By: Samuel Atabi, South Sudan, JUN/09/2018, SSN;
Fellow South Sudanese, greetings. It is now 13 years since the gun went silent in our country. It is seven years since we became independent. However, I am afraid I have no good news to report. Our problems started at the beginning. Our leader, who had prepared himself for the task of nation building died tragically few months after the end of the war. His death is the cause of all these troubles we have.
While he lived, he did not tutor me and other leaders of the SPLM/A in statecraft. So at his death, I was pushed into unfamiliar territory of nation building, while completely devoid of any knowledge on how a nation is run. We had to start from the scratch.
Therefore, in order to steer this country, without the requisite knowledge, I have had to depend on advisors, both in this country and from foreign countries.
Barely two years after independence, was I advised that in order to stabilize the country, I should not allow any change in government, particularly in the presidency. But I was not told how to implement this advice.
Thus, when some other pretenders began to agitate for change of leadership in our only party, the SPLM, I became afraid that this would lead to instability that had been advised against.
I embarked on unchartered path whereby I decided to have my own militia, which you now call Mathiang Anyoor, to protect the presidency. Don’t blame me for this.
After all, the SPLA itself is a combination of many tribal militias: the Paulino Matip’s, Riek’s , Lam Akol’s, Alfred Gore’s, Obuto Mamur’s and others. But I now realize that this was an unwise move.
That is why I have strongly disagreed with Paul Malong who was the recruitment sergeant for the militia.
Despite the presence of lawyers and judges in my cabinet, no one advised me that this was against our supreme law, the constitution.
Once you create an army, you must use it. So, my fellow citizens, I was railroaded into using Mathiang Anyoor in December 2013 to kill not only my former Vice President, but also his fellow tribe people who were resident in our capital, Juba. The consequence of this another unwise move, was a disaster.
From that time up to date, there has never been peace in our country. As if this massacre was not enough, my militia again tried to kill Riek Machar in July 2016, after he had returned, from where he ran, because of the peace agreement signed in August 2015.
This time round, my militia spanned out in the Equatorial (sic) region, burning, killing and raping women. Consequently, parts of the region have now been left vacant because the population has run away to Uganda.
Why Uganda? This confirms what we Jieng have been suspecting: Equatorial people are Ugandans. But again, it is not just Equatorians who have run away.
My own people from Northern Bahr el Ghazal have fled, would you believe it, back to the land of the Jalaba.
The Jieng have no reason to run away. There is no war in our part of the country.
It is the Equatorians and their intellectuals who are pushing propaganda against my government. As I speak, foreign governments are now conspiring with them for a regime change in our beloved country.
That, my fellow citizens, is the state of the matters in our nation; do not allow foreigners to change your elected government.
Peace and lost opportunities:
Let me now turn to the issue of peace talks. Our brothers, and all of them are men, in the Opposition are making unreasonable demands at the negotiation table.
Can you imagine they want to dissolve our lovely and gallant SPLA and replace it with their ragtag forces?
Imagine also that, I, your hero, your protector and your unifier, should vacate this seat…. another demand by the Opposition.
These, I am sorry to say, are red lines. I have instructed my delegates at the Addis Ababa peace talks not to cross them.
They can go to hell, the Opposition, and I would rather die than resign from the presidency. I am sure all of you, my fellow compatriots, agree with me on this.
Let us pose for a minute, close our eyes and think of an alternative world that is peaceful and different from what I have just described above.
Imagine there was no war in our country. Imagine too, I did not try to kill Riek Machar twice and I did not order Mathiang Anyoor to kill Nuer and Equatorial civilians.
Imagine we did not encourage mega corruption among our leaders and people.
Lastly, imagine we treated each other with respect, equality and justice in matters of employment, opportunities and freedom. Then, fellow citizens, we would be far ahead of any of our neighbors. Let me explain.
With billions of dollars accruing from our oilfields, we would have done a lot of developmental things. By this time I would be addressing you from our new centrally-placed, brand new capital of Ramchiel.
We would have built radiating roads from that capital to various compass points of our country: from Ramciel to Malakal, to Raja, to Wau, to Kuaojok, to Mundri, to Source Yubu, to Yambio, to Maridi, to Rumbek, to Yei, to Nimule, to Torit, to Nadapal, to Boma, to Nasir to Pagak, to Bentiu, to Renk etc.
All of them would be tarmacked.
To spur our industrial development and encourage inward direct foreign investments, we would have built a modern hydroelectric plant at Fulla rapids in Nimule. We would have had sufficient electricity to drive our industries and light our homes.
We would have built our own railway line, the much talked-about Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) and pipeline to the eastern African coast to ferry our export and import and to transport passengers to and from our country and transport our oil products, respectively.
Our economy would be booming (forget Lol’s claim) from development in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
We would have mechanized our farming, introduced irrigation in places like Acholi, Aweil (for rice production) and continue to grow crops like coffee and tea in Yei, and Upper Talanga, and wheat in Nagishot.
We would have improved our livestock to produce dairy products (milk, cheese yogurt, ghee etc.), and hide and skin and of course beef. Our fisheries in the Sudd regions would be flourishing as we export fresh fish to the European Union, using refrigerated trucks and cargo aircraft.
We would have built a hospital in every county, trained doctors and paramedics to man them.
We would have built a primary school in every boma and a secondary school in every county to educate our young ones.
We would have built more universities to train our human resources for civil service, health sector, agriculture, economy and of course our culture and heritage.
We would have professionalized our army, welding them from the various ethnic groups into one, patriotic army with clear objective of protecting our hard-earned independence, instead of turning the guns against their own compatriots.
We would now be having a professional police force and national security at par with the CIA or MI5 or MI6 or Mossad. They would safeguard our security while at the same time respecting the constitutional rights of our citizens.
We would have developed a secure hospitality and tourism industry based on the natural endowment of our teeming and unique wildlife and cultures.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing would stop us from achieving these because we HAD the money, the human resources, and the stamina to persevere.
Didn’t we struggle for decades to gain our independence?
Lastly, I have a message to our comrades in arms. I have seen the growth of mercenary attitudes among you. No one seems ready to undertake any small task without demanding payment of money for it.
If we did not have the spirit of sacrifice, we would not have liberated this country. Show kindness and patriotism in all that you are doing.
I want you to reflect deeply on the two aspects of what our country is in now and what it would have been. After that let us have a serious conservation of the way forward.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless South Sudan.
Samuel Atabi is a South Sudanese political commentator