By: Justin Ambago Ramba
February 12, 2012 (SSNA) — The fact that most South Sudanese the worldwide stand by the decision to shut down the country’s oil production following the fall out with Khartoum over the latter’s unilateral decision to help itself to nearly an 895 million dollars worth of South Sudan’s crude Oil might have come as a complete shock to many outsiders. Even as a native myself I fully understand why this decision may not find a good reception amongst the outsiders who only see this country from the prospective of natural resources and obviously the vast oil reserves.
A fact to take on board at this stage is the broad based support for an alternate pipeline through East Africa. I don’t know whether we are going to settle for Djibouti or Lamu in Kenya. But these are no more than matters of convenience and practicality. Hopefully the final decision shouldn’t really take too long before work begins on the project. The bottom line here is that the people’s voice on this particular issue should be seen as a strong message to the leadership that the masses are indeed following all national events inch by inch as they unfold.
The other important message here is that although our people remain so much deprived of all the basic needs of life in the 21st century, they are still willing to sacrifice extra more when it comes to the consolidation of their hard won national sovereignty. They have waited for everything for over the past five decades and waited even the more in the last seven years and now they are out in the streets
demonstrating in support of a decision which might mean yet another long wait. These are but historical milestones that our selfless masses must be respected for and are bent to speak loads and loads for years to come.
My humble appeal is that no one should be tempted to misinterpret these great people’s stand as an approval for any of many management blunders so far committed by the SPLM led administration nor should it be exploited to delay the popular demand for good governance, civil freedoms, accountability, transparency and above all the recovery of all the looted public funds which the government in Juba seems bent to drag its feet.
We hope that Oil production will remain suspended for as long as corrupted officials remain in office. Too much opacity has characterised the Oil industry since its inception, however that was when the enemy still had the upper hand in managing our natural resource. But now we hope it is no more. New Oil business that may come to replace the current mess must take all lessons learnt on board. Tribalism must first be stamped out and maximum transparency instituted in every stage of the management, production, exportation and marketing processes for now our eyes are wide open and so do I hope that be the case with our children and our grandchildren.
An important point to stress here is the fact that the nascent republic of South Sudan shouldn’t be rushed into unnecessary loans from any source, for we see no justification for that. The real way out is for the republic of South Sudan as represented by its ruling party, the government cabinet, the law makers, the opposition parties and the civil societies to seriously work day and night on recovering the billions of dollars stolen by none but people now talking big in the state offices.
It is everyone’s knowledge that the past seven years South Sudan has already generated enough money from the Oil Industry to help it survive and excel as a third world nation. Did the Auditor General never warn us that the unaccounted for money is in the billions? That if recovered – and remember that President Salva Kiir in his speech to the UN General Assembly, in New York, just promised that. The money is by far more than what any bank can lend to a country like South Sudan known for its very poor financial management records, unless of course if they intend to incriminate us as a nation!
In other words taking foreign loans under this current administration is truly suicidal as the entire amount can easily find its ways into individual’s private accounts. That much we are sure of, and any attempt to go that direction is to condemn our off springs to unjustified long period of poverty where they will have to work like slaves in order to settle a loan that they have no part in incurring. Was this not what the late Garang de Mobior had persistently questioned whenever he refereed during the bush war to Sudan’s current huge foreign debts? And where does the SPLM of later days and now in power stand from the infamous “foreign debts syndrome” which have historically crippled many third world countries?
We can go on cursing president Omer Bashir our troublesome neighbour and his crew of thieves for stealing our oil and the fact that they have for long cheated us in the oil deal since the signing of the CPA. But as our people prepare to face the so-called austerity measures of president Salva Kiir and his cabinet in preparation for the revenues that they are bound to lose as a result of the Oil shutdown, our prayers also go to the same God concerning our local thieves who have so far looted our public coffers in their billions of dollars.
It is indeed a sad occasion that while we stand united as a people to defend what we believe is our national resources; there are thieves in our midst who should have been persecuted long time ago. Is it not an irony that they continue to enjoy immunity under Salva Kiir’s leadership while the president talks louder about the thieves in Khartoum? Is it not yet time for President Kiir to name, shame and prosecute the infamous 13 top corrupt officials of his administration? Oh Gracious Lord! Hear our prayers!
As a basic principle South Sudan will be better off only when it achieves a total non-dependency on Khartoum. Any future negotiations between the two should therefore never be wasted on the by-gone transition fees, for the oil shutdown has once and for all put that issue to eternal rest. However there are still a long battery of issues to settle between us and the Jallaba. Notably here are the border demarcation and management, the issue of the disputed Abyei and the fate of our South Sudanese compatriots still residing in the north and need to be repatriated back to their home towns in the South.
Whatever that means for individuals or groups, one thing is for a fact and that from the day the Oil shutdown was completed, a new political as well as socioeconomic dispensation was already in interplay in South Sudan redefining its position both regionally and internationally. An outsider may be worried about a young government losing handy revenues, while the reality on the ground is more about a people who were quick to celebrate the protection of their Oil resources.
The SPLM led government which did little to justify how it spent the over $ 20 billion in Oil revenues will not blame the lack of funds for its record breaking failures. But as for the masses, they know that the oil money was never trickling down enough in form of services and any new ways of revenue generation including the imposition of taxes e.g. on the few agricultural products and the millions of heads of cattle, an asset which of late has become the main culprit in the country’s widespread inter-tribal conflicts are likely to bring the much missing “grass-root led accountability campaign” for the first time to the forefront of South Sudan’s politics and NOT the infamously notorious foreign debts that only ruin underdeveloped nations by impoverishing them forever!
Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General – United South Sudan Party [USSP]. He can be reached at: [email protected], or [email protected], [email protected]