South Sudan is Free: What Next?
“Stand together and walk tall in crossing the last line of our struggle for peace, freedom and democracy.” Those were the words of his Excellency president Salva Kiir Mayardit of then semi-autonomous government of southern Sudan, now a recognized independent sovereign state, calling for people of southern Sudan (including those in Diaspora) to turn up in large numbers and vote for secession from the Khartoum government during the referendum in January this year.
|Salva Kiir and Omar Bashir acknowledge cheers Photo courtesy|
Southern Sudan’s people adhered to this message and overwhelmingly voted for secession from Sudan’s main government and took the Comprehensive Peace Agreement's next step: becoming an independent sovereign state, actualized on Saturday July 9, 2011.
The entire city of Juba was on fire as tens of thousands of people from the region, including foreign dignitaries from countries such as USA, UK, Norway, China, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda among others jostled to witness this historic event. Two of my friends, medical doctors in Canada, told me: “We are now packing our bags to return home and participate in the building of our new Nation whose physical infrastructure and socio-economic fabric were destroyed by over 40 years of civil war."
Two issues yet to be resolved are the sharing of oil revenues from the zones around the borders with Khartoum government as well as citizenship of the people on either side of the border. How they are resolved will determine the future diplomatic relations between South Sudan and Sudan.
The people of South Sudan expect to be given land, jobs, free health services, and free education. To them, this is what will make their new-found freedom meaningful. Failure for the SPLM leadership to provide these will diminish faith in the new nation, a fact that could be exploited by dissatisfied individuals and groups to wage other liberation wars pitting the south against the south.
It is no secret that the SPLM leadership is dominated by people from the Dinka tribe who according to some reports in Kampala, Nairobi, Ethiopia and some western capitals are leading extravagant lifestyles. They own state-of-the-art vehicles; reside in expensive hotels and maintain an assortment of concubines. Pursuing this lifestyle at the detriment of the rest of the impoverished citizenry will incite other tribes to rise up against them. This might spell the demise of the new nation.
Building a free, peaceful, prosperous and a strong united South Sudan will require SPLM leadership to design and operationalise an all inclusive and consultative governance system that provides for equitable distribution of health, educational and agricultural services to all people and to all regions of this new nation. South Sudan is endowed with vast natural resources such as oil deposits, gold, uranium, tin, copper and fertile soils, among others. These must be harnessed to benefit all people of South Sudan.The rule of law must be allowed to flourish in addition to strict adherence to the principle of transparency and accountability by all persons and institutions in the country. Any foreign aid and grant must be utilized for the benefit of all people of South Sudan. The priority areas below demand attention:
Agriculture. Farmers must be equipped with necessary agricultural implements such as tractors, hoes, pangas as well as seedlings for planting. The first priority must be food security. There is no country in the world, that ever developed by relying on imports. With prevailing peace, it will be disheartening to the new nation continue importing food from neighboring countries such as Kenya and Uganda, when South Sudan is so fertile with 80% of it being arable land. In fact, South Sudan has the capacity to feed the entire east and central Africa with food grains. The government must invest in irrigation to make commercial farming take root in the country. The mechanized farming and use of fertilizers and certified seeds ongoing in upper Nile, Jonglei and northern Bahr-el-Ghazal regions, should be extended to other regions in the country
The country should also set aside land for use by investors who want to invest in agriculture. It must however guard against selfish rich business people who are likely to invade the country to buy its land hence rendering indigenous people landless and slaves.
Infrastructure. Investment in agriculture should go along with investing in road construction, to link the agricultural areas to the towns and other trading centers. It is only in Juba where one finds few tarmac roads. The rest of the country is connected with dirt roads which are impassable during the rain seasons. Can you imagine that South Sudan has only 42 kilometers of tarmac road with all of it being in capital Juba? The SPLM leadership should invest in infrastructural development and friendly investment policies that will attract private investors to invest in housing construction to make housing costs affordable. A hotel room in Juba goes for $150. One also needs $2000 to be able to rent a one roomed residential premise in this city and this is a reason why many people in this city prefer staying in makeshift shelters.
Education. Education is a vital component in the development process of any country and therefore the leadership of SPLM should also heavily invest in it putting on much emphasis on establishing educational institutions that will its people according to the needs of the its economy. Emphasis should be on vocational training institutions, to equip the citizenry with practical skills that are needed to propel the Nation forward
More health and medical training institutions should be established as 126 children in every 1,000 in South Sudan die, before reaching the age of five while thousands of people lack access to any form of healthcare. One in five women die during childbirth. This calls, for urgency in training of more health professionals.
To the investors out there, there are many areas to invest in this new nation such as mining, quarrying, petroleum refineries, insurance, banking and hospitality facilities among others.
The SPLM leadership has no excuse but to practice leadership that will promote peaceful co-existence of all citizens of South Sudan amidst their cultural, religious, political and ideological differences. The SPLM government can no longer use Khartoum government as a scapegoat for its own failures. It is time to walk the talk of transforming South Sudan.
By Moses Hategeka
The author is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs Analyst and writer
Comment on this article!