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2. When Citizen's Groan

Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.

- by Alex Bolek Abuk

‘Groaning’ is defined by the English Dictionary as ‘an utterance expressing pain, discomfort or displeasure.’ It is a deep inarticulate sound produced in response to physical pain or severe emotional and psychological stress as a sign of coping with the problem. Groaning is a sign of ‘helplessness’. People who can fight back and feel ‘in control' of their problems or situations don’t normally groan. Groaning can both be individual and community. ‘Mass groaning’ happens when a group of people (community or nation) is affected with a common problem that they cannot cope or deal with. So if groaning is from a community or nation, it means there is something wrong in that nation or community that is affecting all or the majority of the people and it is beyond their reach to deal with it. For instance, the tragic death of Dr. John Garang in plane crash in 2005 made the people and the whole nation of South Sudan to grieve, moan and groan as it was beyond many individual citizen’s comprehension.

Community and society’s groaning is a sign of a sick and affected nation. Socio-economic and governance problems are the most common factors that make people grumble and groan in a nation. This is what this article is about. The Bible Scriptures that directly or indirectly mention ‘groan’ relate it to dysfunctional political leadership, poor governance, and lack of basic package of services. King Solomon, as a political leader who one time walked with God, learned valuable lessons and had a wealth of experience and observations that he devoted time and space to write on. This is what King Solomon said in relation to this subject:

  • “When the wicked rule the people groan”, Proverbs 29:2

  • “When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding”, Proverbs 28:28

  • “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people”, Proverbs 28:15

  • “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops”, Proverbs 28:3

  • “Woe to you, O land whose king was a servant (alternate: is a child) and whose princes feast in the morning”, Ecclesiastes 10:16

  • “King Asa brutally oppressed some of the people”, 2 Chronicles 16:10

What can we deduce from the above six scriptures? According to King Solomon and the writer of the Book of Second Chronicles (Prophet Ezra), when citizens are brutalised, oppressed and denied services, they groan. Immaturity in political leaders and civil servants is as well a background factor that King Solomon did not want to miss out. Why? Because everything in a nation, from governance to service delivery, is dependent on the type of leadership in place. Mature and experienced political and godly leadership will always be a blessing to a nation while immature and ungodly leadership will be a curse (woe) according to King Solomon. According to Prophet Isaiah, when God wants to punish a nation, one of the means is making children and the base to rule over them!

“I will make mere youths their officials; children will rule over them. People will oppress each other — man against man, neighbour against neighbour. The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honoured. Youths oppress my people”… Isaiah 3:4,5,12.

The ‘children’ meant here are not in age but people without any work experience and ‘the base’ are lowly people who in normal circumstances and without nepotism would not be expected to suddenly rise to occupy certain positions. There is not any mess like a mess in a country ruled by children and the lowest! When children without any experience rule, everyone can imagine the mess that results from that, leave alone things like service delivery! This does not need a prophet’s eye to see and know. It does not need analysis, interpretation or explanation. It is evident! Sometimes one wonders how certain children got certain offices! Clear nepotism! When children are in power, it is a chaotic situation!

The apostle Paul has a piece of advice that he gave to churches in his time not to ordain an immature young Christian (a child spiritually speaking) into a leadership position in the church. Apostle Paul gave a long list of conditions that a Pastor about to be ordained needs to fulfill first and one of these is that he be a mature Christian and not a new believer in Christ. “Now the overseer (Pastor, Bishop) is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap”,

1 Timothy 3:2-7 (emphasis mine).

According to Apostle Paul, an immature leader can easily get conceited (puffed up with pride), and can get easily tempted to fall into a Satanic trap and judgement. Are these principles only for the Church? Shouldn’t they be universal including political positions and government offices in general? Or do politics and government have different standards when it comes to appointment of leaders into offices? People have argued that God called David as a shepherd boy and made him king over Israel and that the Lord Jesus called fishermen like Peter and Andrew to be His Apostles in leadership positions. I am in agreement with the first part of ‘calling’ but not with ‘immaturity’ in David and the Apostles. Why? King David did not become king the same day Prophet Samuel anointed him, 1 Samuel 16. God had to take him through difficult and various trainings to develop his leadership muscles before he sat on the throne of Israel as king to rule. This included fighting Goliath, 1 Samuel 17, and going through rough and difficult times when King Saul his predecessor wanted to kill him, 1 Samuel 19-24. Likewise, the Lord Jesus called the fishermen and He trained them for three years (they were WITH Him - Mark 3:13,14) before commissioning them to go into the whole world and before He ascended to heaven. The example of King David and the apostles of Jesus should not therefore be used as an excuse for appointing children into offices they do not deserve, be it in the Church or in the government.

King Solomon gave us the list of things that make people groan but his father King David before him gave us the opposite side of the coin. King David talks about what happens when the righteous and God-fearing and mature people are in power! This is what he said: “When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth”, 2 Samuel 23:3,4. If we compare this one sentence from King David with the list given by King Solomon above, this is a reason for citizens to rejoice and celebrate and not groan since the ruler brings them a morning light, a clear and cloudless day of rightness and justice and rain of economic development and prosperity! A good, honourable, dignified life and a bright future!

With the above background in mind, let’s look at specific things that make citizens in a nation to groan. The list is long but let us talk about the basics.

