Uniting people of South Sudan through development work

By Jacob K. Lupai, JUBA, JUL/16/2015, SSN;

A lot has been sung about unity of people of South Sudan as though unity is all that is needed to address the mounting problems the country faces. There is hardly any mention of a mechanism that brings unity.

Disunity is blamed on war as the only evil and peace is sung as the only way to achieve unity. However, there was peace before between 2005 and 2013. It is not clear whether there was then unity among the people of South Sudan.

Nepotism, corruption and insecurity were rampant. Land grabbing was at its peak and marauding cattle keepers heavily armed to the teeth, terrorized peaceful farming communities with impunity. The rule of law was flagrantly violated. Murderers hardly faced the death penalty because they were on death row endlessly for unknown reasons.

From the above highlight the absence of war does not necessarily mean people are united. Even in peace time there may be bitterness beneath the surface in people when the system of governance is manipulated to favour others.

How then is absence of war means people are at peace and united? In the absence of war the unity of people can be sustained through fairness and equitable development work. For example, the construction of a highway between Juba in Central Equatoria, Bor in Jonglei and Malakal in Upper Nile will encourage easy movements of people, goods and services, thereby promoting trade for mutual advantage and eventually unity of people.

Construction of a highway does not need to depend on the central government. The three states of Central Equatoria, Jonglei and Upper Nile can take the initiative to construct the highway. After all it is now ten years since the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005 and when has the central government constructed a highway in South Sudan linking the states.

It is only the USAID that has constructed a tarmac highway linking Juba to Nimule in Central and Eastern Equatoria respectively. This brings us to the system of governance, either a centralized or decentralized one for effective delivery of services. This is discussed later in the article.

Uniting people through development work is not only limited to construction of highways. Development of trade between states is equally important and should be highly encouraged. For example, Western Equatoria and Lakes can develop trade on agricultural products and livestock respectively for comparative advantage and mutual benefit.

Trade between states is likely to bring people closer together where contacts are increased. People will get to know each other better and this may promote mutual understanding and trust. In this way people from the different states will develop confidence in each other.

This may act like catalyst for unity of people with the same aspirations to improve their living standards.

People of one destiny

There is a slogan that reads, “One Nation One People” highlighted on billboards and in the media. This is meant to reflect what South Sudan is, one nation and one people. However, it is not clear whether critical analysis of the slogan was made.

I will strenuously disagree that South Sudan is “One People” and I am not even so sure whether South Sudan is “One Nation” as the slogan wants people to believe. For sure South Sudan will never be “One people” even if the prophets rise from their unmarked graves to preach once more, may be this time on the banks of the Nile.

South Sudan is composed of 72 ethnic groups or nationalities. Arguably South Sudan is definitely not “One People” but it is composed of people of “One Destiny”.

The slogan, “One Nation One People” is only a dream that people may need to work very hard to realize it in practice. It is relevant to know that people in South Sudan are divided along regional, tribal, ethnic and clan or even family lines.

Liberation struggle for freedom

As people of one destiny South Sudanese in their different ethnic groups or nationalities were united in a protracted liberation struggle for freedom from oppression, marginalization and treatment as second class citizens. The different ethnic groups fought alongside each other against what was perceived as the common enemy.

Oppression, marginalization and mistreatment made the people of South Sudan to forge a common front of unity regardless of their different ethnic backgrounds. Basically the people of South Sudan did not struggle for freedom as “One People” but they jointly, probably with different agendas, struggled as people of “One Destiny” against the perceived common evil of oppression, marginalization and mistreatment.

South Sudanese are people of “One Destiny” in contrast to the misleading slogan that they are “One People”. What happened next after freedom had been achieved is anybody’s guess.

Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972

After a protracted armed struggle that lasted 17 years, people of South Sudan at last got a breathing space. This was through an agreement called the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 which granted the former southern provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile a local autonomy.

Under the agreement the three provinces became known as the Southern Region. Among other things the agreement was for efficient administration and the development of the Southern Region which was neglected for too long.

Barely 10 years into the agreement cracks began to appear in the leadership of the Southern Region. It seems Southern Sudanese then did not know how to manage the little freedom attained through the agreement.

There were accusations of tribalism in the regional government. The challenge was how to attain unity in heterogeneous Southern Region. Attaining unity was to recognize and accept the principle of peaceful co-existence of people with diversities. However, this was not the case.

