South Sudan Not Yet Uhuru After 10 Years

Salva Kiir
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Gen. Salva Kiir may be a good soldier but he's not the right president South Sudan needs. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. 

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

Today, Friday, July 9, the government and people of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) mark the 10th \anniversary of independence. There is frankly nothing to celebrate. It is not yet uhuru.

Ten years ago on Saturday, July 9, 2011, a ceremony was held at Juba’s mausoleum for John Garang, a Pan-Africanist and great leader of the people of South Sudan, at which the Speaker of RSS Legislative Assembly James Wani Igga read out the Proclamation of Independence.

Thousands of jubilant people including foreign Heads of State and other dignitaries witnessed as Sudan’s national flag was lowered and the new flag of RSS was raised while a military band played the national anthem of RSS. The atmosphere was electric as wananchi—ordinary citizens—cheered the birth of Africa’s youngest nation led by Gen. Salva Kiir who took oath of office as the first President of RSS.

Unlike Uganda which achieved independence more or less on a silver platter, the independence of South Sudan was achieved after decades of bitter, bloody and protracted war of liberation which cost an estimated 1.5 million lives. The struggle of the gallant sons and daughters of RSS for human dignity, self-determination and independence reminds of many friends who never gave up or gave in to the oppressor. I would like to pay tribute to them and dedicate this opinion piece to their memory. Among them, Rev. Clement Janda (RIP) who died on March 8 this year, Dr. Dunstan Wai (RIP) a graduate of Harvard University who, like me, was a political scientist, Mr. William Deng Deng who is a fellow alumnus of the University of Toronto and Major Kenyi who left a comfortable life in Canada in the 1990s to join the liberation struggle. I am not sure whether Kenyi is alive or not. They are heroes of the struggle.

Before he passed on at Arua City, Rev. Janda shared with me his concerns about the future of South Sudan, a country whose future is bleak and uncertain. The high hopes and great expectations which many Ugandans, especially from the Greater North of Uganda, had in RSS have regrettably been dashed.

Many Ugandans who are disgusted and frustrated by the deliberate and systematic marginalization of the Greater North by the corrupt, decadent and incompetent National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime warmly welcomed the new country whose population consists of people who are ethnically closer to people in the North than our fellow citizens from the South and West. Some politicians even floated the idea of creating a new country consisting of RSS and the Greater North of Uganda.

Against this background, internal conflicts and tribulations of South Sudan are a matter of deep concern not only to the South Sudanese, but also to millions of Ugandans.

The way forward for South Sudan

The predicament of South Sudan is not a military problem. It’s fundamentally a political problem. Hence a credible, durable, just, lasting and viable solution must be political in nature. Just like Uganda, the problems of South Sudan cannot and will not be solved by the barrel of the gun.

I believe that one of the challenges facing South Sudan is the absence of good governance and lack of good and effective political leadership at the national level. The incumbent may be a good soldier, but with all due respect Gen. Salva Kiir is, in my opinion, not the right political leader South Sudan needs and deserves. I say this frankly as a genuine friend of the people of South Sudan who have suffered enough and deserve a lot better.

South Sudan is a country blessed by God with abundant and numerous natural resources which cannot be fully harnessed and tapped unless there is peace, good governance and political stability. In this regard the regional organization Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African Union (AU), UN and her development partners, such as, the USA and EU should urgently assist in efforts to identify and groom good political leaders of integrity for South Sudan who can guide the country and steer the ship of State in the right direction.

Arua, Uganda.

July 3, 2021.

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