1: People groan when living is expensive and basic

services are lacking

The basic needs in life are feeding, clothing, and shelter, see Matthew 6:25, 1 Timothy 6:8 and 2 Chronicles 8:1-2. Add to these health and educational services. When these become expensive or lacking and salaries don’t match renting, feeding, children’s school fees and medical treatment, people groan. Do leaders know the market? The Lord Jesus knew prices in the market place. This is what He said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” Matthew 10:29. A good leader like the Lord Jesus Christ would know the market place and prices and allocate salaries accordingly. If the Lord Jesus were to give salaries to His people, He would compare that to the cost of living. Are the salaries reasonable and matching living expenses or not? Political leaders in our part of the world rule without knowing the condition of their flock. For leaders to know the condition of their flock (people they rule), they should be close to them. King Solomon gives this piece of little but valuable counsel to leaders (political, religious, family heads etc.): “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks; give careful attention to your herds”, Proverbs 27:23. The only way to know the condition of your flock is to come closer to them. If you go and take tea or coffee in one of the busy market places like Konyo-konyo market in Juba, sit among the people and listen to their conversations. You will always hear something related to their struggles in life especially to the expensive market and cost of living. As mentioned, when salaries do not match renting, feeding, schooling of children, medical care etc. the easiest thing for helpless people is to groan. And when it is beyond their capacity to bear; the Bible says they resort to curse their king (whoever that is) and their God! Groaning can turn to riot with time! Prophet Isaiah reports: “Distressed and hungry, they (the people) will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upwards, will curse their king and their God”, Isaiah 8:21. This scripture tells us that people go through stages of suffering before they go to the streets and before they start cursing their king and God! Sorry that the Righteous God is cursed along with a bad leadership. Bad leadership makes people curse God. Sorry! A wise leader, like any family head, should know in which stage of suffering his flock are in, then act immediately and accordingly to reverse the condition with the needed basic services before it worsens and gets out of control. Any parent understands this very well. Any family head knows if his/her family members are generally doing well or are moderately or severely suffering. When people go onto streets, the easiest thing is usually to send the police force with tear gas to ‘disperse, arrest and contain’ the riot. This sometimes works for governments but the best way to prevent riots in the streets is to meet the basic needs of the people. What are the stages in the above scripture that precede groaning and riots in the streets?

Stage 1: people become distressed and hungry

A little breach or crack in a dam most often does not start with a full-blown break and collapse with consequent flooding and devastation in a single moment. It may start with a small leaky crack that might be there for many years but ignored as ‘nothing serious’ or ‘insignificant’ until it matures to break the whole dam and cause disastrous flooding! This similarly happens to a government system. King Solomon comes in: “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out”, Proverbs 17:14. As I was writing these lines, there were bold news headlines on the international media about a Brazilian dam that broke and caused flooding and devastation in the surrounding area.

Look at these few headlines from my Google website:

  • ‘Catastrophe’: At least 17 killed, 45 missing, town levelled by flood in Brazil dam collapse

  • Six confirmed dead, 21 unaccounted for and as many as 300,000 people are still without water

  • Prosecutor Cites Negligence in Brazil Dam Failure

Have you seen that last bullet point? There was some defect in that dam that was either noticed by the engineers but ignored, or not noticed. The Brazilian prosecutor as mentioned associated the dam collapse with negligence. Whatever the case, the dam broke! The lesson is that whether a defect is noticed and ignored or not noticed disaster still happens. The only way to prevent disaster is to be vigilant and service the dam. Dam and government managers alike need to be alert all the time, not with the short-sighted ability to contain a breach or riots respectively, but with the visionary ability to fix the problem early enough and bring basic services to the people before it is too late.

While watching the protests in Egypt of January 2011, one of the protesters shouted in front of the media camera (to the ousted president Mubarak): “Go away! We hate you! We have been under your oppression for thirty years!” Do you see that? Thirty years and people did not go to the streets. For over thirty years there were cracks in the government’s dam that were not noticed or noticed but ignored until the public finally could not bear to groan indoors. This is the initial stage. In our country today people are distressed (synonyms: upset, distraught, troubled, concerned, worried, anxious, unhappy) and hungry. This is a stage where people according to the above scripture ‘roam through the land’ looking for a solution to their problem. If we take South Sudan for example, they might travel to Yei, Aweil, Kapoeita, Renk, Tambura, Pochalla, Terekeka, Bentiu, Nimule, Rumbek, Raja, Akobo, Torit… etc. looking to make a living and find a solution to their problems. That is what is meant by ‘roam through the land’. Hunger is known as the need for food. But when people are distressed, it means there are things or policies in the government they are not happy with. A sensitive government should know people’s opinion on its policies or level of service delivery. This is why many academic institutions in the western world do random opinion sampling on major government policies and levels of service delivery from time to time so that the political leaders know what the people ‘down there’ are saying. It is a well-known fact that people naturally are over demanding on governments. But it is prudent for governments to know their opinions; not to meet every demand they have, but to see to it that needs are prioritised and met. This is a stage where any distress and hunger could be addressed to avoid crowds going to streets.

