OpEd, Politics

Community’s perspective on the role of government

By Agar Mayor Gai-Makoon


The role of government is contentious and ever-changing in South Sudanese society. Just as we have different cultures, the government has got different understanding of that lens.

But that does not entail that truly, the government roles are variably determined. And perhaps, we have gone wrong somewhere in comprehending government. So, where exactly is the problem? The purpose of this article is to answer this intriguing question.

But before that let me assert that the government in question is only nineteen years old in South Sudan but, about five millennia years of presence in some societies. This makes it an old idea that our society recently embraced and accepted. And it does not take away the fact that we did have forms of governance other than this one. The evolutionary theory of governance bears that government is a natural phenomenon; that the existence of families, clans and tribes gave birth to the government to fulfil the needs those natural groupings begot. However, Aristotle advanced the evolutionary theory of government. He found that life within a family is primarily centered on fulfilling private needs, such as hunger and reproduction etc. But by making sure that property and life are protected, trade is broadened and feasible by establishing trade laws required a larger form of government. And perhaps, the role of a larger modern form of government is to fulfil these needs and establish strong non-familial ties between citizens. This, though requires consent or what political philosophy terms a social contract. The ideal thing about the social contract is that the government must adhere to fulfilling its obligations such as protection of property, establishing trade laws and providing an atmosphere where businesses should thrive and grow. The citizens on the other side, after giving their power and legitimacy to the government, must stand out to be always good citizens. They take advantage of the security and trade laws provided by the government and do everything good for their own happiness. It is also in their might to denounce any deviations of the government from its mandate.

Now, coming to our nineteen-year-old government, it is apparent that the experimentation failed right from 2005. We got to have government unprepared and it is this that haunts us till this day. The process of social contract requires knowing what role each party should play. The citizens have a natural right to life, protection and business. And when they cannot provide these things for themselves, it is their right and might to hire the government to provide them. The worst thing that could happen to any society however, is when the citizens do not know that they have this right. There can be two possibilities in this unfortunate scenario. First, the government can default on its mandate and exploit citizens. Because there is no fear from anywhere. The citizens are not aware of all these. They must have entered into the social contract uninformed, and thus cheated and misdirected about their rights and power.

Secondly, the citizens can fill in the gap. They can find alternative definitions of government which can actually prove deadly. This possibility is the root cause of all our problems in South Sudan. The alternative definition of government in most communities is that government is for enriching selves. The grassroots population which makes up more than seventy per cent of our population knows that when so and so entered into government, the number of cows started increasing, got a lot of money and so forth. Up to this day of all the nineteen years of the government’s presence, children are being sent to school so that they will work with the government and make their families rich. So, they have no problem when money is embezzled by individuals. Because they are hopeful that their time and chance to enrich themselves will come. This perception engineered and accepted by communities has killed and almost buried the true role of government and the innovative purpose of education. It is incumbent upon each and every able citizen of this country to help sensitize grassroots communities, some ill-informed individuals and institutions about the true roles of government and the purpose of education. The influence of communities on government function is visibly clear and noticeable. An informed community creates a formidable workforce that steers government in the right direction. We truly need this community and it is only now when it is still possible, that action is needed.

The writer has a background in socio-political philosophy. He studies Medicine in Egypt.

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