decisions that affect the majority of citizens who are left out. This legal opinion will critically analyze the situation in South Sudan, focusing on the use of power, freedom of speech, citizens’ agency in governance, the need for a functional independent judiciary, and an unbiased legislature.

South Sudan’s history is marred by decades of conflict and political strife, leading to the establishment of a political elite who have maintained their hold on power. This elite group, composed of government officials and military leaders, wields immense influence over the nation’s policies and resources, while the majority of citizens find themselves marginalized and disempowered. The decisions made by this small ruling class often do not align with the broader interests of the populace, exacerbating socio-economic disparities and undermining the principles of a just and equitable society.

The concentration of power in the hands of a few has stifled the freedom of speech in South Sudan. The ruling elite often suppress dissenting voices, leading to a climate of fear and self-censorship among journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens. Freedom of speech, a cornerstone of any democratic society, is crucial for fostering transparency, accountability, and citizen participation. The suppression of this fundamental right hinders the exchange of ideas, fosters misinformation, and perpetuates the rule of the few over the many.

A crucial aspect of a functional democracy is the ability of citizens to actively participate in the governance of their nation. In South Sudan, the lack of inclusive governance mechanisms has left citizens feeling disenfranchised and disconnected from the decision-making processes. The ruling elite’s unwillingness to engage with the broader population and include diverse perspectives has led to a governance system that does not genuinely represent the will of the people. Citizen agency is vital in ensuring a government that reflects the aspirations and needs of the entire population.

The concept of separation of powers is integral to a well-functioning democracy. However, in South Sudan, the judiciary’s independence has been compromised, with executive influence undermining the integrity of the judicial process. An independent judiciary is crucial in upholding the rule of law, protecting individual rights, and ensuring a fair and impartial adjudication of disputes. A judiciary free from executive interference serves as a check on the abuse of power and reinforces public trust in the legal system.

The legislative branch should be a representative body; accountable to the people it serves. In South Sudan, the legislature’s leadership being determined by the party or executive rather than by the people’s representatives undermines the principles of democracy and transparency. The lack of an independent legislature, free from executive influence, compromises its ability to provide effective oversight over the government’s actions and decisions. A truly independent legislature is crucial for fostering transparency, accountability, and good governance.

A parallel can be drawn between the plight of the French people before the 1789 revolution and the current situation in South Sudan. In pre-revolutionary France, the ruling class held an iron grip on power, leaving the majority of citizens burdened by heavy taxes and devoid of political agency. The French Revolution was a turning point, marking the rise of the people’s will to reclaim their rights and demand a more inclusive and equitable system of governance. Similarly, South Sudan’s ruling elite must recognize the urgency of addressing the grievances of the marginalized majority and fostering a participatory and responsive governance structure.

In conclusion, South Sudan’s governance system is marred by the concentration of power in the hands of a few elite rulers, while the majority of citizens are left disempowered and excluded from decision-making processes. The suppression of freedom of speech, lack of citizen agency in governance, compromised independence of the judiciary, and an unbiased legislature are issues that need urgent attention. Drawing

The author of this article is an advocate and can be reached on Email: oscarsgama@gmail.com


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