By Dr. James Okuk
October 5, 2011 (SSNA) — The discussion about relocation of the capital city of the Republic of South from Juba to Ramciel has been re-convalescing since the time the SPLM/A government took its seat in Juba in the name of Southerners and within the umpire of the CPA implementation derives. Some discussants have been for the relocation and others against it. Each side has given the reasons and justification in accordance to their outlook and interests. Others have chosen to remain neutral or/and silent for one reason or another. But all in all the spectrums were much pre-occupied with the question of “why relocate the capital to a new place” and “why keep it in the old one.”
For me, great notice need to be taken on all the answers given to the “why question” especially at the present stage where the question of “how to relocate the capital city” has become a praça derivative from the highest government authorities in South Sudan.
Among the high-flying rationales provided for the relocation is: scarcity and difficulty of land acquisition in Juba and around its vicinity. The Bari ethnic group (and in the context of Equatorians) has been accused of generating this situation, though the ground of the blame is not properly substantiated when critically scrutinized.
But reading from reactions of some members of Bari community itself, it is becoming apparently difficult to identify who is really the Bari tribe; its chiefs, its intellectuals, or its who? Indeed, an existentialist question but a superfluous one as we speak now!
It is also becoming difficult to separate the Bari tribe from the Central Equatoria (CE) government regarding the issue of who should allocate land to the residents of the current capital city, Juba? Sometimes the CE government is implicated in this swap, and at other times the Bari tribal chiefs are deeply involved in the deal.
Of course, this dual authority has become part of the problem rather than a solution, especially with the vague application of the CPA cliché that “land in Southern Sudan belongs to the tribal communities”. The Interim Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan (2011) tried to clarify this by categorizing the land of South Sudan into: government’s land, community’s land, individual’s land, and unidentified (may be no-man) land. Yet, this is still manipulateable by interpretation from legal loopholers. Thus, the problem whether Juba land belongs to the government (i.e., CE government) or the Bari ethnic community remains a dilemma with beneficiaries of course, even from Non-Bari categories.
But for me, I have a different view from the argumentative common bandwagon of the retention or relocation of the present capital city of South Sudan. I prefer to talk about “relocation” without necessarily associating this to Ramciel though I am a bit cautious of the term “relocation” because of its denotation of keeping the old habit intact.
I am of the opinion that there is a need to relocate but to establish a new capital city for the new republic in the world map. Juba is an old town, and as the case of old human habitats it would prove difficult to transform it into a modern city worth of a millennium standard. Any attempt to modernize Juba with up-to-dated planning and architecture is susceptible to resistance, destruction and failure. History of old cities is repugnant with many proves to this thesis. Hence, it is not wise to make recurrence of bad history. This shouldn’t have anything to do with blaming the Bari tribe or CE government or whoever else.
The world is moving forward in a constant flux. South Sudanese shouldn’t afford to remain behind or get stagnated to old things. South Sudan is a new country that deserves a new capital city. We should not beat around the bush here. It shouldn’t matter much whether the new capital city should be established in Ramciel or elsewhere in any of the strategic territories of South Sudan. If the proposed Ramciel is found to be unsuitable geologically or climatically for building permanent human habitats, there shouldn’t be any romantic affiliation to it though admired by Dr. John Garang, the iconic father of SPLM/A. A new location should be explored immediately as an alternative.
It is not secrete that the central government of the Republic of South Sudan has already surpassed the question of “why relocate the capital city from Juba”. The committees are already established to pursue this task. Thus, the focus should be shifted to the question of “how to relocate the capital city from Juba to Racial or elsewhere suitable”. It is here that the concern of some South Sudan law-makers (MPs) could make sense; the procedures of how to do it rightly with a common admiration.
The question of why it has been decided that the capital city should be relocated to Ramcile is already a by-gone case and non-significant at the moment. Whoever wastes his time discussing this question is only doing it on a history-basis rather than futuristic strategy.
I advice that our national lawmakers in Juba start talking on how to relocate/establish the new capital city for the new Republic of South Sudan rather than attempting to delve on useless blame-game. They should begin providing the proper procedures and legal instruments for this noble move to a new reality. Good samples and examples are available worldwide for speeding up this task: the cases of Abuja, Pretoria and Brasilia are some best examples of capital cities’ relocations.
Lame and lazy excuses of stopping the process of relocation/establishment of the new capital city for the new Republic should get discouraged and discarded, even in the pretext of parliament vote or referendum. Let’s get to pragmatic business for the good of our new country. A standardized modern capital city is also part and parcel of basic services to be provided to the people of South Sudan. Human beings do not live on food alone or other few basic things. They need nice cities too.
Those who think that the new capital city for the new country is not a priority/urgent service delivery are not being realistic with the demands of twenty first century. For example, if it is a matter of need for good schools and education, the best of this could be provided in the new capital city. If it is a need for good hospitals and health, the new capital city could be a modern container for this basic service. If it is a need for roads and transport, the new capital city could be a promoter of linking different states of South Sudan to it efficiently, etc.,.
I am not a believer in utopia of “taking towns and cities to villages of South Sudan”. Our modern world of today suggests the opposite and we must learn to live the life of our time. The more we opt for formal education and advancement/development, the more we will be forced to leave villages (or be villagers) and go to modern town/cities. The up-to-dated demographic findings in the world now demonstrate that human beings are moving away from their villages to cities and not vice versa. Thus, to be realistic with the demands of the era we should go a head to build good cities for our new life and posterity. It is best to start with a new capital city as a priority amongst other basic needs for our new country, South Sudan.
In conclusion, it is always best to a have a best capital city within a shorter period if possible. Let Juba remain an old city for history. We should start moving to the new capital city in Ramciel for future or elsewhere if this beautiful swampy area is found unsuitable for constructing modern buildings and other requirements of contemporary world cities. Let’s leave for history the question of why relocate the capital city from Juba and focus on how to establish a very nice new capital city of our pride! South Sudanese should not be portrayed as if they live on priority of food alone. Pursuing life of modernity is also a basic need of our time although it is costly in terms of financing.
I am looking forward to see Ramciel and other new cities in South Sudan springing up and thriving beautifully to the admiration of our people and the rest of world’s nations. Development does not need to be put on hold nor does it need a referendum for it to commence. Building a new capital city is part of the development process for the new Republic ofSouth Sudan. Let’s not delay this need for any lame-duck rational!
I am not against Juba but this Bari Community’s land has become old to bear in the new era! Let’s build a new capital city urgently even with a loan.
Dr. James Okuk is a South Sudanese reachable at [email protected]