Unto Us a New State is Born! (By Babatunde Fagbayibo)

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
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On the 9th of July 2011, Africa and the international community will welcome its newest state, the Republic of South Sudan. Born out of decades of bloody confrontation and the diplomatic ingenuity of (neighbouring) African states, the nouveau elites of South Sudan will be faced with two divergent, mutually exclusive choices. Choice 1: Based on enlightened self-interest, they can decide to lend credence to the oft-held view that effective political and economic management is an alien concept in post-colonial Africa. Choice 2: Without deliberately setting out to prove sceptics wrong, the ruling party, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), can immediately immerse itself in the genuine task of providing its people with qualitative governance. The latter is the road less travelled by a number of African countries, a fact that should always keep the leaders of South Sudan on their toes.

How then should the new state of South Sudan chart its journey towards and through the road (of democratic governance and sound economic management) less travelled? Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, and his team will benefit immensely from the acute grasp of the factors that are responsible for the underdevelopment of other African countries. The inability of African countries to attain their full potential is widely documented. Academics, the civil society, international institutions and western nations have all outlined the missing fundamentals for development in African states. So in this sense, the leaders of South Sudan should be aware of the basic ‘dos and don’ts’ of effective nation building. There is, however, a huge difference between mere awareness and the readiness to ensure that such pitfalls are not repeated. The key to ensuring the success of the Republic of South Sudan lies in the ability of its leaders to translate the consciousness of not repeating the ubiquitous mistakes of poor governance in post-colonial Africa into an effective tool for nation building.

In this respect, the leaders of South Sudan should pay particular attention to issues that border on accountable management of oil revenue, political pluralism, constitutional guarantee of the inclusion of all ethnic groups in the governance process, autonomy of critical national institutions, the appointment of competent officials and the strengthening of anti-corruption mechanisms. While Salva Kiir and his team will require considerable human and material assistance from the international community in fulfilling these measures, they must realise that the primary task of moving their country forward rests on their shoulders. As evident from the situation in other parts of Africa, disconnect between financial assistance and genuine commitment on the part of governments only results in the deepening of the problems on the ground.

Experience, as the popular cliché goes, is the best teacher. Posterity demands that the political elites drive and entrench human and material development in South Sudan.

Follow this writer on twitter @BabsFagbayibo


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