Stage 2: people become famished

If the government fails to attend to the situation in the first stage, people move to the second stage as things worsen. A stage where they become ‘famished’ (synonyms: starving, ravenous, wanting, lacking, in need). This is a stage where people are deeply and severely affected by the problem. In our nations, a stage where prices are no longer affordable to people, the basic needs become too expensive. This is a time when weak elements in the society become predatory. In such a time if one checks the police stations for common crimes, it will be cases of theft, breaking into houses by thieves, money embezzlement in government offices and in the private sector and all sorts of financial fraud, as ‘coping mechanisms’. These problems are common even in times of plenty because a human heart is deceitful, Jeremiah 17:9, and always like Oliver Twist ‘asks for more’. But what I am saying here is that at such times, these problems become accelerated by starvation. It is important to note that until this point, there are no riots in the streets but silent groaning. But it is a fragile situation and any little spark will take people to the streets! This is a stage where in democratic societies the leaders of opposition parties accentuate their opposition on the government because they know that people are ready to side with them or go to the streets. It is a mature time of distress to change governments! ‘Unbearable and rocketing prices’ in the markets that the average citizen cannot afford becomes a common talk in families and in any gatherings. ‘Expensive prices’ occupy front pages and main headings in the daily newspapers. For instance a few months ago, there was a bold heading about high prices in South Sudan on The Citizens Newspaper Editorial (The Citizen: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 – Vol. 9, Issue No. 46): “Who Can save the citizens from the epidemic of skyrocketing prices?” Another bold heading on rocketing food prices in The New Nation Newspaper (The New Nation April 25 - May 8, 2015 page 3) says: “Food Prices up by 300 percent – Oxfam”. The most recent headline was an article about the current fuel shortage in Juba on This Day Newspaper (This Day Nov. 5, 2015 Vol. 1, Issue 36): “Is recurrent fuel shortages the new normal for Nilepet?” Where Dr. James Okuk discusses the shortage of fuel as an essential commodity that ‘cripples the core of the engine of urban life: Its mobility, its connectivity, its power-lighting, its bread, its water and the good mood of the people’. I remember in September 2011, there was a call to ‘boycott buying meat’ by Consumers Trade Union in Khartoum because meat had become too expensive in the market for an average citizen to afford. Are we in a similar situation? As I was writing these lines (November 2015), fuel was nowhere to be found in Juba (see Dr. Okuk’s detailed article) and hundreds and thousands of citizens walked each morning to their workplaces, on foot as public transport was not even available. As a result, The President of the Republic H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit who realized that people were suffering decided to change the management of the oil company responsible for importing oil into the country and replaced it with new leadership to make sure that the oil flow into the country became regular and unhampered. As citizens, we hope this step by H.E the President will bring a permanent solution to this problem and to other problems related to shortages of basic commodities.

Stage 3: People become enraged

This is a stage of despair where people become infuriated, furious, angry, hopping it! A terminal stage! Nothing more to be said in this stage. It is self-explanatory. A time when religious and secular laws as well as moral values are no more respected but broken in the open sight. ‘Al ju’u kafir’ (Hunger is pagan!) goes an Egyptian proverb. Eric Hoffer has his popular saying on this: “When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets it is well for the timid to lock their doors and lie low until the wrath has passed”.[1] According to the Bible, this is a stage when people go to the streets in riots cursing their king (whoever that is) and sadly cursing God along with him: “Looking upwards they, (the people), will curse their king and their God”, Isaiah 8:21. Why should the righteous God be cursed along with a wrong human leadership? It is a leadership problem, it is not God’s problem. The following is an excerpt from an article I took from CNN website in 2011 regarding the riots in Greece during the time of its economic disparity:

“Thousands of Greek "Indignants" have been protesting outside parliament in Athens for more than 30 days. With fiery slogans on their lips and sturdy shoes on their feet, some 30 Spartans last week began marching to Athens to join the thousands of demonstrators occupying the large square opposite Greece's parliament. Despite the burns and blisters on their feet, the Spartans added their loud voice to the chorus of public discontent that has been reverberating across Greece's capital as the country falls deeper into financial crisis. "At the end of the day we, the simple people, have the power and not the banks or the governments", said George Pentafronimos. Rising unemployment, new taxes, salary cuts -- have brought together a diverse group of demonstrators and laid bare a deeper feeling of despondence that some say has been simmering in the country. "It has been accumulating a long time now," said Eftychia Salta, a 33-year-old sound engineer who has been without a job for more than a year. "In the last five or six years people have started to feel disgusted with the political system, especially when there is unemployment, when you have no money," she added. "All this accumulated and led to something more collective." Syntagma Square has been serving as a meeting place for people of all ages and ideologies -- from moderates who typically refrain from street protests to the hardcore activists who have made the square their new home”.[2]

How long does it take to reach stage 3 where people go to the streets? It varies from nation to nation. In Egypt, it was thirty years; in Libya it took 42 years while in Greece it was only six years. How patient the Arabs are! People are patient but no government should fool itself that they will not go to the streets. A hungry person will not care if he/she is shot dead or tortured by security forces for rioting. Remember the Egyptian saying? Hunger is pagan! No matter how patient people are, and no matter how long it takes, people will surely go into riots when their needs are not met. Aristophanes in ‘The Wasps’ said: “Hunger knows no friend but its feeder”.[3]

Somebody reading this will say ‘Mr. Abuk is advocating for riots’. This is not true. I am against going to streets by all means! Why? Going to streets, as all of us know, will mean injury and loss to human life as well as destruction to property. No sensible and decent citizen will ever advocate for such a thing! It is never the ideal thing to choose and go for. I am a peace advocate. Read my articles: ‘Importance of Peace in a Nation’ and ‘The Lee Principle of Development’ that were first printed on The Citizen Newspaper and now part of Rev. Colin Salter’s book – “My Life Alongside God’s Word (Vol. 2)”.[4] I will never incite people to riot. What I am presenting here are the facts as seen and observed from current events and from Biblical perspective. I expect political leadership reading this anywhere to take it as ‘awareness and sensitisation’ and not as a provocation for riots. Riots do not need an advocate. As we have seen in the stages above, they come spontaneously triggered by despair in people after a negative situation becomes fully mature (stage 3). Riots are provoked by governments that refuse to listen to the groans and suffering of the people they rule. It is important to note here that this article is not targeted to specific leadership or government. It is an open article to all leaders both in my country and in the world at large. I hope it serves its intended purpose and is not misunderstood.