Accusations of tribal domination, hegemony and corruption became ever louder and there was also a louder call for decentralization of the Southern Region.

Eventually the Southern Region was decentralized amid stiff opposition from those who had everything to lose in their easily acquired privileged positions in government and in business. The Southern Region was divided into three regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile which were the former three southern provinces.

Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005

As the Southern Region was being decentralized another armed struggle was taking place in Upper Nile Region. Those who were bitterly opposed to the decentralization of the Southern Region flocked in droves to join the new armed struggle.

As the armed struggle gained momentum its rank and file was swollen up with the various ethnic groups in South Sudan. It was obvious that the various ethnic groups fought the enemy together as people of one destiny but not as one people.

From the bitterness of decentralization it was clear that there was no question that the people of South Sudan were fighting the enemy as one people.

The new armed struggle lasted 22 years when a comprehensive peace agreement was signed in 2005. The agreement gave the former Southern Region now called Southern Sudan 6 years of interim period followed by a referendum.

In the referendum the people of Southern Sudan would be asked whether to remain united with the North or to opt for an independent state of their own. In January 2011 the people of Southern Sudan spoke loudly. They voted overwhelmingly, about 99 per cent, for independence and in July the self-governing Southern Sudan declared itself the independent Republic of South Sudan.

The vote in the referendum was the real liberation of South Sudan by the participation of all its eligible citizens. The unfortunate noises made by some few misguided individuals that “we liberated you” are nothing but the advertisement of total ignorance and sheer ethno-centricism which is inherently anti-nationalism in modern day South Sudan.

Post independent South Sudan

The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence because they wanted to be free at last. They had yearned for development and services. The alternative was to remain in shackles forever. Since the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005, the people of South Sudan did not fare any better. Poverty was high and insecurity was of major concern. South Sudan was not food self-reliant.

Urban and rural roads were in appalling conditions of utter neglect. Corruption became part of the culture difficult to eradicate. In all, the peace dividends expected were not forthcoming. It was a huge disappointment after so much protracted armed struggle with the loss of millions of precious lives.

The worse to devastate South Sudan was yet to come when an internal division within the ruling party in government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), exploded enormously into an open armed confrontation in the city of Juba. The sheer greed for power and hence control of resources is to blame.

Also, to blame is the impatience and insensitivity to the consequencs of the open armed confrontation on unity of the country.

There will never be any peace in South Sudan when the focus is only on power sharing. Fundamental is institutional reform in sustaining unity. Power sharing should be the second priority.

However, there seems to be deep ill-feeling that the SPLM may never be the same again. In view of irreconcilable differences, the leadership of the SPLM may need to reconsider their positions in the best interest of the country.

System of governance

According to the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 Artricle 47, South Sudan shall have a decentralized system of government with national, state and local government level. The question to pose may be, to what extent is the decentralized system effective on the ground.

Article 48 (1) (d) on Devolution of Powers stipulates that the principle shall be the pursuit of good governance through democracy, separation of powers, transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law to enhance peace, socio-economic development and political stability.

Article 48(2) (b) says that the national government shall respect the powers devolved to the states and local governments. This seems to be the reality in theory. In practice the national government may be so powerful that the system is virtually a centralized one. The national government can remove elected state governors with no warning.

National ministries may transfer staff to the states without the knowledge of the states concerned. National ministries also claim to be in-charge of what they apportion to themselves as national projects in the states with hardly any definition. Failure to develop projects of any significance, the existing projects in the states are now claimed to be national projects.

For decentralization to be meaningful it has to be exercised on the ground. Decentralization in theory is not helpful in sustaining unity. Decentralized governance has been accorded a central place in the discourse on development. This calls for improved people’s participation by way of effective decentralization through local self-governments. In contrast to a centralized system, decentralization is seen to promote efficiency, effectiveness and equity in delivery of services to people.

For South Sudan to be a successful story but not a failed state, the adoption of a federal system of government is essential, characterized by the principle of strict separation of powers and functions between the federal government and the states. Interference in state affairs should not be permitted. Both should be vested with the three branches of power, the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. Each level of government should be responsible and accountable for its own acts and decisions.

Currently the states in South Sudan do not have judiciary and this limits the power of the states to prosecute criminals, making the provision of justice to victims of crime in the states difficult. The states should also have the power to raise taxes for development. In addition the federal government can grant financial aid for particular important investments in the states.

