By Jacob K. Lupai
July 8, 2012 (SSNA) — South Sudan attained independence from Sudanese colonialism on the 9th July 2011 after much bloodshed and destruction of unimaginable proportion had taken place. As bloodshed and destruction of unimaginable proportion are mentioned, it is obvious that independence was not given by a benevolent Sudan but South Sudan fought two bitter wars lasting a total of 39 years to attain it.
Conservative estimates put the death toll in the last war of liberation in South Sudan as two million people dead, half a million as refugees in neighbouring countries and four million people displaced and driven from their homes, notwithstanding the high level destruction of property and institutionalized underdevelopment as a policy to keep South Sudan perpetually dependent.
The above is a glimpse of what Sudanese colonialism did to South Sudan for the last half century. The first anniversary of independence of South Sudan is therefore a very high profile occasion that reminds people of the enormous sacrifices made for independence and for people to look forward with confidence for better times in nation building and development for prosperity to all.
South Sudan is just one year old as an independent country. Expectations might have been high that disappointment would be registered as poor service delivery was perceived. However, the attainment of independence in itself should be seen as one of the greatest achievements by the people of South Sudan. One other achievement is the successful work on the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 that is the basis of governance. The establishment of institutions and the smooth functioning of government is an achievement that cannot be ignored. The National Assembly is progressively becoming assertive and this is so far an achievement.
The instantaneous recognition of independence of South Sudan by leading countries in the world is a memorable achievement. There is modest achievement in physical infrastructure. In Juba metropolis property development is on the rise. There is also improvement in road infrastructure and so an achievement. Juba metropolis has a ring road and Juba International Airport is well connected to the city centre and government ministries of various disciplines with tarmac roads. This can be pointed out as an achievement in relation to Sudanese colonialism.
Businesses are booming and South Sudan has become an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors. This was all denied to South Sudan by Sudanese colonialism. The struggle for freedom and independence was not therefore in vain given the achievements so far realized.
Like any new independent country, South Sudan faces enormous challenges and they are taxing. The challenges may be classified into four categories. The four categories in alphabetical order are corruption, illiteracy, insecurity, land grabbing and tribalism/nepotism.
Corruption is one of the most daunting challenges the Republic of South Sudan faces. It deprives South Sudan of the badly needed resources for development to improve living standards through the provision of basic services. Corruption flourishes when leniency is disproportionately applied. This means corruption should not be treated friendly and there shouldn’t be any dialogue with the corrupt that should be facing justice for the criminal offence anyway even when lying sick on a stretcher.
According to Statistical Yearbook for Southern Sudan 2010, 72 per cent of the population is illiterate. This suggests that the first anniversary of independence of South Sudan will find most of the people are still illiterate. The implication is dire. With a highly illiterate population what can one expect? Nationalism among the illiterate is limited to the circles of one’s family. Relating to others in nation building is something the illiterate may not find it compatible with their narrow-mindedness. Aggressiveness among the illiterate may be something rampant. This may explain the high level of violence when people do not have a clue of the law of respect for the rights of others. Illiteracy may co-relate to primitiveness as opposed to enlightment. Nation building with a high level of illiteracy will be a mammoth task as the illiterate may have little confidence or none at all.
Insecurity is also one of the greatest challenges to the Republic of South Sudan. Human life seems to have become of little value. People disappear or are killed and there seems to be very little done to bring the culprits to justice. Results of investigations are hardly made public if at all investigations are ordered and carried out. Worse still criminals are at large, escaping justice while victims suffer and are in pain in silence. This is not something that an independent South Sudan should be characterized with. Independence was attained precisely because Sudanese colonialism perpetrated murder of innocent civilians in South Sudan. South Sudan should therefore be seen making the difference.
d. Land grabbing
Sudanese colonialism did not encourage land grabbing the way it is being witnessed in independent South Sudan. Land grabbing is a challenge that can only be ignored at the peril of nation building and unity. It is like a dormant volcano that may one day erupt and this is a challenge.
South Sudan is composed of many tribes which participated in the liberation struggle that the result was ultimately independence. One would therefore expect an equitable distribution of portfolios and resources because no one single tribe brought independence to South Sudan. However, in practice things may be different. For example, in distribution of ministerial positions one tribe has about 43 per cent of the positions and this is where there are more than 50 tribes which might have actively participated in the liberation struggle in South Sudan. In addition one state has 46 per cent of the positions represented by the 43 per cent. This clearly seems to suggest that tribalism/nepotism was in play. However, it could have been that appointments were made based on merit as when the late President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, appointed his own brother as Attorney General because the brother was capable. Nevertheless, in the case of South Sudan it is an open question whether it is tribalism/nepotism that influences appointments or they are made on merit. In any case tribalism/nepotism is detrimental to nation building because it may be the cause of mediocre occupying very important positions that need brainy visionaries with practical skills to make the difference.
As a new independent country South Sudan has opportunities to develop faster. It can learn from other independent countries with decades of experience behind them in the post independence era. South Sudan does not need to invent the wheel, so to speak. There is a wealth of experience out there that South Sudan can easily tap into.
Insecurity is of widespread concern to ordinary folks who cannot even make ends meet. South Sudan has the opportunity to clean up its image of incompetence in providing security in neighbourhoods. It can gain experience in fighting crime from countries with good record in containing insecurity. It is not difficult to identify countries with a good system of providing security to their citizens. South Sudan cannot pretend to have all the expertise in providing security to people. This is because there is stark failure in providing adequate security as seen in the unnecessary killings of innocent civilians. Outside help may be very useful until people can be able to stand on their feet. Indiscipline is incompatible with good governance and it is difficult to have both at the same time.
South Sudan is a young independent country and there is no magic wand to resolve all challenges immediately. It will learn through experience and the experience of the first year of independence will make South Sudan to consider redoubling its efforts in providing adequate services to the people. Many people wouldn’t like to live in the past but would rather look forward with confidence for a brighter future in post independent South Sudan.
In conclusion, South Sudan has all that it takes to be a vibrant country that all will happily identify with as a Motherland. Hopefully, the second anniversary of independence should be an occasion that will see South Sudan different from the occasion of the first anniversary when people will truly be nationalists in which corruption, illiteracy, insecurity, land grabbing and tribalism/nepotism will have become pronounced with less frequency.
The author can be reached at [email protected]