OpEd, Politics

Elite Rule in South Sudan: A Critical Analysis of Government as a Social Contract

By Gama Hassan Oscas

In any democratic society, the government is considered a social contract between the rulers and the ruled, where the citizens entrust certain powers to the government in exchange for the protection of their rights and welfare. However, in the case of South Sudan, the majority of the population is left out of decision-making processes, and the power is concentrated in the hands of a few elite rulers. This opinion aims at analyzing the situation in South Sudan, focusing on the use of power, freedom of speech, citizen participation in governance, the need for an independent judiciary, and an autonomous legislature. Furthermore, this opinion will draw a brief historical reference to the French Revolution of 1789, illustrating the plight of the French people before they stood up against oppression.

In South Sudan, a small group of elite rulers has established a system that perpetuates their control over key decision-making processes. This has led to the exclusion of the majority of citizens from participating in governance and shaping the nation’s destiny. Such a concentration of power undermines the essence of democracy, where power should be distributed among various institutions and individuals.

One of the glaring issues in South Sudan is the suppression of freedom of speech. The government, dominated by the elite, stifles dissenting voices, independent media, and critics who attempt to question their authority. This not only curtails the rights of citizens but also inhibits the free flow of information and the opportunity for public discourse.

A fundamental aspect of a democratic government is citizen participation. However, in South Sudan, this participation is severely limited. The majority of citizens lack the means to express their views and influence policy decisions. Instead, the few elite rulers maintain their grip on power and make decisions that primarily serve their own interests rather than the welfare of the broader population.

In a genuine democracy, citizens have the right to choose who governs them and the system of governance they prefer. Unfortunately, in South Sudan, this right is significantly compromised. The elite rulers control the electoral processes, manipulating outcomes and sidelining opposition voices. As a result, the citizens are left with limited options and little influence over the leadership and governance structures.

A functional and independent judiciary is crucial for upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of citizens. However, in South Sudan, the judiciary is often influenced by the executive branch, undermining its independence. This compromises the rights of citizens to a fair and impartial legal system.

An independent legislature is an essential component of a democratic government. It is responsible for creating laws, overseeing the executive branch, and representing the interests of the citizens. However, in South Sudan, the legislature’s autonomy is undermined as its leadership is determined by the party or executive, rather than the people’s representatives. This lack of independence hinders its ability to provide proper oversight of the government and protect the interests of the citizens.

Drawing a brief historical reference to the French Revolution can provide valuable insights into the plight of the French people before the revolution. Before 1789, France was governed by an absolute monarchy, where power was concentrated in the hands of the monarch and the privileged few. The vast majority of the population faced oppression, inequality, and limited opportunities for social mobility. The French people, inspired by the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, rose against the elite rulers to demand a fair and just society. The revolution led to the establishment of democratic principles and institutions that provided citizens with more rights and opportunities for participation in governance.

In light of the historical reference to the French Revolution and the current situation in South Sudan, it is evident that the country faces significant challenges in achieving a truly democratic and inclusive government. The concentration of power in the hands of the elite rulers marginalizes the majority of citizens, suppressing their freedom of speech and limiting their participation in governance. The lack of an independent judiciary and legislature further weakens the checks and balances necessary for a functional democracy.

To address these issues and pave the way towards a more democratic South Sudan, several key steps are essential:

Inclusivity and Citizen Participation: The government must actively involve citizens from diverse backgrounds in decision-making processes and policy formulation. This can be achieved through town hall meetings, public consultations, and initiatives that encourage civic engagement.

Freedom of Speech and Media: The government should guarantee and protect freedom of speech and press freedom. Independent media outlets and journalists play a vital role in holding the government accountable and ensuring transparency.

Electoral Reforms: The electoral processes must be transparent and fair, allowing for genuine competition and giving citizens the power to choose their leaders freely.

Independent Judiciary: Efforts should be made to ensure the independence of the judiciary from the executive branch. This includes safeguarding judicial appointments from political interference and providing adequate resources to uphold the rule of law.

Autonomous Legislature: The legislature’s independence should be protected, and its leadership should be determined by the elected representatives rather than the party or executive.

In conclusion, the situation in South Sudan calls for urgent attention and critical reforms to establish a government that truly represents the interests of all citizens. The concentration of power in the hands of a few elite rulers, suppression of freedom of speech, limited citizen participation in governance, and lack of an independent judiciary and legislature are significant hurdles on the path to a fully functioning democracy. By drawing inspiration from historical movements like the French Revolution, South Sudan can work towards a more inclusive and democratic society, where the government serves as a true social contract between the rulers and the ruled.

The author is an advocate and can be reached on email: oscarsgama@gmail.com


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