Unity through development work

When the guns went silent as a result of the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005, the feeling and understanding of being people of one destiny appeared to have evaporated into thin air. As if they couldn’t believe it, the agreement brought freedom unseen of to the people of South Sudan.

The South had its own army and self-government comparable to any government in Sub-Saharan Africa. Besides marginalization by the North was becoming a thing of the past.

The freedom seemed to have neutralized the people of South Sudan. There was no longer a magnetic pull strong enough to make South Sudanese to have another vision of people as of one destiny.

Although poverty was glaringly evident and underdevelopment was felt everywhere, the people were oblivious. The political war was won but the economic war was yet to be won. One would have hoped this was enough to make the people of South Sudan to consider themselves as people of one destiny and the struggle continues.

Contrary to expectations naivety crept in at an alarming rate that greed for power and wealth turned people overnight to be traitors to Dr John Garang de Mabior’s vision of a New Sudan. It was like people had gone to war simply to come and loot public and private resources with impunity. However, during the interim period the perception of being independent through a referendum was so overwhelming that people put up with all the negative behaviors of the insensitive ones.

After the attainment of independence through the referendum the focus should have been on the prosperity of the country. Naturally the negative behaviors cannot be multiplied in independent South Sudan for the unity of the country will be in jeopardy. An appropriate way is to formulate a development programme that is focused on promoting national unity.

For convenience there are two main cultures in South Sudan, farming and pastoralism. These two cultures always clash and the consequences are unlikely to foster national unity. National unity is at stake when one culture is greedy for power and control of resources for the sake of domination to rule.

The challenge is how to harmonize the two cultures for mutual advantage in promoting national unity. Development of infrastructures and promotion of trade between farming communities and pastoralists will go a long way to bring these people together and this may promote mutual understanding. Many may know which states are predominantly of pastoralists and farming communities. Linking all major towns in pastoralists and farming communities through highways, waterways and in the future through railways can do the trick of realizing national unity. Airways may be unaffordable to the poor of either culture.

Unity through development work can be real when people are development oriented and serious. States should pioneer investment in development projects to rip benefits with movement of labor across states to tap the knowledge, skills and experience of the highly qualified in South Sudan. They should not wait for the central government.


Uniting the people of South Sudan through development work is not a concept that cannot be realized in practice. It is something that can become real with some ingenuity. South Sudan is rich in various resources.

The only challenge is that South Sudan is a nation of consumers who prefer individual development at the expenses of the country. This may explain the high level of corruption and theft of public funds with impunity.

According to South Sudan Development Plan 2011 – 2013, corruption in some government institutions is prevalent. Nepotism as a form of corruption is also cited as a major hindrance to good governance.

Hardly any consideration is given to national development. For example, agriculture is always cited as the backbone of the economy of South Sudan.

Agriculture therefore should have been developed for self-reliance in food production so that South Sudan should not have to spend millions of US dollars on food imports from the neighboring countries. However, in the National Draft Budget for Financial Year 2014/15 the budget for agriculture and forestry is 3 per cent of the total budget.

The budgetary allocation to agriculture is below what is expected given that agriculture is the backbone of the economy of the country. With favorable climatic conditions and multiple sources of water, South Sudan could be the breadbasket of the region. However, to increase production 10-25 per cent of the total budget should be allocated to agriculture.

In conclusion, South Sudan has every reason to be a strong united and vibrant country by uniting its people through development work when there is a vision and political will.

Jacob K. Lupai is the author of the book: South Sudan, Issues in Perspective published in 2014. The book is available in St Joseph Bookshop and in JIT Supermarket in Juba, and at Juba International Airport. For students who would like to borrow the book, copies owned by Juba University are available in the library.


  1. johnjerry says:

    SPLM Slogan Unity,Equality and progress, is that not what we stand for?. What went wrong that we do not do what we say we shall do.we in our own terms were not going to bring about the independence of south Sudan that some of Us claims to have brought without the participation of south sudanese diaspora and the full support of the American people under the leadership of W.George Bush Junior through the good offices of the the church that he attended. It was through those members of the church that put pressure to let president Bush push on the Sudanese government to let go southern Sudan after more than 5 decades of civil war.

