AT THE CROSSROADS OF JOURNALISM AND ‘NATIONALISM’ IN SOUTH SUDAN
South Sudan Journalists are in dilemma. Two years ago, by the time I fled for asylum, I referred to it as a ‘die-lemma’, that situation where you are presented with two killer choices. I had to choose to stay and change my career (including my character) or leave and alter my citizenship. I choose the latter. Correction, I did actually not choose the latter but opted to tell the truth to the letter, hence quit them who wanted to tell it otherwise.
There is a new brand of nationalism that my fellow journalists, now activists, must subscribe to, and if they do, their career is doomed! What is the sign of the doom? More signs and symptoms will ensue as we delve into this piece of my mind but the glaring fact I have to point out as part of the intro here is this. There is no journalism in South Sudan. There is only activism, depending on the cause (reason) and the course (direction) one has taken. In other words, there are no journalists but reporters. They report what the regime wants to hear, read or see. At the extreme , majority of the reporters have resorted to becoming informers as one of the desperate survival traits in a market space eaten up by the regime’s political survival commodities. I have interacted privately with many media friends in Juba and the testimonies are dismal. For instance, one told me what he does is ‘nafhas talimat’, an old SPLA rebel adage for ‘obeying the orders’. This now is the new brand of nationalism. Nationalism built on cult personalities (demigods) is a pest to journalism.There the professionalism is buried under the piles of the ‘files of orders’ (press releases, decrees, pre-recorded news, etc.), which is broadcast or published for the public to consume and live by. For reason, “If you interview a rebel, you are a rebel!”
The regime under the current president has set a bad precedent, which will be one of the legacies for lessons to be learned in our next generation colleges in our history. By ‘history’ here, I mean our future, not the past; for the future is being built on this present life, which is the tomorrow’s history. For this reason spelt out for short-lived objectives of the regime’s survival, international media cannot employ South Sudanese in their own country. In this case, on BBC or Al Jazeera, you cannot conclude your report with that one career-killer sentence, which the Juba Administration always wants to appear in your report lest you become a ‘rebel’: “…during the December failed attempted coup”. It is a dilemma: if you do, you are done professionally! If you don’t, you are as well done politically and physically!
In many African instances of nation building as such, the government of the day, especially the pioneer of the independence, usually influences the character of the peoples and shapes the general picture of the nation, the socio-political and socio-economic map of the country. If this sort of dishonesty is allowed to persist under the yoke of threat, influence of bribe or allegiance to tribe, we shall see some category of citizens making references by (let me call it) ‘The Salvatorial Calendar’ in a few years to come, should the regime continue without reforming its policies. How about this shame of history? “My child was born during the days of the Coup Attempt.” It is upon the citizens to keep their history sincere or the society will look exactly like the individuals, who constitute the regime of the day. This can only be done through freedom of expression. Media is the peoples’ psycho-social space. Our people need economic perspiration, social ventilation or political aeration, a space to air out their views, bad or good, for the healthy growth of our infantile, wealthy nation, which is rendered politically volatile and economically infertile by our unscrupulous VIPs (very impotent politicians) of the day.
In critical view, it is not only journalism being killed but even nationalism is being frustrated. I have seen award-winning journalists switching from their campaigns for nation building to campaign for revenge for ‘their people’ (meaning a section or a tribe among the 64 tribes affected in varied ways by the current war). Why do I mention this? It closes the little window of freedom of expression that will lead to truth-telling, thence, justice and reconciliation; the missing link for a nation building in our nascent state of South Sudan. It is a new outlook that I call the ‘Makueyan Legacy’, which, unfortunately, is being adopted even by journalists, who are being turned into line-toeing activists for the same cause. “Whoever criticizes the leadership or opposes a leader in public ideas is a rebel…!” Others have gone as far as launching scathing campaigns against the activists like this one, in the name of a ‘traitor’. At the moment, there is a vilification campaign going on, with my former colleague, a new ‘Makueyan Convert’, calling for Jon Pen, Mabior Garang and other traitors to be ‘hanged by the neck till they die!’. For an internationally reporting journalist to openly switch his allegiance from the state to his ethnic group calls for a public alarm on the road to our nation building (networking the 64 tribes into one tribe called the Republic of South Sudan).
Quote: ” …You probably only have fond memories of (Jon) Pen in the camp but he is/has plotted against my existence with Riek. He is a collaborator with the butcher of Bor. I know you people think there is nothing wrong with Riek but him and his Deciples should be hanged… We will not forgive nor forget the collaborators,” swore my media comrade-turned-hater in one of the Facebook debates he initiated on me, which I responded to here.
Quote: “Bro…, I do not handle issues of genuine accountability and justice by installment of mixture of hatred and political angling on targeted victims in public domains. (What is wrong with initiating an investigation mechanism that will identify the already known politicians, officers, battalions or even platoons of the armies that committed the atrocities on both sides as we bring our nation back to normal?) If some people see us busy up and down chasing after the peace talks, they think we are looking for jobs, but justice and accountability are the bottom line of my activism. It is pathetic that some brothers think heroism and ‘true nativity’ is only measured by all of us going to Bor and wailing daily on the mass graves till they are eroded away historically…like the 1991 graves. I do not see myself spreading hate speech to everybody so that I become a true son or daughter of the people. Educated people know how such things are handled. Of course, my mother and other survivors in the village and camps are doing a lot of this (aimless and endless mourning for the 1991 and 2013 victims) on daily basis. So should I join them and frantically label everyone who does not cry ‘coo’ or ‘1991’ as a traitor? No! Brothers, we should approach this things maturely, as a family, a clan, a tribe and then a nation. There is no way one should specialize on one stage e.g. clan or tribe or nation and stop there, and then start attacking those who do not subscribe to one’s style of revenge as ‘traitors’ and ‘collaborators’! That’s an old fashion of doing it. Finally, if you do not know, then do now know that what you already have (knowledge, fame, contacts, etc.) is being used as a forum for conveying leftover shells to unsuspecting victims, as seen above in the We-will-not-forgive-nor-forget-the-collaborators rehearsals by the chief campaigner of this ‘clanization project’ of the political grudges, aka, the Macabre Massacres of the Bor people visa-vis other ghoulish massacres, including the Juba ones (avoided by my brothers), which sparked off the current war of revenges!
