One year after independence: were people’s expectations met?

By: Deng Riek Khoryoam, Republic of South Sudan

July 10, 2012 (SSNA) — A year ago, we remember with humble joy and gratitude the hoisting of South Sudan’s flag, signifying the real and total independence of what was previously known to be a region called “Southern Sudan” in the context of the whole Sudan that now got partitioned into two sovereign states; as a result of the bitter wars that raged and ran for nearly half a century. The whole world witnessed history being made by the people who greatly suffered under the hands of the brutal successive regimes in Khartoum; and who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we now enjoy, having emerged from that murky chapter successful, strong and more united that ever before. The rest is history which we’re all familiar with. We fought for freedom and attained the independence of our beloved country together as comrades sharing the same trenches. 

As would be the case and expected, nothing is ever done for the sake of doing it. Everything is done for and with a purpose! They say for one to get on the top firing gear, striving to do the best, he or she must be motivated in order to accomplish his/her goal and will expect something in return for this. This would be the case for South Sudanese people who fought and got tormented in order to get the independent South Sudan that we have today. They never allowed themselves to be beleaguered and to endure all sorts of ill-treatments under those circumstances for nothing. It was for something worth the price that they paid with their precious lives and the blood they shed; as they were robbed of their dignity and self-worth/respect. This is a true and living testimony. 

As we pause to celebrate the first anniversary of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, we remember those brave South Sudanese heroes and heroines who died for us to have or enjoy this day in our lifetime. It would be safe to assert that without the audacity and boldness they had, we wouldn’t be anywhere near achieving the independent South Sudan we have today. We would still remain under the self-proclaimed ‘masters’ in Khartoum living in extreme destitution characterized by agony and great despair and or depression. This would be the tale of us under those who don’t value human life and worth at all. But we refused to remain in bare captivity and chose to live/lead our life the way we deem fit or best for us and the posterity. As soon as our beautiful national flag was raised, people’s expectations were high on the table. However, different people have or had different expectations and or aspirations in mind tied to the independence.

What would be the basic and reasonable expectations of the citizenry?

People expected from their government the unimpeded flow of provision of basic services in order to live a decent life in accordance with the international standards and in fulfilment of the international obligations. People expected to have access to safe drinking water; food security, accessible and affordable health care services, and accessible quality education for our children as well as improved physical infrastructure as a means to facilitating all those enumerated above. We expected the government to start the new country on a right footing by doing everything according to the book – the constitution – and to nurture a sense of rule of law in people’s hearts and minds. We didn’t need the government to do miracles and erect skyscrapers like in London and the US overnight; or perhaps, build roads connecting all the ten states of South Sudan overnight. Rather, we wanted the government to first fulfil those basic social services before talking about luxury or preferences.

Has this been the case, in other words, were these basic services provided by the government?

The answer is a BIG NO! You ask the ‘why’ question, especially when the government had the means to do so and you get no answer for this – well you might only get a punch or two in return! You ask a basic, fundamental question: are we doing everything according to the book? or is the rule of law reigning in our hearts, minds and in our institutions? The answer is in the silence. My expectations are those basic things enumerated above and to which we all feel should have been the top priority of our government in rendering them to ninety per cent (90%) of people in the rural areas. We tend to have devised a mechanism for basing our priorities in towns and cities across South Sudan instead of taking towns closer to the people at the periphery. This is at best tantamount to urban biased approach or system! 

Other people will talk about land issues as their expectations. But remember, before the SPLA came to Juba, there was never any kind of discussion about land grabbing that some people talk about today; the whole Juba town was for Jallaba. The people who are talking about land grabbing today, including the learned agriculturalist, Jacob K. Lupai, were nowhere near South Sudan at the time – may be in Uganda. Why do we have to confine ourselves to the levels of village chiefs, talking about petty issues that add no value to our intellect? Is there a need to indulge in trivial and tribal issues that help no one except continued polarization of our Country along regional or ethnic lines?

In conclusion, I’d tell you that one of my biggest aspirations was the independence that we had achieved a year ago. The rest will be worked on in an independent country. We can achieve a lot more in an independent country like we are in right now. I urge the government to focus and redirect energy towards providing basic social services to the people at the periphery or rural areas. I also urge the government to go by the book and to respect and uphold the constitution in its entirety. Let us have or cultivate a sense of constitutionalism and rule of law as opposed to rule of the jungle where each person decides what to do to a person who has done something wrong instead of a court of law settling it. I would like to sincerely thank all the friends (international organizations) of South Sudan who stood with us through thick and thin during the many years of struggle in pursuit of independence by helping our needy populations. I wish you all, my fellow citizens/country men and women, a happy first anniversary celebration of the independence of the republic of South Sudan.

The writer is a South Sudanese citizen, who loves his country. He could be reached for comments at [email protected]

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