Do governments know these stages? Is it important to know? Aristotle in ‘Politics’ says: “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”.[5]

The French revolution of 1792 was known as ‘The bread revolution’ because hunger was the dominant factor in the background. Politicians do not always think that helpless people who can only groan will one day go to the streets as King Solomon said, “The poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are no longer heeded”, Ecclesiastes 9:16. They deceive themselves. The American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King said: “A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard”.[6]

Politicians most often are taken by surprise when citizens go to the streets and ask: Why are they rioting? Marie Antoinette's answer to hungry protesting Parisians during the French revolution indicates that she was completely out of touch with what the suffering people were going through. "Well, then, let them eat cakes" she is reputed to have said. Cakes? How do we expect people to eat cakes that are more expensive when there are no cheaper loaves of breads in the market? Since there are no food shortages in their homes, politicians think cakes are available everywhere! The true test of a government is as to how much it cares for the poor classes of people. To quote Samuel Johnson: “A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization”.[7] Political leaders most often fail to see the suffering of the people they rule. Riots in the end become the only language between the masses and the government. Here is a quotation from REC FOCUS: “On the callousness of our leaders and their nonchalance toward the plight of the masses they govern, a prominent Nigerian in the person of His Eminence, Cardinal Anthony Okogie, has warned of an imminent bloody revolution unless the federal governments listen to the cries of the masses: “I foresee a bloody revolution which will be difficult to contain, because it will involve the military, the police and the general public” (Daily Sun, Tuesday, June 29, 2004). Speaking further he accused the government of having “failed to realise the suffering that the masses are going through”.[8]

One example from the Bible of good leadership is King Solomon. He had a housing and settlement plan as well as food security for his people, 2 Chronicles 8. The basic necessities of life as already said are food, shelter and clothing, 1Timothy 6:8. In our twenty-first century setting, we are called to add education and health care to the list of life’s essentials. Any government that is able to provide these, is a government that is truly at the service of its people. People will not groan when they have average shelter, feeding, clothing, education and healthcare. Whatever needs beside these five – like for instance a car – is a ‘complementary’ need.

2: People groan when oppressed

Oppression has the synonyms of tyrannise, dominate, repress, subjugate, persecute, harass, hound, and keep down. When all these are exercised against civilians by any government, citizens groan. This brings to mind King Asa of Israel. The Bible says: “At that time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people”, 2 Chronicles 16:10. When brutal and tyrannical leaders are in power, people go into hiding. “When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding”, Proverbs 28: 28. Why do people go into hiding? It is because of the terror these rulers put on the people whom they rule. When people are in hiding from fear, they groan. One anonymous person said, “Democracy is removal of fear of expression from citizen’s heart”. When citizens can express themselves freely, both verbally and in writing with no fear of being arrested and tortured, then there is true democracy. In many African and Arab nations opinion writers, especially on political issues, are harassed and threatened day and night. Freedom of worship is another important element in human life. One of the things I am grateful for, to God and our government in South Sudan, is freedom of worship. We are free to worship God without fear of being arrested or persecuted for religious reasons. Napoleon Hill, the American author and businessman in his book Master Key to Riches tells of reasons why people left their nations and migrated to the New World (America) to find freedom of worship and speech: “…the migration of subdued people…to the New World. They came in search of a land not only of material plenty, but which also afforded plenty of opportunity for the expression of personal initiative and freedom of worship and of speech. In America, men and women have been free to follow the dictates of their own consciences. They have the freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of political convictions, freedom for the fullest exercise of their own personal initiative in any calling of their choice, and they have been protected by a form of government which assured them the fruits of their labours”.[9]

Napoleon Hill continues: “Power may be very dangerous or it may serve to glorify certain people, according to the way it is used”. If leaders use power to build up their people and nations, they receive honour and respect from their people but if they use their power and authority to brutalise and tear down the people they rule, they bring bad account on themselves and history will not respect them. Their pages in history will be remembered as dark pages. Hissen Habré,the former emperor of Chad, was recently prosecuted by ICC for atrocities and terror exercised on his people when he was in power. Apostle Paul has a simple but powerful description of the right use of power and authority. If there are leaders out there who want to imitate him let them listen: “For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it”, 2 Corinthians 10:8. Authority when rightly used is for ‘building up’ and not for ‘pulling down.’ Wrong use of power has always resulted in disaster like torture, imprisonment, massacre and genocide. When a country is ruled by a dictator, there is no joy in the market place, no joy in the streets; the playgrounds are empty of young people because the young people are in hiding, no laughter in families, no social gatherings. There is a dark cloud of silence over the nation. Not only do people go into hiding, words also go into hiding. No careless and free talk or chatting. No political talks in any social gathering. No opinion writers’ columns in newspapers etc. Prophet Amos describes such times as ‘evil’ times that the prudent should keep quiet: “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil”, Amos 5:13. These regimes put secret security agents everywhere. Even at home, family members are suspicious of one another for it is possible that one of them is ‘a wolf in sheepskin’.

