Those opposing relocation of capital to Ramciel have a hidden agenda!

Quote: “Procrastination is a thief; therefore, you must evict it out of your plan before it destroys it”!

By: Deng Riek Khoryoam, South Sudan

September 28, 2011 (SSNA) — The council of ministers in its first meeting chaired by H.E. the president, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit resolved to relocate the capital city of the government of the republic of South Sudan to Ramciel. This decision was warmly received and welcomed by many citizens in Juba and elsewhere in South Sudan. Earlier this year, before the July 9th, the president had formed a ministerial committee tasked to look for a spacious location “befitting “the capital of the soon-to be-independent country, the republic of South Sudan. The committee was headed by Gen. Oyay Deng Ajak, the former minister of investment in the former government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and it comprised of other ministers. They did their part to the best of their abilities and knowledge as they were entrusted to do that job by the president. The rest is now history!

Those who are opposing or against the location of capital to Ramciel have a hidden agenda, and they should tell us. In fact, those who complain or criticize the government for having taken that bold decision to have the capital moved to Ramciel should not just complain fold handed; they should be honest and try to convince the majority of citizens, who are for the relocation of the capital to Ramciel. They should also be rational and logical in their reasoning so that they are not accused of being unreasonable or implausible. Those unscrupulous personalities in the ilk of John Adruga and Thomas Wani should go beyond trying to tell us or criticizing the government that one of the top government’s priorities shouldn’t be about capital relocation.

First of all, the government of the republic of South Sudan never thought of moving to another location before, within central Equatoria state or elsewhere, till the Bari community started to petition the government to move elsewhere beyond the territory of central Equatoria state. So any claim or accusation that the government had wanted or intended to move the capital in the first place is baseless and falsified, to say the least. The allegation is unfounded. And secondly, Juba by its very nature does not fit to be the capital of the republic of South Sudan, not only because it’s a rocky or mountainous area, but because it’s at the edge of the border to the foreign countries. Thirdly, there have been a lot of problems with land acquisition in Juba as non-Bari or non-Equatorians were denied the rights to acquire land as citizens.

As a result, the infamous word “land grabbing” came into being and was now a common word used by even those whose land was never taken by anybody. While I don’t dispute the fact that some cases of land grabbing did exist or did take place in Juba, I also think that Bari people and some other Equatorians are the creation of this phenomenon. Any capital city anywhere in the world does not belong to one particular community but to all who work and live there regardless of where they come from. For instance, Nairobi, the capital city of the republic of Kenya was said to be a Masaai’s land before but now it’s for all the Kenyan people. Kampala once belonged to Bugandans but now, it belongs to every Ugandan citizen regardless of the community that person comes from. It’s like that everywhere in the world. But it’s was not the case in Juba. What was causing confusion though was that ambiguous article, which existed in the interim constitution of Southern Sudan, 2005; that wasn’t clear about how or who could regulate the land usage. The land commission remained muted and silence when citizens were fitted against one another on the issue of land ownership.

If Bari community had wanted the capital to remain on their soil, then they should have done us a favour by not discriminating on-Bari or non-Equatorians on land ownership. We are fed up with this issue of land or no land. We fought to refuse to be second class citizens in our own country; therefore, we cannot afford to become other second class citizens in central Equatoria state. We want to relocate to any other location in South Sudan where everybody will be somebody, who will thus be treated with utmost respect and dignity they deserve. The local community has made riches over the past sixth years of the CPA era and therefore, they have nothing to lose now, since many have become millionaires over a short period of time because of this lucrative business – the land. You shouldn’t be surprised to find one claiming to own 10 or 20 plots of land saying his/her dad was buried there some decades ago and you wonder how many dads surely that person has. But for goodness’s sake, where was that person when Juba was under the occupation of the Jallaba till 2005? Did anyone complain or say this is my father’s land during the time of SAF? I don’t think so!

In conclusion, I should make it explicitly clear that I have no problem with Bari community in particular and Equatorians in general. The local Bari people might have been incited by the so- called “politicians” who wanted to be attended to. I highly respect the local Bari community for their unshakeable stance towards the relocation of capital to Ramciel or another location beyond its territory. We should desist from criticizing the government on this particular issue of the capital relocation because it’s like the government was just responding to the popular call of the people of South Sudan to go to a spacious location. The government cannot provide basic services under these conditions of ‘no land’ as it’s the case in Juba. On the other hand, planning to relocate the capital to Ramciel does not mean that the government is prioritizing relocation of capital over basic services; these are two different issues, fortunately or unfortunately.

Those who are opposing this capital relocation maybe those who have built huge houses, if not storey buildings or perhaps, those with huge investment projects here! Unfortunately, they have misconceived the whole notion of capital relocation. It does not mean abandoning Juba for good; it will remain as a business centre or an industrial city. We were not able to control the influx of foreigners coming into Juba because it’s at the edge or border point to Uganda and Kenya. You do not need to be worried because after all, we are not moving to Ramciel tomorrow or after tomorrow, it’ll be in two to three years time, depending on fast they are in putting everything up. You also do not need to concern yourself so much with the issue of money since the government will contract a company to build its offices and other institutions. The money meant for basic services will not be diverted to building Ramciel as it’s a project by itself. It’ll be taken care of by the government! If you have seen the blueprint plan of Ramciel, you wouldn’t raise your voice against it because it’s good and far better than Juba.

Finally, I appeal to the communities near Ramciel not to send mixed signals to us. We know it’s not a “no man’s land” as it’s within the territory of Lakes state but the information we have at our disposal has it that it’s only a grazing land during the dry season. We might be wrong but we could not be more wrong on this! Please do not give us a wrong impression that you are after compensation as a precondition to your acceptance of this. Be cool!! And to my president Kiir: please do not be confused by those voices, which are against the relocation of capital to Ramciel or any other place in South Sudan. Treat them as ‘lone voices’ and move forward with the plan. This is procrastination at its best, which cannot be entertained at this point in time. Let’s go to Ramciel!!!

The Author is a civil society activist. He lives in South Sudan and could be reached for comments at [email protected].

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