On President Salva Kiir First Official Visit to the Jewish State of Israel

"I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land, and with me are all South Sudanese people. Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen”—said President Kiir to President Shimon Peres of Israel.

By PaanLuel Wel, Washington DC, USA

December 21, 2011 (SSNA) — The Jewish state of Israel “recognized South Sudan a day after it declared independence in July, with Netanyahu calling Kiir and offering Jerusalem’s expertise in developing the fledgling country’s infrastructure, communications network and agriculture.” As President Salva Kiir landed in Israel on Tuesday, Reuters reports that:

“Israel hosted the leader of its newest ally in Africa, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, which was recognized by the Jewish state hours after it declared independence in July” (Reuters).

On his first official and historic visit to the Jewish state of Israel, Salva Kiir Mayaardit, the South Sudanese president, whose entourage included Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nhial Deng Nhial, Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Gen. John Kong Nyuon, and Minister at the Office of the President Emmanuel Lowilla, exudes both emotion and gratitude to the Jewish state:

"I am very excited to be here, to set foot in the Promised Land. Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people – we wouldn’t exist without you. You fought beside us to allow for the inception of South Sudan and we would like to learn from you…We have shared values. Throughout history we have overcome similar struggles. We will work with Israel in the future to bolster the strategic ties between our countries…South Sudan is interested in pursuing joint ventures with Israel in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture, water conservation and advanced technologies” (Y-net News)

Though Jerusalem Post described the trip as “the low-key, one-day, an under-the-radar visit”, President Kiir was nevertheless formally received by all the top leaders of the Israeli government. Reuters informs us that:

“Kiir met Israeli President Shimon Peres and toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem ahead of talks later in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak” (Reuters).

In what the Israeli’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised as “this is an historic; first visit by the president of this new country, the 193rd state recognized by the United Nations half a year ago”, each of the leaders took turn to recognize the South Sudanese President and hailed his visit as an historic and important milestone in the long strategic relationship between the two countries.

As reported by the Israel National News, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who had earlier this year visited Juba, South Sudan, and the one who officially welcomed President Kiir at the airport on Tuesday, told the visiting South Sudanese leader that:

"Your choice of Israel for one of your first visits as president reflects the deep friendship and natural partnership between South Sudan and Israel. Ties between our two countries will continue to strengthen. There is great potential for cooperation between us, and your visit is very important in the establishment of cooperation in many fields, including economic relations, agriculture, water, energy, and more" (Israel National News).

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, President Kiir counterpart, President Shimon Peres of Israel, while receiving him, told President Kiir that:

"This is an exciting and historical moment for me and for the State of Israel. Israel has supported, and will continue to support, your country in all areas in order to strengthen and develop it. We know that you courageously and wisely struggled against all odds to establish your country and for us, the birth of South Sudan is a milestone in the history of the Middle East and in advancing the values of equality, freedom and striving for peace and good neighborly relations”(Jewish telegraphic Agency.)

To that, President Kiir responded by saying:

"As a nation that rose from dust, and as the few who fought the many, you have established a flourishing country that offers a future and economic prosperity to its children. I have come to see your success” (AFP).

On his part, the Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, as noted by the Jewish Space, later posted to his Facebook wall that:

“I met today with South Sudan President Salva Kiir and agreed that an Israeli delegation would leave for South Sudan soon. The delegation will examine means of assisting the South Sudan people who have suffered greatly in recent years, in developing their new country” (Jspace.com).

Although the main goal of the one-day official visit was not explicit, the two leaders, President Kiir and PM Bibi Netanyahu, are believed to have discussed, among other things, the issue of illegal immigrants from Africa in Israel and the possibility of repatriating South Sudanese and Darfuri migrants to the new country. The tiny state of Israel has been struggling to cope with refugees from (old) Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Jerusalem Post and Sudan Tribune recorded that the meeting between the two leaders:

“Plans to discuss solutions for illegal immigrants from Africa [and]…focus on repatriating illegal Sudanese refugees who flowed into the Jewish state over the last few years. [Moreover] The Jewish state promised to assist South Sudan in areas of infrastructure, communications and agriculture.”

The peaceful divorce and independence of the Republic of South Sudan provided a great inspiration to the Israeli leaders. As reported by AFP, Israeli’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, pointed out that:

"The story of your independence ought to set a very good example for anyone interested in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East. A country cannot emerge virtually" (Agence France-Presse).

That the independence of South Sudan could be touted as the "proper model” for the ultimate resolution of the perennial Middle East’s conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs would strike some observers as ironic. Just in October of this year, The National, a United Arab Emirate Newspaper found that:

“The majority (77%) of UAE residents polled in a survey suspected that the birth of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, was orchestrated by the US and Israel to weaken Arab countries” (The National).

For the most part since African countries threw off the yoke of European colonization, Israeli’s diplomacy has been a disaster in Africa. This was mainly for two key reasons: Israel former close association with apartheid regime of South Africa that alienated almost all Sub-Saharan African countries and the Palestinians’ plight that angered North African—and other Islamic countries in Africa.

As of late, the Jewish state appears to be on the diplomatic offensive. Jerusalem Post again:

“Kiir’s visit comes two months after the leaders of two other countries, Uganda and Kenya, visited Jerusalem. It also comes as Netanyahu is planning a visit to sub-Saharan Africa in February. He is expected to visit Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya; although the final schedule has not yet been finalized…It comes at a time when Israel, amid sweeping changes in the region, is looking to strengthen its ties with sub-Saharan Africa” (Jerusalem Post).

