Punished for Being Poor: How Decrees without Degrees are forcing us to Walk to Work in Juba!

MATHOK'S PUZZLE: This boda-boda has broken the law, he can kill! But he is taking food. This food is needed in the house by this schoolgirl after classes later. The boda-boda needs money for his daughter's school fees. The girl needs a boda-boda to take her home since she can't use a car... Now how do u separate them from this interdependence?

As an amorphous mob of boda-boda cyclists grumbled behind the traffic police barricade at the University of Juba roundabout, one big man shamelessly peeped out of his V8’s auto and spat out these words to whom it might concern:

“Ya bolice, keep them off. This is a degree from above. A degree from the government.” Just to make your life not difficult (in case this sentence beats your understanding), it means: “You police/man, keep them off. This is a decree from above, a decree from the goverment.”

Before I ask whether our government’s decrees are implementations for the legal rulings, either from the court of law or the parliament, just have a look at the three definitions of the term ‘decree’. I fail to understand which definition the Republic of South Sudan is using at the moment.

decree Click to hear this word spoken
de·cree [di kr]
noun (plural de·crees)
1. official order: an order with the power of legislation issued by a ruler or other person or group with authority
2. law court ruling: a ruling given by a court, especially a divorce, equity, or probate court
3. religion divine will: in Christian belief, the will or purpose of God, interpreted through events considered to be God’s doing

Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

However, what I know from the rule of law, the Cabinet (Executive) that entails the President, the ministers and their mini-stars, are just implementers of the ruling from the Legislature or the Judiciary. Un/fortunately, for the case of our young nation, the reverse is true. It is as if the Legislature and the Judiciary are the implementers of the rulings (they love it as ‘Decree’) from the Executive. If not so, then how come a deputy minister could wake up one morning, call the radio stations and traffic police to not only ban our commonest means of public transport but also confiscate the motorcycles? No wonder, this is the same guy, Gen. Salva Mathok Gengdit, who is only about two months old in the position, who decreed weeks before this decreee the banning of public water supply trucks in the city. As if he is allergic to the third class citizens, where in the hell on earth is the senior minister of interior, Manani Magaya, hiding?

Dangerous Combination: An overloaded boda-boda, a long trailer truck, an open-door matatu. However, solution to this should not be eliminating one of these road users, but to open other alternative roads so that the V8 and Hummer elites class are comfortable on the tarmacadam's road. A road is a public utility where our taxes and oil money should be well spent so that no third class is denied access to it. This is Juba, not Khartoum again!(Photos by the author).

With this degree of decrees being issued everywhere by everyone in every nook and cranny of the governemnt department, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists and closure of the newspaper, where are we heading? Definitely back to Khartoum Regime’s days. Where is the rule of law? I thought the rule of law means the rule made by the majority of the government i.e. the Legislative Body, that represents the will of the 10+ million South Sudanese. I thought the ministers and their deputies were s/elected by the president, not by the people. So how come they come to make quick laws in the name of decrees (I call them ‘legal shortcuts’) and impose them on those poor people who did not and will not throw a vote for them one day?

To be ‘Pennically’ jealous and zealous at the same time, I am developing ulcers with the way our current government is adopting the Khartoum’s vocabulary, if not their autocracy altogether, in Juba. The term ‘decree’ is a sign of autocracy exercised by monarchs of the 19th Century. I am always ashamed to see our dear SSTV and other Yes Media houses proudly using it throughout their news reporting. My heart really goes for the building of a gigantic titanic Noah’s ark sort of a lecture hall, the size of all the minitries complex in Juba, to cram in all those linguistically anaemic zombies and mingle them with English grammar and contemporary terminologies powered by internet and dictionaries. By so doing, we shall have migrated truly and duly from Khartoum to Juba. I mean from the Arab world to the African world, say, from Arabophone to Anglophone country.

And if at all there is nothing autocratic surging automatically from the presidential horizons and ministerial high zones, then why declare unilateral and promptu decrees, which are first imposed on the public, then later passed to the parliament? I thought the order of the flow of the law is from the people to the parliament, then to the cabinet. It is the other way round in our Republic of South Sudan. Somebody, please, define for us the meaning the term ‘Republic’. Thank God, they didn’t affix our name with something like ‘The Demorcratic Republic of…” as in the case of DR Congo.

I am reacting herewith because this is the third time I have been affected by this so-called decree since the formation of the current government after 40 days and nights of political Ramadhan in the Wilderness of Governance. Just imagine, in the first 100 days of the first president of the Republic, only one and a half laws have been legislated by the people we hired to do it for us. This is out of the five bills to be passed within Kiir’s 100 days as he promised along with a litany of schools, security, etc. I regret having been turned into such a critic, but what can we do? When we say it is wrong, the people we employed to do it say you wrong, and you know very well what it means being at the ‘wrong side’ of the government that is on the wrong side of the law.

One thing that has made us — their patients — lose our patience is the haplessness which is backed up by hopelessness seen from the status quo of 4-month-old nation as reflected in her developmental projects. One of this projects is water supplies. Down from 2006 to-date, Juba should have got piped water if we really meant development. If we do not have that money, then let donors e.g. World Bank lend it, which is recoverable in a short time. For example, in my family, an MP size of our household that you know, we spend an average of over 500 SSP monthly, worse still to the Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians who own the water trucks. Can’t this money not bring water to our house every month?