And the Quote continues to other Facebook friend’s post:
“I thought you were one of those who called off that career-damaging debate Mading initiated the other day. Now creating here a rather consolation/cool-off forum, which is inevitably playing into an insinuation gossiping, will only invigorate that ugly scene, given the depth of trauma and putrid hatred his self-gnawing campaign carries? I wish my brother knew the best method of shifting a vocation post. No shrewd politician, not to mention a starter, has ever succeeded through parasitic heroism or trauma harvesting (emotions exploitation of a people affected by conflict by politicians). And using wrong political specimens is suicidal e.g. crucifying activists against political injustices at the altar of sycophancy and hypocrisy brings fame with boomerangs! I comment here coz it goes against my grains to just yoga there while the toddler is roasting a toad!”
If the rest of the elaborations above mean personal concerns, then this other one must be a public concern. There are more ‘freelance informants’ (they call themselves ‘Security Personnel’) than freelance journalists after December 15! If South Sudan had freedom of expression/information/operation, some research institutes could shock us with the rate and percentage of the conversion of journalists to ‘nationalists’; say, national security operatives. How I wish they knew how wide the gap between ‘nationals’ and ‘nationalists’ is. Just like Christian preachers say, “There are people of God but children of God”, the gaping divide between the nationals and nationalists can be measured by the way both individuals act and react to events of national concerns. Of course, all nationalists are nationals (citizens) but not all nationals can be nationalists (lovers of a self-sustained nation). This brings me to the new categorization of our campaign lots as comprising activists and ‘reactivists’ (the latter being my usual unconventional word coining). So where do you fall? Having made myself clearer earlier on in one of my blogs that I am not a December-15 reactionary nor am I a Deceember-16 revolutionary, I have no more elaboration of the two here.
So, let us go back to the subject matter that seems to matter more here. I know of my very powerful colleagues now doing the opposite of their career. The opposite of journalism to me as per the present day state of South Sudan is the so-called ‘National Security Service’. I used the adverb ‘so-called’ not because I don’t value their service. Knowing that it is one of the constitutionally mandated ingredients of our survival as a state in the making, the National Security has been abused to the extent that it becomes the opposite of Media. Yet, the duo services used to be interdependently parallel. My old notes, dating back to the pre-independence days, show that as the journalists are busy collecting information from the government (and other sources of news) for the public, the security operatives (which must be secretive and anonymous) are busy collecting information from the public to the government, but for the betterment of the public. And it is the role of the state to keep the two discordant twins as independently operational as possible. Any mistake of crossing each other’s lines harms the system. How does the government keep this two important entities peaceful and non-interfering to each other? By the right legislation and correct implementation of the law governing the country, especially the two institutions.
So, why are media practitioners, especially journalists, becoming security operatives at an alarming rate, nowadays? The answer is mentioned above, but will, of course, be exhausted in our tomorrow’s history, since writers and activists, who risk doing so, are now labeled ‘rebel’ and summarily sentenced to hanging by volunteer security operatives. It is a great historical mistake for the state to revert the gains of the struggle of South Sudanese all these years back to their worst past they had been thinking they had journeyed away from. In my other writings, including a poem, ‘Visited by Khartoum’, shared below, I have intensively dueled on this topic.
In conclusion, Kiir’s Administration should open up and let the people tell the truth, and the truth will set the nation free. The fruits of dictatorship in the modern state of the advanced world can be seen in why such journalists become activists, opposition parties and other disgruntled citizens become rebels. In other words, political asylum seeking, IDP population growth, refugee exoduses to the opposite directions, rebellion movements, rampant activisms, and all those ‘wayward’ behavioral outbursts of the masses are indicators of a despotic leadership in a failed state.
Dear esteemed blog visitor, I leave you with my usual vintage point of solace. History will tell us the truth if we tend or pretend to avoid it today. History will also divert my current title of a ‘traitor’, ‘enemy collaborator’, etc. into a hero when all the truths we are fighting to save today are resurrected tomorrow. But if nothing happens to reverse this trend of nation building and brand of nationalism, I am sorry, all our efforts, including the ones of the about 3 million heroes, will turn into zeros.
VISITED BY KHARTOUM!
From 1983 to 2013–hitherto,
Almost the age of my age-mate,
Juba and Khartoum have never been intimate.
So I thought we’ve with Khartoum no much ado.
Yet we’ve loads to accomplish in Juba:
Personally, I had to visit Khartoum–ever!
But now, I’ll have known no Khartoum forever:
Lo, some buddy has invited Khartoum upon Juba!
So our GoSS votes against Khartoum are a GRoSS loss!
The pendulum of history has swung us aback to Khartoum
So fast so that it behooves us that our boss behaves as their boss.
Alas, before our inner influence, Juba is in confluence with Khartoum!
Book Title: AssAss!Nat!on!
Poem 23: Visited by Khartoum!
Poet: Jon Pen de Ngong
Status: Writing in Progress.
Period: 2012 to 2014.