For South Sudan to Have Happy New Year: From Retrospect to Prospects

By James Okuk, PhD

“If we make the average of mankind comfortable and secure, their prosperity will rise through the ranks” (Franklin D. Roosevelt).

December 31, 2011 (SSNA) — If asked to retreat in order to remember the most profound past events (i.e. retrospect), there is no doubt that many South Sudanese will tell you that it is the event of the referendum for self-determination process, which has led to the inevitable declaration of the Independence of their new country on July 9, 2011. If you asked them whether they would vote overwhelmingly for succession of South Sudan if the history is rewind, still the majority of South Sudanese will give you a firm affirmative answer except for few who have got disappointed these days.

But why would South Sudanese repeatedly adore their independence with pride? Because history of their struggle against the injustices of oppression and marginalization has taught them to be who they are and who they want to be within the chain of dignified continuity for posterity.

The South Sudanese have resisted the invasions and oppressions of Turko-Egyptian and Anglo-Egyptian colonialists (1820 – 1956). They have also resisted the Arabized Sudanese oppressions and marginalization (1956 – 2011). Not only this, but also they have heroically confronted the evil acts of themselves against their own well-beings as Southerners in the course of the struggle. This is bitter but a nostalgic retrospect worth memorable for pursuing the prospects.

Many means have been used to arrive to the end where the Republic of South Sudan is standing today. Some of these means were good and right but others were evil and crooked. Hence, goes the argument that the end has justified the means and the chapter has been closed with the independence verdict, followed by international recognition of South Sudan as equal amongst other established countries in the world.

As a result of this declaration and recognition, South Sudan stands today as a sovereign state ruled by a transitional constitutional government categorized into legislative, executive and judiciary branches. It stands as a state with a declared geographical territory (with all the contained resources including oil and arable lands) supposed to be demarcated as it stood on January 1, 1956, though some parts of these borders are still contested by the Sudan within the perspective of post-independence pending issues that should cease pending sooner or later.

Also South Sudan stands as a state inhabited by individuals and communities who are diverse in their cultures and traditions but who should be united as South Sudanese people on values of liberty, justice and prosperity. It is a state, which is supposed to have a free and independent press and social media.

Notwithstanding with its existing government, territory, people and press, the Republic of South Sudan is faced with many challenges of transition into a matured nation-state capable of managing its own affairs without interventions/interferences from outsiders. It is facing the challenge of good governance in the government institutions where there seems to be a clash between egoistic loyalty and altruistic meritocratic professional qualifications.

It is also facing the challenge of utilizing efficiently and managing honestly the resources available within its geographical territory in order to promote the common good of its population with affirmative attention to the needy poor ones; including stoppage of usurpation of their land by big investors without genuine consultations/compensations. It is also facing the challenge of keeping its population secure, peaceful, stable, cooperative, tolerative, hardworking, efficient, productive and self-reliant.

Respect for press and media freedom is also another challenge facing South Sudan as the critics of government leaders have been perceived to be enemies rather than public eye-openers. The social media has tasted the consequences of exposing institutional inept show-cased by many of those holding top-decision making offices of the government of South Sudan as if it is a reward price. There is no great doubt that a number of those entrusted with custody of government authority and power in South Sudan seems to be analytically defunct and lacking contemporary rig our and nuance required for conducting the national duty efficiently; a fact they hate to hear from the press and social media.

In short, the new Republic is facing a lot of challenges of state and nation building where there are tendencies from some of its leaders and their supporters to fulfill what the Nobel Peace Price-Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, said: “the national culture can become a bizarre graft of carefully selected historical incidents and distorted social values intended to justify the policies and actions of those in power.”

Nevertheless, wisdom has put it categorically that challenges are unavoidable part of human living, but what makes a prudential difference is the courage to confront and generate sustainable solutions to the arising problems and pressing issues.

Yes, South Sudan closes the Year 2011 joyfully but also with challenges of being and continuing to be an independent successful state. But for the year 2012 to be a happy one, the leaders and their supporters should resolve in sincere retrospect to designate realistic prospects for prosperity in the land of great abundance where the availability of the basic needs, rights and liberties of all its population becomes daily norms founded on the following Rawlsian Principles of Justices as Fairness:

1. Each citizen is guaranteed a fully adequate scheme of basic liberties, which is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all others.
2. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: First, they are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and Second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.

With these principles, John Rawls would advice South Sudan thus: “avoid the region where the marginal contributions of those better off are negative, since, other things equal, this seems a greater fault than falling short of the best scheme when these contributions are positive. The even larger difference between rich and poor makes the latter even worse of, and this violates the principle of mutual advantage as well as democratic equality.”