What I am trying to suggest to the Deputy Minister of Interior here is a better solution than his decree of stopping foreigners from supplying water to our people. As we all know, trade is when you buy and sell, but these guys just scoop and sell! Take it this way, how possible is it for a South Sudanese truck driver to scoop water from River Juba (in Somalia) and sell it to the same people who die of water-borne diseases from their own river? So how imaginable is it for a Somali to scoop free water from River Nile and sell it to Juba City in South Sudan?

But then, the solution is not the type of Salva’s Decree (Salva Mathok this time). Instead of letting us spend a day dry like date trees in the Sudanese (Northern) desert, Mr. Deputy Minister should have called for South Sudanese drivers and truck owners, put it this way, privatize and advertize the project so that the mobilization takes place before the Declaration of the Decree. Having mobilized enough Southerners and potential investors for mobile water system in Juba (and also in the other 10 cities), you screen the foreigners without necessarily stopping their business, then phase out their domination politically and politely. Please, police, take not of that word ‘politely’. In that way, we shall not have problems with our new in-laws, the Ethiopians and their belligerent neighbours giving us services in Juba here.

The same thing should be applied to the boda-boda boys. Instead of stopping the boy and ordering me to walk to Juba town on foot, His Excellency should have made sure that all the roads in Juba are operational. And not only that but also all the matatus (mini-buses) are well stationed and well inspected to provide even services to the approximately 90-percent pedestrian population in Juba. In other word, how do I catch my flight from Juba to Wau University if the cyclists are banned from passing through the Mudiriyya roundabout (the one between Juba T. Hospital, Governor’s Office and Juba Hotel)? If you stop me from Juba University roundabout while trying to connect by boda-boda to the Ministries Road through Buluk to Thongpiny, say Airport, how will I reach there, Your Excellency? How will mama cross from Hi-Jallaba to Konyo-Konyo market especially by midday when she is in a hurry to shop food for her sons-in-laws? And so on.

In conclusion, we are independent. And remember please, remember how long we have just forgotten the main slogan that you, sirs, made us sing monotonously amidst your speeches, punctuated with Dr. John Garang’s popular would-you-want-to-become-a-third-class-citizen-in-your-own-country quote. If the biggest population in Juba is being made to walk to work by your decrees, then what will stop us from developping it into an in/famous Uganda’s popular uprising against the government. Ask your friend Mr. Museveni and he will lecture very well what ‘walk to work’ means. Do you want a dose of that, sir? If you don’t then release our boys to take us to Juba Hospital, Airport, Market, Banks, and even ministries, please!

The pretext sugarcoating classism in this Decrees is that they cause accidents. Well, I do agree with that fact which is evidenced by the ‘Boda-Boda Ward” in Juba Hospital, but then, if we want to ill-liminate (‘eliminate’ according to some boss’s pronounciation) accidents totally in Juba, then let’s stop importing cars and motorcycles and begin to walk to work as we used to before and during the war. It’s funny to argue that one hand can clap. Similarly, by stopping cyclists from entering the ‘city centre’ (Mr. Mayor, where is that point?) just because they carry accidents on their backs, it beats one’s understanding why the boys should be out in town with the mission of crushing themselves into the cars of the big people and their children. If not that, then what is the intention of creating a big gap here. Elitism, classism, favouritis, chauvinism, parochialism, and all those -ism terms, methinks, had gone with the Jallaba and the old Sudan. Kumbe, they are still here!

As usual, it would look as contraversial as the decrees themselves to declare this discourse concluded. The conclusion should be a continuation within the reader’s mind and the Juba population, especially the ones that must go to Juba on foot until matatus develop the instincts of going to collect us from the doors of our slums. I will conclude my cititique when all the best roads found in South Sudan, which are actually on the paper, have been transferred from the paper-based project, which paper could either be a Government Master Plan of the Year 2020 or the maps, to the actual gound.

Well, I will have done injustice to me and my readers if I had signed off without mentioning that we will stop contesting and protesting against these decrees only when they are passed by our peoples’ representatives. I will not still appreciate any decree even if I am convinced that that decree is being declared by a person who has a degree in law from Oxford or Harvard.

This, I condemned three years ago in my book, which I will publish when I become rich. This is the poem, one of the 333 making up the anthology, The Black Christs of Africa.


Poem 51


Punished for being Poor!


Try me not;

Cry to Christ:

Who once said,


“He that has nothing

Will have his nothing



He that has something

Will have his something



So shall an office messenger

Get poor

For working heated,


And shall an office manager

Get more,

For walking seated.


To our Hospital of Juba

Drive in and gain,

Walk in and lose;


To their Hospital of Cuba,

Walk in and gain,

Drive in and lose.


For one to become a candidate

For the World Food Program,

One must first become a candy date

To the world food problem.


For, for being poor,

You must be punished,

And for being rich,

You must be furnished.


That’s property elevation

Through poverty allegation.

That’s poverty alleviation

Through poverty elevation.


Justifying Quote:

A nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to pull himself up by the handles. Sir Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister (journalist, soldier & writer).