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Salva Kiir and the Christian’s challenge in a hateful world

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Salva Kiir and the Christian’s challenge in a hateful world

My letter last week, in which I appealed for sympathy and empathy for South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, triggered many written responses. The majority disagreed with me, with some expressing displeasure at perceived coddling of a dictator. I understood the genesis of such emotions.


As Africans, we have suffered collective trauma at the hands of greedy rulers that have turned Europe’s colonies into killing fields and mass prisons filled with blood and tears. They have impoverished their subjects by treating national treasuries as personal piggy banks.  These deeds have triggered mass hatred and thirst for revenge that wishes the bad rulers and their kin dead. This hatred is dangerous, for it has sucked life out of our obuntu (humaneness) and turned many people into unarmed replicas of the very people they condemn.


Many of those who disagreed with my empathy for President Kiir are Christians. They know the Bible chapter and verse where Jesus Christ rebuked His disciple Peter after the latter smote Malchus, the servant of Caiaphas, the high priest, during our Lord’s arrest at Gethsemane. They know the Lord’s very challenging beatitude recorded in Matthew 5: 43-48, in which Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. They know the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to us in Colossians 3:12 to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”  They know Paul’s charge to us in Romans 12: 12-21 to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, bless those who persecute us, repay no one evil for evil, and never avenge ourselves but leave it to the wrath of God. 


While I understand and sympathise with my critics on this very sensitive subject, I refuse to surrender my Christian faith and my obuntu (humaneness) at the altar of vengeful emotions and hatred towards those who have terrorized and robbed us of our freedom and citizenship. I choose to live by Paul’s instruction to us in Colossians 3: 14-15 to, above all, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. 


These are not mere words to be recited in church pews, but to live by especially in the most difficult and challenging circumstances. They are not an endorsement of unjust rulers who inhabit a darkness that drives their misgovernance, deceit, terror, and exploitation of Africa that reflect their insecurity and selfish ambitions.


Salva Kiir is my brother, as are the rest of Africa’s dictators and their courtiers and enablers. I love them as fellow humans. However, I also believe that Salva Kiir, like a whole lot of his counterparts in some African capitals, has no business occupying the presidency of South Sudan and the chairmanship of the East African community.


Leadership of a country is no less important than sitting atop a major company in a functional state. The man’s health disqualifies him from managing the complex affairs of South Sudan. His politics and leadership style have completely disabled a country that is endowed with enormous natural resources and bright people that ought to have turned it into one of Africa’s success stories. 


My opinion on the situation in South Sudan is not as important as that expressed by a South Sudanese friend whose word and judgement I greatly respect.  In response to my letter last week, Atem Loboro (not his real name) wrote: “You have done an excellent ethical job in highlighting the health problems of Salva Kiir Mayardit (SKM) and in mobilising sympathy for him on humanitarian grounds. He is likely to be more than the stated 72 years of age given the fact that south Sudanese of his generation went to school much later in life than people in East Africa.


“SKM has massive cognitive issues, complicated by chronic ill health. Given a chance he would have defaulted to speaking in Arabic, a language he has good command of. He is in office illegally, his legitimate term in office having expired eight years ago. He has sustained himself in power by setting up a well-equipped, though ill-trained personal army codenamed the Tiger Battalion. He personally presides over the country’s oil revenue and has surrounded himself with a cadre of advisers and civil servants drawn from his state and tribe, hence, the inefficiency of his almost non-existent government. 


“Nairobi and Kampala are awash with the president’s tribesmen who keep their families in East Africa and send their children to schools in those cities. These are actions of a people who have no confidence in their ability to run a modern country. All these makeshift arrangements are in place, just in case of violent insurrection.”


Loboro then describes the irony of Africa’s tribalism, where belonging to the ruler’s ethnic community does not always guarantee prosperity. “Juba streets are full of beggars from the president’s tribe,” he writes. “They believe that Juba is the El Dorado of South Sudan. They have been unwittingly encouraged to flock to ‘developed’ Juba which, by East Africa standards, is a hell hole. This suggests that the rural areas they hail from must be of prehistoric standards. The country has slid backwards and, in the absence of a credible opposition, internal fights between the president’s Dinka clans and the second largest tribe, the Nuer, are bubbling to the surface.  


“There is unjustified hatred for people of Equatoria, the region next to Uganda, who are considered foreigners. South Sudan is run on hatred, a vicious form of tribalism, misinformation, and threats of tribal massacres. It is said that the president’s tribe plans to rule the country for 100 years. Recently the president signed into law a land policy whose basis is that ancestral land on which people live belongs to the country and not the communities inhabiting it.  One must be intellectually impaired to sign such a ludicrous policy. It is intended to displace Equatorians to East Africa and refugee camps. 


“Meanwhile the East African countries that elected him their chairman watch human rights abuses in South Sudan without having a quiet word with their new chairman. Yet any instability in South Sudan because of this reckless rule will affect East Africa negatively. South Sudan needs a new form of governance through a neutral government of national unity, not hurried sham elections to keep the same ineffective people in power.”


Loboro is not a politician. He is one of those sober, balanced African professionals whose words invite very serious reflection.  One hopes that sane minds in that country will persuade the president to save South Sudan from collapse by going into retirement. That may give that beautiful country a chance to reset its course and enable its population to enjoy its abundant material riches. Short of that, South Sudan will remain a mockery of its motto: “Justice, Liberty, Prosperity.”


All of which challenges the Christian to resist the temptation to join the dark world of hate that drives vengeful thoughts and fuels the vicious cycle that ultimately consumes the dictators and their victims. 

© Muniini K. Mulera






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