Once the Lord Jesus was dragged to court and questioned about his teaching and disciples and during the court proceedings, the Bible says one of the officials struck him in the face in front of the court even though He did not say anything wrong! “Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. ‘I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’ When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded. ‘If I said something wrong’, Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’” John 18:19-23.

People in many nations around the globe have been silenced from speaking even if they, like the Lord Jesus, are not saying anything wrong. Innocent civilians like Jesus of Nazareth have been struck down and brutalised by those in power, not because they said anything wrong but because they just expressed themselves and said the truth. Was there anything wrong with the Lord Jesus’ teaching or with His disciples? Never! Then why should He be dragged to court and slapped in front of everybody? The problem was with the system not with Jesus. Listen to the Lord’s reaction and answer to that blow from the court official: “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” This is the same Jesus who said, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other to them also”, Luke 6:29. He did not turn His other cheek to that wrong exercise of power and injustice. What type of court was that? If people have just said the simple truth like Jesus, why arrest, torture and kill them? That is the question Jesus asked in the court of law. In our part of the world, we have witnessed terrible atrocities committed by wicked regimes. We have seen arrests, torture and murder of innocent civilians all in cold blood! The Bible well describes such leadership people as sweeping rain that leaves no crops and roaring lions or charging bears over a helpless people. “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like driving rain that leaves no crops”. “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people”, Proverbs 28:3,15. One example of such a leader in the Bible as already mentioned is King Asa. The Bible says: “At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people”, 2 Chronicles 16:10. King Asa brutally oppressed ‘some’ of his people. The question is who are those ‘some’ he brutally oppressed? In Africa it is easy to tell who those ‘some’ were. These are the people who the dictators (the ‘Asas’) ‘think’ are against them. These are the people who are classified as ‘ANTI-government’ or ‘nation’s enemies’. Countless atrocities have been committed upon innocent civilians on these grounds. People who know nothing about politics have been rounded up and murdered in cold blood just because their close relatives or people from their tribes are leading opposition against the government. These people most often are under the scrutiny of the security agents and are at risk of being arrested any time. Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography, mentioned how the government brutalised the families and relatives of ANC (African National Congress) party leaders who were leading the struggle against the apartheid system in South Africa: “I learned that our house had been raided and the police detained a young relative of Winnie’s (his wife). Winnie was not the only wife being harassed. Alberta Sisulu and Caroline Motsoaledi were detained under the Ninety-Day Detention Act, and Walter’s young son Max was also arrested. This was one of the state’s most barbarous techniques of applying pressure: imprisoning the wives and children of freedom fighters”.[10] These regimes most often are military regimes that come into power through coups. And because they are in fear of being deposed any time, they are suspicious and their slogan is “Either you are with us or you are dead!” Those who say anything against them are maimed or killed. When a human being is insecure, brutally treated, and his right to speak out is taken from him/her, he groans and when s/he groans, God hears. “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out …and I am concerned about their suffering”, Exodus 3:7. When people groan under the heavy load of oppression, God sees it. God wants His people free to speak and worship without risk of being arrested and tortured. Wise political leaders should give space for freedom of speech and expression. Such leaders can adjust their policies accordingly for they learn a lot from those who say both negative and positive things about the government. In life we can learn from both positive and negative viewpoints.

When Rehoboam, son of Solomon, became king after his father’s (King Solomon’s) death, the people’s only request was to make the heavy yoke his grandfather David put upon them lighter. “So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labour and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you”, 1 Kings 12:3-4. Unfortunately, Rehoboam did not grant the people’s request. Instead he threatened to make their yoke heavier and their suffering grave. He said to them: “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions”, 1 Kings 12:14. What was the people’s reaction to this? Because Rehoboam used threatening language and refused to give the people the freedom they wanted, the people left him. “When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So the Israelites went home”, 1 Kings 12:16.

There have been a lot of uprisings against brutal regimes. In my own country (the then united Sudan), the latest was the 1985 uprising against president Nimery’s regime. In the last few years, political events moved in lightning speed in North Africa and the Middle East after a long oppression of citizens by their leaders. Towards the end of December 2010, president Bin Ali of Tunisia was ousted by people’s uprising. This aroused the appetite of other peoples in the region for freedom and sparked more uprisings in a number of countries in the Arab world in January 2011. There were protests in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria…etc. around the same time against the brutal regimes in those countries, as if the wave of change was moving across the Arab world in what is popularly known as “The Arab Spring”. The world in general and Africa in particular witnessed brutal regimes, some are gone, others remain in power today. Dictators like Idi Amin of Uganda committed a lot of atrocities against his people. The following is a short paragraph from an article printed in REC FOCUS about evil regimes in Africa: “Since colonial days to the present, many of our leaders in Africa have proven to be callously evil in the manner they have governed their subjects. The reign of late Idi Amin in Uganda was such an evil one that the number of people he killed and the havoc he wreaked on the country is unprecedented. Milton Obote of the same Uganda was also a murderer of a sort. Other leaders such as Jean Bendel Bokassa of Central Africa, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Jerry Rawling of Ghana, Hissene Habre of Chad, and Sani Abacha of Nigeria all governed their nations and left certain footprints of violence that are difficult to forget by the people they ruled. For instance, Sani Abacha’s reign was one of terror such that the freedom of expression, suppression, callous spending and personal amassing of wealth were all characteristic of his time. He was so much of a terror that news of his sudden death was received with joy in virtually all parts of the country”.[11]

