by Deng Kur Deng
In an attempt to understand the motives of 76 mayoral candidates, I have tried to determine the most essential components of their applications. Among these 76 candidates, there are a number of them who seem to truly believe that Bortown can progress and prosper economically. However, there are other candidates who seem to have questionable or even selfish motives for their candidacy. Therefore, it is our duty to elect a candidate who is well suited for the job, and to do that, the people must be allow to get out and vote for the Mayor.
The freedom for citizens to choose their leaders through a democratic election is a vital part of the SPLM. We know that voting is the only voice of the people. Looking back, our people have invested so much in this country, and we are very proud that each and every person can now envision real success here. We can serve other people or devote ourselves to our own careers, education, or businesses, but most importantly, we have a choice. It is one of the many reasons why the founders of the SPLM/SPLA fought vigorously—because they wanted us to live and work in a well-established country where citizens have the freedom to choose their leaders.
Many brave soldiers fought and died for this freedom. In some cases, we don’t even know their names. But we will definitely remember the sacrifices they made throughout our nation’s struggle, and we will certainly remember their success, which all started in Bortown. Now an iconic city in South Sudan, Bortown gave rise to our victory. No matter what happens to South Sudan, we will continue to live the legacies of those brave soldiers who couldn’t make it to safety in Juba or who never witnessed the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). They fought for our freedom—for our voices—and we will never forget how to use them.
With that in mind, we are using our voices now to search for a Mayor who understands the importance of the economy, political participation, and social issues. So far, this process has been more about “appointing” and not voting. In my opinion, we should be done with appointment after appointment; that is not the essence of democracy. As we know, there are many concerns in Bortown, such as a lack of proper education for children, well-trained teachers, clean water, health facilities, fully equipped hospitals, adequate security, sanitation, and many other concerns that need the attention of our leader. Whoever is going to be Mayor must be willing to demonstrate a true initiative to fix these problems.
Many of us would like to know exactly how each of these 76 candidates plan to take on the aforementioned problems. The people of Bortown expect our leader to address these issues once elected Mayor. Unfortunately, as of right now, we don’t know how Governor Aguer Panyang intends to ensure that we get the right person for the job. We do know that it is going to be a tedious process, but that does not matter, as long as the outcome is legitimate; we would not appreciate it if we cut corners and violated the sanctity of the process. We must be true to our collective identity as the people of the Great Bor Community.
Generally, I would want to make it abundantly clear that I am a member of the Jonglei State like everyone else, but this issue transcends those sort of distinctions. I am a concerned citizen of South Sudan, and like other serious-minded members of our community, I believe in the voices of the people, which are the most powerful of all. With that, I feel obligated to express my own opinion on the matter of this mayoral race.
Speaking of leadership, I have come to realize that Mabior Achiek Chau seems to have Bor at heart, which is remarkable. Recently, Beny Mabior came up with an idea that no one had ever mentioned or even recognized as a way to support progress. He suggested that we mark the mass graveyards of those who were mercilessly murdered by the enemy of peace to serve as a reminder of all that was sacrificed for our cause. This is just one example of leadership during our time. I will leave it there for you to judge.
In any case, reflecting on each of the applicants, I can admit that there is no way for us to know their precise priorities. It is up to the office of the governor to verify the accuracy and legitimacy of each candidate. Afterwards, we hope that he will allow the people to vote and share our own opinions, which is a better way to realize our potential and find our voices as citizens of Jonglei. We hope that whoever is going to be Mayor has integrity and is unwilling to create unnecessary hurdles along the way. These are just a few of the major reasons why applying for the position of Mayor is not an adequate enough reason to actually be Mayor. A real leader must also have the courage to help communities improve and must also demonstrate that courage and wisdom.
The improvement of the city should be the first priority for those who are interested in running this city. As I familiarized myself with a good portion of the candidates’ names and backgrounds, I realized that some are running for office simply for admiration and socialization, which are not motives that the average citizen would like to see in our Mayor. In some cases, you have to wonder what is going on in the minds of these candidates. There are many questions to ask this group, namely what triggered each man to apply for this one position and what would he do if he wins? For instance, are all of these 76 people interested in serving our interests—and the interests of our city—or are they more interested in protecting their own interests? What is the particular draw of the position of Mayor?
In my opinion, something does not feel right regarding some of the candidates. In some cases, the facts have clearly been omitted, but even knowing partial truths, we have no choice but to vote for the person who believe is right for the job. We might not know the motives of all the individuals who have applied, but for instance, we have heard of those who have attempted to bribe their way in. Our people are surrounded by manipulative individuals who are good at taking advantage of the system, using money or any other tools at their disposal; even cows are now being used to accelerate decision making and have other offices, services, and individuals in their debt. Leaders are not fair anymore, because they are overwhelmed with bribes.
Because of these scandalous practices, a select few are getting richer. Many times, incompetent individuals are being put in office through a series of bribes and deceit, and believe it or not, we have even heard much about a few candidates who are trying to become Mayor using the same dishonest campaigns. As time goes on, we will feel more pressure to expose those individuals for such awful practices in our communities, but for now, we will leave the Governor to dismantle them.
Unfortunately, political loyalty to the Governor and the commissioners isn’t enough to earn the position, but in the same breath, the negative strategies we have heard about may not be fact-based allegations. So at the end of the day, the situation is unclear from both sides, and we still have 76 applicants for the office of Mayor. We must place our trust in the ballot box, and therefore, the Governor must at least give us a chance to vote for the right person. By allowing for a free election, the Governor is showing a great sign of transparency to the candidates and to the people of the Jonglei state. If people weren’t allowed to vote for whomever they choose, it would defeat the purpose of this process and would undermine our voices as citizens. And so, we are demanding transparency, which will hopefully get rid of our culture of corruption.
People will decide of who to vote for as they learn more about the candidates, and this process could be a way to automatically reject corrupt individuals. Some of us know that a number of individuals on that list of candidates are not well informed and do not truly know what it means to be a leader. With that in mind, it is easier for these misinformed persons to be publicly denounced by the people than it is to be reprimanded by a few individuals behind closed doors. We need a transformation of the city, and that’s why it is very important to weed out the incompetent candidates accordingly.
Personally, I am still not convinced why 76 people would be interested in one position, but we are looking for someone who is willing to improve the city and this requires a swift commitment from the assertive leader, not the waffling of an incompetent leader. There are a number of things that need to be done to avoid controversy; for instance, the office of the Governor may first screen all the candidates’ backgrounds, especially their academic achievement and other credentials that equate to experience. Basically, these qualifications are meant to eliminate vague candidates who have somehow faked their certificates. Anyone who lacks credentials, including higher education, are to be excluded from the election. I don’t want to be misunderstood, because the Governor has the final say on what to do, but to be blunt, you must vote for the person who is right for the job, not for the person who looks the part. We are trying to prevent our reputation from being tarnished by finding a new “protector,” but that is the Governor’s job to protect the people. The Mayor is the one who advocates change when it is for the best for the people. Right now, something must be done at this difficult time to improve Bortown. We no longer need a sole protector; we need someone who will fight for progress. For South Sudan to move forward, our people need to support those leaders who have ideas about how to better the lives of our people.
This letter was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org