Sunday January 5 2014

Had my maid been president of South Sudan, this is how things would be

By Joachim Buwembo

But is there no way politics can be abolished in Africa since they have misunderstood its purpose?” my maid asked indignantly as she watched footage of a Ugandan man narrating the ordeal he had gone through in South Sudan.

“But as long as society exists, there has to be politics,” I said with a bit of boredom.

“I don’t know how to put it then,” she responded. “But would the people of South Sudan be worse off if they did not have a government? Wouldn’t they have a better way of going about their life without some powerful individuals who are irrelevant to their wellbeing ruling over them?”
“Whatever system evolves, some individuals will be more powerful than the rest and they will play the role of ensuring that the rules of that system are enforced,” said I.

“Okay then, can’t they have some religious leaders to play that role instead?” she insisted.

“Even that has been tried elsewhere with disastrous results,” I explained. “You probably heard of the Taliban, and later al-Shabbab. These proved that secular politicians are much better and nicer than religious rulers.”

“Okay, boss, then just tell me what is wrong with the heads of these people in Juba,” she challenged.

“Why do you say there is something wrong with their heads?” I countered with a question.

“Because we sat in this very living room two years ago and clapped for them as they got a brand new country,” she answered. “And after going through all that fighting, and being helped by different countries, why did they not learn from the mistakes of the other African countries and avoid this mess which is just beshaming Africa? Why are they trying so hard to prove to the other races that there is some small hole in the head of a black man?”
“There is no small or big hole in our heads,” I said.
“The evidence shows that there is,” she snapped. “You keep saying we should only make claims basing on evidence. The evidence before us shows that there is a small hole in the heads of some of these people.”

“Stop making unscientific statements,” I barked at her. “If there is a hole in somebody’s head then they would not be alive.”

“I am being very scientific,” she said defiantly. “The actions of some leaders are proof of the existence of a hole in their heads, but limited scientific knowledge cannot spot the hole, because the hole is filled with some useless brain mass, so you assume that there is no hole.”

I decided not to engage in her silly talk of holes that are filled with brain mass, but she went on:

“This is what I would do if I had been the president of the new 54th state of Africa. First of all seeing that all the member countries of East African Community, which we are trying to join, with the exception of Tanzania, have been showered with blood because of tribalism, I would embark upon building a national army as a priority. By the time tribal disagreements disguised as politics would emerge, the national army would ensure they do not degenerate into violence.”
“Easier said than done,” I said quietly.

“I thought people seek leadership in order to carry out the hard tasks,” she answered without hesitation. “Another immediate thing I would do is to open up agricultural land and produce enough food for everybody, so that with such a basic solved, we can move forward using our own abundant resources to develop the country.”
“Opening up the land costs money,” I observed.

“Who said South Sudan is poor?” the girl asked, her tone rising somewhat. “Are its leaders ignorant villagers not aware of their country’s wealth? With territory several times the size of Uganda and most of whose black soil never tilled before, they just need to open up a million hectares by selling a few thousand of their trees which are more than 1000- years-old. Like that black metallic thing on your desk that you say is a fragment from a Sudan tick wood tree. I would get several million dollars down payment from a big timber trading company and start developing farms. I would never fall into the trap of borrowing from poorer Western countries.

And I would not allow any oil dealers when we can make billions from timber whose extraction is simple and nobody can tell us they have invested billions to cut down a tree. This is the money I would use to produce food, develop infrastructure, education and health services rather than getting job seeking muzungu consultants to do my thinking for me.”

“Are you saying you would leave your oil in the ground unexploited?”
“What good has oil done to Nigeria for example?” she responded.

“Why not ask what good oil has done for Norway? Any money which leaders think is free and is always a source of evil, and that is oil money. Let those people pour their energy into agriculture and they will be too tired to fight.”