A Bible character comparable to President Sani Abacha whose people did not regret his death is King Jehoram of Israel. The Bible says because of his wickedness, when he died no one in the nation was sorry for him! To be fair to the dead as all of us have countless flaws in life, people in funerals always talk and focus on the positive aspects of the deceased’s life. But King Jehoram is a king that the Bible chose not to be diplomatic about his brutal life and rule even after his death. “After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. His people made no funeral fire in his honour, as they had for his predecessors. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years. He passed away, to no-one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings”, 2 Chronicles 21:18-20. This is something that we should not imitate. Only God the Creator has the right to say or write such a report about somebody after his death. God included this report in His word for political leaders to learn from. What legacy do political leaders and anyone in leadership position want to leave behind?

3: People groan when justice and equality are denied


“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to the evildoers”. “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”, Proverbs 21:15 and 29:7. This is a world where the strong rule. The poor in society like widows, orphans and the economically disadvantaged most often are not granted their rights in the society and in courts of law. The Bible is clear about this. “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly”, Leviticus 19:15 (also see Proverbs 24:23). Leaders who rule the poor with justice are blessed by the Lord. The secret in a long lasting and stable government is in giving the poor justice. “If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever”, Proverbs 29:14. One good Bible example of a king who defended the cause of the poor and gave them their rights is King Josiah of Judah. Because of that all went well with him. “He did what was right and just, and so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, so all went well with him. Is that not what it means to know me declares the Lord?” Jeremiah 22:15,16. The righteous ruler should care about justice for the poor and speak up for them. “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”, Proverbs 29:7.

When poor and helpless citizens go to court with the strong and the powerful and their rights are not given, the only thing they can do is to groan. But when citizens groan, God hears and comes up to defend them. “Do not exploit (rob – New Living Translation) the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will exact life for life”, Proverbs 22:22-23. Justice is not only about giving the poor their rights in court. It involves equality and equity in services like schools, healthcare, housing, fair living conditions etc. The poor in the land should be able to enjoy these services and not be marginalised. It also means paying their dues (salaries, post-service benefits, pensions etc.) on time. “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it.Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin”, Deuteronomy 24:14-15. It is not a good thing when a poor worker is not paid his wages before sunset. His children back home are expecting their father or mother to come home at the end of the day with a piece of bread. If the employer delays their payment at the end of the day, their groaning and the hungry cry of their children ascend to heaven against him/her. “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty”, James 5:1,4.

4: People groan when there is corruption in a nation

Corruption is defined by Transparency International as ‘the abuse of trusted power for personal gain.’ According to King Solomon, corruption thrives when the wicked are in power. “When the wicked thrive, so does sin (corruption)”, Proverb 29:16. Wicked and corrupt regimes produce corrupt societies. There are people who love the chaotic situation especially in countries where there is no strong rule of law so that they can exercise corruption unnoticed. One recent article in SKY NEWS on dealing with corruption titled: PM Urges Fight Against ‘Evil’ Of Corruption (SKY NEWS Nov. 28, 2015), where then Prime Minister of UK David Cameron is quoted to be saying:

  • “Corruption is one of the greatest enemies of our time”

  • (The Prime Minister claims) “corruption in government in some countries is holding back progress in economic growth and developing peaceful, inclusive societies”

  • (According to Mr. Cameron) “corruption adds 10% to business costs globally and cutting it by 10% could benefit the global economy by $380bn every year”.

One anonymous writer wrote: “Corruption happens with frightening frequency on nearly every level of human experience. Children deceive parents. Parents mislead children. Professionals slant news to get ahead in their jobs. Government officials play cheap politics in place of practicing noble statesmanship. Physicians care more about money than about healing the sick. Sadly, duplicity exists in many churches”. When those in power are after their personal gain, they do not fight corruption even if they know about it. Corruption is one of the symptoms of moral decay in any society when it is practised. The Bible describes corruption as little foxes that ruin vineyards or economies that are blooming! “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom”, Song of Songs 2:15. According to the above scripture, the little foxes ruin the blooming vineyards (economies) in silence, out of sight. Little financial corruptions like embezzlement and bribery always bring strong ‘booming’ economies tumbling down. And this brings economic disparity and public groaning. Whenever there is corruption, a simple paper work in any office becomes so complicated because those involved need ‘something’ before they sign and pass that paper ahead. This is what is known as extortion. For instance, when Paul was imprisoned, there was no fault to be found in him but King Felix expected Paul to pay him something to be able to release him! So the Bible says ‘he sent for him frequently and talked with him’.

“At the same time he (King Felix) was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison”, Acts 24:26-27. This went on for two years and Apostle Paul refused to pay a bribe to be released from prison so King Felix left him in prison! How many of us today can bear being in prison for two years when there is a short cut of ‘paying something’ to ‘King Felix’ and you are immediately released?