However, Israel’s ties with the South Sudanese rebels—and people—goes way back to the 1960s during the time of Anyanya One till the emergence of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army—the SPLM/A. Israel was the backbone of the Anyanya One Movement—the military wing of the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) headed by General Joseph Lagu Yanga.

According to Arop Madut’s Sudan’s Painful Road to Peace, between 1967 and 1968, two batches of the Anyanya One soldiers, comprising about forty officers and under the leadership of Colonel Joseph Lagu, were selected and sent to Israel for effective military training:

“The first batch included: Joseph Lagu Yanga, Frederick Brian Maggot, Paul Awel, Emmanuel Abuur Nhial, Alison Manani Magaya, William Yanga, Mathew Pagan, Stephen Ogut, John Okwak, Edward Peter, Escopas Juma, and Edward Lumodi, among others…the second batch were: John Okech, Peter Cyrillo, Dominic Diim Deng, Isaiah Paul, Ambrose Monyteeng, Kenneth Simone, Bona Baang, Gordon Muortat Mabei, Francis Ngor Makiec, Abraham Hilel and others” (Arop Madut).

Furthermore, in 1970, the Anyanya One Movement selected and sent the third batch of officers to Israel:

“The third batch that was sent in 1970 included John Garang de Mabior (the only university graduate), Stephen Baak Madut, Salva Mathok, Caesar Ayok Deng Kuol, Simone Ayom, Francis Malek, Simone Makuach, Samuel Jeiel and Amos Agook” (Arop Madut).

Sometimes, in the midst of South Sudanese leaders endless wrangling over power, the Israelis were compelled to take side and to impose—for the sake of the South Sudanese struggle—some unilateral decisions and favored leaders on the Anyanya One Movement. One such incident happened during a bitter power struggle between Chairman Gordon Muortat of the Nile Provisional government (NPG) and his estranged chief of staff Colonel Joseph Lagu. Arop Madut again:

“…Lagu made it known to the Anyanya factions all over South Sudan that consignment of military hardware and relief supplies would not reach them unless they pledge their allegiance to his leadership…the Israeli experts who have been training the Anyanya freedom fighters flew to Kampala, Uganda [and]…they sent a letter to Teet-Adol, the Anyanya secret command post in Bahr el-Ghazal….the letter contained an order to the local commander to sent his representative to them in Kampala. Colonel Emmanuel Abuur and his adjutant Stephen Madut Baak immediately left for Kampala to meet the Israelis. The Israeli envoys told Colonel Abuur, in no uncertain terms, that the decision had been reached that all the Anyanya forces all over the Southern Provinces should pledge their allegiance to Joseph Lagu, now Major General….Colonel Abuur was convinced that any military and non-military aid was conditional upon loyalty to Major General Joseph Lagu….A military delegation was sent to Chairman Gordon Muortat to brief him about the sour turn of events. The delegation pleaded [with] him to stand down and leave for exile….Muortat lowered the NPG’s flag, dissolved his government and stepped down peacefully. He was then escorted to the Congo border where he was to live in exile” (Arop Madut).

But as the Agence France-Presse (AFP) described below, those ties between the state of Israel and the South Sudanese people and rebels were later perfected and cemented during the South Sudan war of independence under the stewardship of the SPLM/A of Dr. John Garang:

“Israel’s ties with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which is now the south’s ruling party, have long been close, with the Jewish state allegedly providing arms during the war, although neither side has publicly acknowledged any weapons transfers” (AFP).

The fruitions of those long years of South Sudanese protracted struggle and partnership with the Jewish state were finally realized this year, 2011. As South Sudan official declared her independence from (north) Sudan on July 9, 2011, IsraAID, the humanitarian arm of the Israeli government—akin to the American USAID—sent aid to South Sudan in July 2011. Here is how Shachar Zahavi, the founding director of IsraAID, rationalizes it:

“As a small and relatively newborn country Israel has gained experience in various specialties, such as water, agriculture, post-traumatic stress syndrome, education, migration and others that would be valuable to the people of South Sudan who are now building their country. It is our mission, consistent with Jewish values, to reach out to our new friends in any way we can” (Y-Net News).

True to the wonderful observations of President Salva Kiir Mayardit:

"As a nation that rose from dust, and as the few who fought the many, you have established a flourishing country that offers a future and economic prosperity to its children. I have come to see your success” (AFP).

Both South Sudanese government and the patriotic people of South Sudanese have lots to learn from the state of Israel. After all, our immense suffering, though paltry relative to that of the Jews, parallels theirs. We share common spiritual homeland in the Holy Land and our mutual military ties is as old as our own long road to freedom.

Though they have long been displaced from their ancestral and Biblical homeland—and hence suffered immeasurably throughout millennia at the hand of Christians and Muslims—the Jews still count among themselves such great and world-renowned names as Jesus of Nazareth, St. Peter, St. Paul, Albert Einstein, Baruch Spinoza, Karl Marx, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and most importantly, Robert Oppenheimer (the father of Atomic bomb) and Edward Teller (father of Hydrogen Bomb). And so are the founders of Google and Facebook—the list is endless!

The most essential lesson here is that suffering is not excuse, nor an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, not to succeed and prosper. Out of the ashes of the holocaust, Israel was born; out of the rubble of the long Sudanese war, South Sudan is borne.

By choosing to pay a visit to the state of Israel—a vibrant democracy, technologically advanced and militarily superior country, President Kiir is nudging this young underprivileged nation to embark on the hard lengthy path to long lasting peace, true political freedom, sustainable economic development and social prosperity. Are we ready, able and willing?

You can reach PaanLuel Wël at [email protected], PaanLuel Wel (Facebook page), PaanLuelWel2011 (Twitter account) OR through his blog at http://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com/

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