South Sudan: The long journey towards a dignified sovereignty

By: Justin Ambago Ramba

February 26, 2012 (SSNA) — While the world remains fascinated about South Sudan’s vast fertile and virgin arable land, the situation on the ground at its best remains a one of total dependency on foreign food supply. This unfortunate trend of events becomes even more worrying when one looks at the year in and year out records of certain states e.g. Northern Bahr Ghazal, Warrap, Lakes, Unity and Jonglei where no single year has passed without the authorities reverting to the international community for food relief in spite of the abundant thousands of dissolute farming lands and water.

Whatever reasons are given be them the closure of the northern borders, the constant intertribal fights, or the cattle raiding, yet the truth of the matter is that the local population in most of these areas have lost the motivation to farm the land. This too have been consolidated by the heavy dependency on the Oil driven economy which the SPLM led government inherited with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), but however failed to manage properly.

Our citizens in the so-called states with the severest food shortages should understand that if the shutdown of the Oil industry which is aimed at liberating the South Sudan’s economy from the grips of the Khartoum based ‘Jallaba’ regime restores self dignity and protects the nation’s sovereignty, the constant appeal for foreign food aid on the other hand reverses all that claim. And truly indeed the habit of constantly begging the International community for Food Aid has for all practical purposes gone too far given the fact that the real war was ended 7 years ago.

Of course there are those who would want to blame the current “home-made” insecurity for the ghost of famine that remains hanging over most of the villages that have lately witnessed a break-down in law enforcement, it shouldn’t be forgotten that whatever was inflicted there was carried out in all cases by local South Sudanese youth regardless of their ethnicities. Could it not be argued that if this very youth were to refrain from terrorising their countrymen and rather engage in food production, the story would have been totally different?You can’t eat your cake and still have it:

As a people we need to look back and see how far we have come from the days of the rudimentary Regional Government of the Addis Ababa Agreement to today in an independent Republic of South Sudan [RSS]. We fought for independence and an end to servitude and second class status, and here still we aren’t ashamed of ourselves when we as an independent nation continue to shout aloud, begging for foreign food aid. Our politicians have often talked about a certain blessing in disguise that would come with the abrupt shutdown in Oil production, however in reality they should have long anticipated all these given the time tested history of our struggle against exploitation and foreign domination.

Khartoum chose to close its borders with us thus obstructing any border trading between the two countries and one sees nothing strange in that given the “Jallaba” mentality. This might even go on for decades to come or forever. What should have worried us is the defeated so-called Confederal arrangement that would have still given them (Jallaba) the free hand to manipulate and dominate our economy. As for the disputes over the pipelines and the Oil transit fees, these are but a continuation of the unfinished liberation struggle, for otherwise how on earth were we prepared to go on ‘dining’ with a regime that’s stained up to the elbow with the blood of our loved ones? Wasn’t it South Sudan’s free will when our people overwhelmingly voted by 98.8% in rejection of the Khartoum (mis)rule?

That far the game was over, ones and for all, and any turning back to Khartoum would be like going back to Sodom and Gomorrah in days of Lot and his tribesmen. My advice to fellow South Sudanese who live along the northern borders and still want to enjoy a meal of “Kisra” and “Weika” – (flat pan-bread and dried Okra soup) don’t necessarily have to import it from across the border. You are better off growing your own field of okra in your independent backyard this time around. This is what independence from Khartoum translates into at its most basic level. You risk being laughed at if you still yearn for food to come from a quarrelsome neighbour who in fact is a sworn in enemy.

Thank God that South Sudan hasn’t reached the stage of Somalia yet and for this fact there is every reason for our people to work hard and avoid slipping that way. The youth in Jonglei, Lakes state, Warrap or Unity state should understand that they are better off with hoes, ploughs, machetes and axes farming the vast virgin land of their ancestors which has now been finally liberated by expensive blood, than rooming about with AK -47s and engaging in cattle rustling. To our youth and the political leadership alike, I say this, “You don’t liberate a country and then become thieves in it, but you rather strive to build it and develop it”.

Although both politically and socio-economically the Oil remains a negotiating force for South Sudan as it works to balance the development equation, things won’t be the same again a situation likely to persist for a decade or more to come. The government will undoubtedly seek to find alternative sources of revenues; otherwise it risks loosing the social contract with the people. But the major concerns however remain and it is how the so-called alternative resources and the funds thus generated are managed. Austerity measures under a leadership that categorically operated on an open ended budget, resisted auditing its books and a tradition allows for its cronies to embezzle public funds with impunity, is in fact a mockery and a self pity for what it claims to stand for.

It cannot be overemphasised that a trustworthy leadership, a truly accountable and transparent government and the rule of law are all crucial to the success of any economy that plans to implement austerity measures. These are undoubtedly in shortcoming under the current one man rule and his rubber stamp parliament. President Salva Kiir will have to stop his overused political rhetoric and it is needless here to stress ( to him) the importance as well as the urgency of recovering all the embezzled public funds as it becomes all the crucial, first for his government’s credibility in not only the eyes of the general population who are about to experience a tough time ahead as a consequence of the new developments, but also for his credibility with the others in the international fora and the equally important need for South Sudan’s survival as a coherent nation at this particular time.

Let no one make the mistake to think that all these monetary scandals committed under Salva Kiir’s leadership which currently stand in billions of dollars can just die like that unaccounted for or at the least unrecovered. It is time that the so-called leaders understand that no foreign loans will be easy coming if the government of the day do not deliver on its promises to up-root the endemic corruption both in the government and the ruling SPLM party. Without first settling this stigma of a system that loot at will and with impunity, South Sudan’s future remains for all practical purposes remain gloomy!

The crucial massage that obviously matters the most, is for our people, rulers and subjects alike, that they must be ready to face a new dispensation. The decision to shut-down the Oil production could be easily considered as “ridiculous” by the international community if the government just turn around and begins to beg food for its starving citizens or any other basic services for that matter. A very poor country like South Sudan, but lucky to have been blessed with a vast Oil reserve, when it is known to have mismanaged a not less than $20 billion of the Oil revenue, and suddenly now for whatever reason shuts down its Oil production [98% of its total revenues] isn’t the ideal candidate that monetary institutions would happily lend their money to and obviously not when the whole world is going bankrupt. So if we rightly think that the shutdown of Oil production was a blessing in disguise, then we have to prove that first to ourselves and then to the world that we are capable of turning problems into success stories without having to criss-cross the world with empty bowls in our hands.

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. He can be reached at: [email protected], or [email protected] or [email protected]

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