The difference between bribery and extortion is that bribery most often involves crime while extortion involves paper work. To put it simply, a man or woman practising extortion would say ‘if you give me amount x or y I will sign your papers immediately’ but one practising bribery would say ‘now that you are involved in this crime and you are found guilty, if you give me amount x or y I will make sure you are released and not penalised for that’. How does it happen in our day-to-day life? Those practising bribery or extortion will not tell us directly that they need money but indirectly. Here are few of the terminologies in Africa related to bribery and extortion I happened to gather together:

  • Understand my language or what I am saying: meaning I am not signing your paper or letting you go if you do not release or promise to release something (cash). ‘The language’ means indirect denial to give the service unless some cash is paid. How does it appear in office and paper work? Come later in the afternoon, come tomorrow, come next week... I do not know where I placed your file, give me time to find it and see me in two weeks! That is the ‘language’ that needs to be understood! Deliberate and tactical delaying of the process (paper work) until ‘something/cash’ is released for the work to be done! But when cash is released, things get done in a lightning speed. This does not mean that all who ask us to ‘come later’ are involved in corruption. Even in corrupt societies there are still good and faithful citizens who discharge their duties with clean hands. But when a society is infested with worms of corruption people groan as simple administrative processes become complicated and a nightmare. Can you imagine how it pains a helpless citizen with little transport money coming from 30 km away to follow-up a paper work in a certain office, and is told to come again tomorrow, not once but several times? What will he do except to groan!

  • You know the right thing to do but you do not want to do it! Meaning you know that if you release some cash, things will quickly get done for you. The question is: Is bribery the right thing to do? Absolutely no! What is the right thing to do? Two things: firstly, the officials involved should do their job as stated by the law, and secondly, I should not pay bribes to speed up the process. Those are the right things to do! But corrupt people turn things upside down as the book of Isaiah says: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter”, “who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent”, Isaiah 5:20, 23.

  • Go with me an extra mile: Meaning you need to sacrifice for your work to be done. That is not the extra-mile the Lord Jesus talked about (see Matthew 5:41). Money paid for ‘extra-mile’ goes directly to the pocket of the official asking for it and not to government account. Here I repeat again, there are good and ideal citizens everywhere.

  • Validate your documents: At a migration office in one of the countries, a foreigner produces his passport with a valid visa and other related documents explaining why he has come into the country and is surprised when the official at the migration office desk asked him to ‘validate’ his documents. ‘How do I validate my documents?’ asked the foreigner who was not acquainted with the corruption jargons and codes used in that country. ‘Validation’ here means produce some cash for us to stamp your passport and let you into the country even if there is nothing wrong with your documents!’ Where is the world going? Such ‘validation’ can easily give criminals and terrorists access into a country for what would prevent them being given entry visas if they place a ‘validation fee’ of $1000 into their passports? They can easily enter such a country even without valid visas.

  • One of your passport pages is missing: Related to the above ‘validate your documents’ is this corruption code, by another migration officer at the port of entry to his nation. There is nothing in this word that one page of a passport is missing! What they mean is that if you place $100 note between the pages of the passport and give it to them, there would not be any missing page and your passport would be quickly stamped for you to enter the country! Again, such a practice can allow any criminal to enter a nation without true visa. If a criminal who does not have a visa from the country’s consulate in a respective country comes to a port of entry (border, sea port or airport) and places $500 in his passport as the missing page(s) needed by those officials, he would easily get into the country to do any harm and damage imaginable, just because of corruption.

In our time, right things are no longer called by their true names and this makes people blinded to sin and not know how to distinguish between what is wrong and what is right. For instance sexual immorality becomes ‘love affair’, bribery becomes ‘facilitation’, lies become ‘white lies’, drinking becomes ‘mental relaxation’, financial infidelity becomes ‘problem solving strategy’, etc. How cunning Satan is! Whatever name given to sin, the fact remains that it is still sin. The bottom line is that whatever form of corruption is practiced in a society, especially by those in leadership, it brings groaning to the common people.

A time came when the people of Israel decided to have a king over them like the rest of the nations on earth. But Prophet Samuel warned them that the king they desired would be a corrupt king who will rob them of everything:

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him,… now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have. But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do’. Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights:

He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.

He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.

He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.’ But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’ Then Samuel said to the Israelites, ‘Everyone go back to your town’”, 1 Samuel 8:4-22.

God gave them (the people of Israel) Saul son of Kish who took from them all they had! If you see the Bible text above, the phrase ‘he will take’ is repeated six times. King Saul is well known as a ‘taking or grabbing king.’ Today in many societies, there are leaders like Saul but they have modernised the way they ‘take’ from people. This includes all forms of corruption and unnecessary over-taxations imposed on helpless citizens. Financial embezzlements and money laundering are other forms of corruption that need more space to talk about. But as Africans, Sudanese and South Sudanese, these are well known to all of us.

But it is also important to underline here that paying taxes to the government is a noble duty that each and every good citizen should not try to escape from. The taxes that governments take return back to the public in terms of services like health, education, infrastructure and other services. Most often citizens try to avoid paying taxes because they think that leaders like King Saul of Israel will take what they pay and pocket it for themselves. Although this argument is to some extent true, it is not genuine, firstly because not every government system is corrupt. There are still governments and leaders who use citizens’ taxes to deliver services to the people. Secondly, God wants us to submit to authorities and one of the ways we submit to government authority is paying taxes. The Bible acknowledges authorities as ordained by God and they should therefore be respected and obeyed when they ask for taxes. Not to pay due tax is a sin for the Christian.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour”. Romans 13:1-7 (emphasis mine).

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself endorses payment of taxes to governments. When He was asked if people should pay taxes or not, His well-known answer and opinion on this subject was and is still known to all:

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”, Matthew 22:21.

One Biblical example of obedience to authorities is the family of Joseph and Mary. When the authorities of their time decreed that each and every citizen should go to his/her hometown to register for census, they obeyed and did exactly that. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, (to be taxed with Mary – King James Version, Authorised Version) who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child”, Luke 2:1-5.