From 2012 onwards, South Sudan needs a brighter guiding star to the future, built on cemented national foundation and protected well from internal or external harms. This futuristic visionary leadership should embark on the quest for genuine national healing process, and building of trust and confidence through continuous dialogue for preserving the dignity of human person in individuals, families and communities. It should ensure that the new Republic is firmly hinged on:

1) Citizenship without Discrimination;
2) Use of Public Resources for Promotion of the Common Good;
3) Social Values of Labour, Employment and Free Enterprise;
4) Eradication of Poverty, Diseases and Illiteracy;
5) Political Pluralism and Fair Gender Participation;
6) Peaceful Settlement of Disputes;
7) Reconciliation based on Truth and Repentance;
8) Good Neighborhood Policy with Concrete Actions;
9) Preservation of Nature and Environment; and
10) Research and Development for Better Decisions.

The year 2012 should be the time to revisit what Dr. John Garang, the late Chairman of the SPLM/A, said in foreword of the pamphlet “SPLM Strategic Framework for War-to-Peace Transition” of 2004 that the priorities for Southern Sudan are:

1) Maintaining peace among the people and with their neighbours;
2) Developing institutional and physical infrastructure;
3) Ensuring better governance and facilitatory leadership;
4) Regenerating the innovative and productive assets of Southern Sudanese for the service of their Motherland;
5) Prioritizing agricultural production as the renewable engine of economic growth with the help of petroleum income; and
6) Eradicating poverty, especially in rural areas and urban slums where majority of population live.

Most significantly, plans need to be made and serious actions need to be taken on revitalization and improvement of the old transport systems and infrastructure along side other initiatives:

1) Revitalizing old river transport routes and ports, and opening new ones to be accessible by motor boats and steamers or barges. Here the role of GoSS may be confined to regulation and technical management of the navigation routs so that the private sector can use them efficiently through out the seasons;
2) Encouraging the private sector to invest in air transport in the areas that are economically and administratively active in South Sudan;
3) Repairing the old Railway infrastructure and constructing new ones in addition to asphalted high ways that should connect South Sudan within itself and with the neighboring countries for promotion of socio-economic and commercial activities, amongst others;
4) Establishing hydro-electrical, solar and biomass power generating plants to light South Sudan and help it communicates instantly and constantly with the rest of the world.
5) Engaging the Armed Forces of South Sudan to become productive and self-reliance through income generating activities, especially in agricultural and industrial sectors; and
6) Addressing effectively women and girls’ illiteracy, maternal mortality, productive asset insecurity, livelihood insecurity, socio-economic and political powerlessness, and gender-violence.

In summary, for the people of South Sudan and their friends to have a happy 2012 and beyond, the following pivotal policies need to be emphasized with concrete results-oriented actions achievable in short, medium and long terms:

1) Investing in the South Sudanese nationals in order to improve their skilful industriousness and professionalism through academic, vocational and technical training opportunities;
2) Improving agriculture for food security and enhancing it with non-agricultural products, sustainable water management mechanism and modern industrial processing strategies;
3) Improving the quality of health services to an extensive and affordable level;
4) Improving the physical infrastructure and communication systems by using modern technology (including tourism facilities);
5) Improving institutional governance (including prudent conduct of foreign relations and cooperation) through rule of ethical laws for the protection of human dignity and promotion of national decentness;
6) Improving financial management with transparency, and granting micro-credit accessibility for the least advantaged citizens;
7) Encouraging private job-creating investments and adopting fruitful strategies for intelligible labour with fair remuneration packages for liberating ‘the-working-poor’ within the labour-intensity workforce;
8) Enhancing the bargaining power of the citizens in the free market competitions based on the optimum utilization of the available local resources with protection from external shocks;
9) Encouraging the participation of the poor citizens in the socio-political activities and decision-making forums; and
10) Promoting rigorous research on poverty reduction strategies and relating this to the quest of inclusive sustainable development.

In conclusion and as we say goodbye to 2011 and other years below and embrace 2012 with other years a head, the government and people of the Republic of South Sudan should move out of the past hangovers by adopting a virtuous circle of holistic development strategies where aspiration for social, economic and political prosperity trickle down from mere ideologies and political rhetoric to concrete actions. This move could yield fruits, especially if done in sincere partnership with international and regional organizations who may be interested to help South Sudan overcome vicious circle of poverty, using MDGS targets or other strategies. Notwithstanding, the government and the people of South Sudan should know that outsiders will not bring ready-made independence dividends as it could be done by the nationals themselves.

Time for past is gone. It is high time for future, starting with best wishes for a Happy New Year 2012 for the nascent Republic of South Sudan!

James Okuk lives in Juba and could be reached at [email protected]

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