Our duty as citizens therefore is to submit to what the state and authorities demand of us regardless of what type of government and leadership is in place, if good or bad. When we carefully study scriptures that talk about giving in the Bible, like Malachi 3:10, Luke 6:38, Acts 20:35, Proverbs 3:9-10 etc., we see that God never attached to them conditions like “If the church/government is good, give – if corrupt don’t”. Instead God speaks about our faithfulness and blessings that result from our giving. Our duty and obligation is to pay the taxes and what happens to the money at the other end of the tunnel is now between God and those concerned. Paying taxes to the government is comparable to paying tithes to the church, Malachi 3:10. God wants to see our faithfulness and obedience first, as we obey His commands.

Let me conclude this point by saying that it is important to educate and sensitise our families and communities not to be involved in any form of corruption. Corruption brings public groaning which we should not be part of and to escape paying taxes to the government and to avoid paying taxes to the state is in itself another form of corruption.

5: People groan when there is no vision for a nation

“Where there is no vision the people perish” (King James Version), “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint” (New International Version), Proverbs 29:18.

When leaders come to power do they have the vision of taking the people into a new level of development or standard of living? When leaders amass for themselves wealth from national resources that could have gone for development and service delivery nationwide, they drain the economy and stunt development. The ultimate result is that people groan as they see people in other nations in different levels of development while they are shut up in darkness and under development. People groan and perish when a country is led by a leader who has no vision for taking the people to another level of development. For instance, in a time when the world has become a global village, many regimes have cut off their peoples from any communication with the external world. I was in a country where Internet was illegal! Any sort of touch with the outside world is not allowed. To check my mails, I had to go through narrow alleys and into a basement room that is dimly lit to find a computer with Internet connection and to pay expensively for the service. This is in a time when Internet has become a daily and cheap commodity and open service for all in many parts of the world. I asked the man with the underground Internet Cafe: Why is it that you are not allowed to use Internet? I still remember his answer very clearly: ‘This regime does not want people’s eyes to open because it thinks that when people know the truth; people will turn against it’. As I write these lines, that nation is in turmoil. The citizens of that nation are turning against that brutal regime that has kept them backward and locked up for decades. How important it is to have a visionary servant leader. A visionary servant leader, as Psalm 23 says, leads the people to green pastures and to quiet waters (= better and peaceful future). “The wise (the visionary leaders) have eyes in their heads, while the fool (visionless leaders) walks in the darkness”, Ecclesiastes 2:14, says the wise King Solomon.


We have seen the two sides of the coin, the godly leaders and the wicked. What makes citizens celebrate and what makes them groan. Godly leaders bring blessings into a nation but the wicked ones bring suffering and misery. King David as a political leader who had walked with God for many years dedicated his last words for leaders in general and politicians in particular: I wish to give His Excellency King David the conclusion of this chapter that we learn from him:

“These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God ofJacob, the hero of Israel’s songs:“TheSpirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.TheGod of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me:`When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth’”, 2 Samuel 23:1-4.

My prayer is that our nations be nations where citizens rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness and not dens of groaning citizens. God bless the leaders of our nations with wisdom to lead the people to the desired haven of a better future. “He guided them to their desired haven”, Psalm 107:30.

Discussion guide

Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted

1. “Society’s groaning is a sign of a sick and affected nation”. Share ways you see and hear people “groaning”. Explain Proverbs 28:3,15,28 and 29:2 in your context.

2. 2 Chronicles 7:14-8:18 show some of Solomon’s “good leadership”. What lessons can you draw for today from it?

3. “God hears and sees” the oppressed, Exodus 2:25; 3:7-10; Acts 6:1-4. How many qualities do you think are needed in the oppressed people to wait for God’s deliverance? Which are the most important? Why?

4. “Leaders who rule the poor with justice are blessed by the Lord”. Jeremiah 22:11-17 describe King Josiah and his son Shallum/Jehoahaz. The history is in 2 Kings 22:1-23:28. What does it mean to “rule the poor” and to “be blessed by the Lord”?

5. Since “corruption is the abuse of trusted power for personal gain”, consider ways you have seen it happen, and ways you have avoided getting involved in it. Perhaps Dr Alex’s five example phrases may help? Acts 24:24-27; Isaiah 5:16, 5:20-23,5:25. How does remembering God’s holiness help you control your own actions?

6. Why did God warn the Israelites about the dangers of having a human king? In 1 Samuel 8:4-22 “He will take” occurs six times concerning “taxes”. What is the citizen’s correct attitude to paying taxes? Romans 13:6-7.

7. Spend some time praying: “God bless the leaders of our nations with wisdom to lead the people to the desired haven of a better future”. Share things you can do towards this objective, as well as praying.

[1] The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, . [2] Despair turns to protest for Greece's 'Indignants' by Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN: June 28, 2011. [3] . [4] My Life Alongside God’s word (Vol. 2), (WeeFour publications: Redruth, Cornwall, UK) 2014, p.159, p.151. [5] . [6] . [7] . [8] REC FOCUS Vol. 4, p.71-72, September 2004. [9] Napoleon Hill Master Key to Riches (Ballantine, Random House: New York) 1965 pp. x, xii, p.103. [10] Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom (Back Bay books, Little Brown and Co.: New York) 1996, p.353. [11] REC FOCUS Vol. 4, No. 3 p.71-72, September 2004.


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