    I love John Garang De Mabior he was able to see 5 -10 years ahead and also look back where he came from,but unfortunately after his death the SPLM became a vehicle without a reverse gear a vehicle I do not think exist and not only that every vehicle has a mirror that enables the driver to look back which is not the case with SPLM of today that is seen as a party of one tribe and an Army which is also seen as a tool of the SPLM. The Unity of our people is very important there should be no tribe in South Sudan that is more superior to any tribe from (A-Z) Acoli-Zande.We need that Unity that tied us together until the time of our freedom on july9,2011 in which all the south sudanese took part,but now claimed by one major Tribe,the Dinka tribe and are not a shamed to call themselves”liberators” something dividing the people along the ethnic lines who also were active participant in the struggle for the war of liberation. We can not bring development to South Sudan on our own we need other people to work with us together in terms of invesment and no investor will want to spend their money in a country that is not politically stable.

    South Sudan could become the “Lion”of Africa Vs the Tiger of Asia. During the 1960’s Africa was economically stronger than the Asian tigers,when the investors turned their attention to Asia they grew very fast because they invested in education that lead to infrastructures without which skilled workers can not to be taken for granted.The government should spent a lot in education than in defense as it is now if you invest in education you gain than when you put all the money in defense it is politically incorrect for a developing country such as South sudan. Agriculture should be the backbone of our economy given the best arable land we have in South Sudan that is envied by our neighbor and yet depend on food imports.For example South Sudan could be the chief producer of dairy product unfortunately the “milk” is still kept in the cows.we can do more if we listen to ourselves as one people, one nation. Take the example of the people of republic of Tanzania with many ethnic tribes,but look unto one another only as “Wadungu na wadada”{brothers and sisters) and Tanzania is the most stable Country in the whole of Africa from the time she became united in 1964 (Tanganyika-Zanzibar) Learn from them and be cool as the snow cap Kibo of kilimanjaro.

  2. Jacob K. Lupai,
    We must accept that south Sudan unlike other countries is a unique country. Unique in the sense that it has 64 tribes and it has been under colonialism longer than any country in Africa. Besides, it is the most illiterate country in the world secondly only to Somali and Afghanistan. Among its many tribes, the Dinka and the Nuer has been in a traditional tribal conflicts for generation, and the animosity between them has increased significantly in the past years with the quest for power in the new nation. This thirst for power and conquest has been aided with the glories abundance or arms that made war, terrorism, cattle rustling, and intimidation of other smaller tribes easier than ever. Tribalism and ignorant fueled ancient egoism that made life difficult in the country. Our leaders has nothing more than just digging trenches to stay in power or to take power by tooth and nail. That is why nepotism, corruption, insecurity, and land grabbing are rampant. No rule of law, murderers and death of innocent civilian are endlessly. So, the absence of unity does not mean there will be peace in south Sudan, not at all. We have incurable diseases such as: ignorant, tribalism, pride, and corruption that needs panacea. Unity being state or fact of being together and with one mind, as parts of a whole will not be possible to achieve in south Sudan. Even bringing peace which is a state of mutual harmony between all the tribes in the nation, especially in personal relations with the waring warriors will be difficult. I’m not optimistic about these because there-are people who thinks that south Sudan belongs to them, and no mater what other tribes say or do it will not matter at all. It will be self deception to think that the absence of unity is the reason why there is no peace in south Sudan. If we think so then we shall be false millionaires.

  3. Lupai says:

    Up to 95% of all the tribes and ethnics groups in the republic of south Sudan would like to live together as people of one nation and call themselves as one people. But greed and lack of civilisation coupled up by lack of SOCIALISATION (living together with others) in some ethnics group are making everything difficult. The very people that sing loudly at the top of their voices ‘one people one nation’, are the ones acting Distructively on the ground against the national cohesion. Greed has filled their hearts to the extent of claiming ownership of the liberation that lasted for over 50 years and cloesd up by the referundum of 2011 where everybody participated; just to elbow the rest from enjoying the fruits of the new nation. Sorry the current war between Dr. Riak and Kiir will come to an end at any time but the ideology in the Hidden Agenda of some of the ethnic group will continue to be the source of tragedy in the new nation. What is in your mind to think that Judiciary, key positions, bla…bla…bla are to be owned and if given away as one may put it should have duputies that are the real actors. South Sudan will never be at peace at all unless we take out these elements of GREED which make us think that all the good things should only belong to such and such group. Not even any system of government will solve the condition. But the wise idea is people should not force themselves when they do not need one other. But if the need arises then we should all abide by the rule of law

  4. Deng says:

    I am not really sure if the same Lupai who authored the article is the one commenting here? Let me assume that it is the same individual and I can tell you that I agree with everything you said in your comment. However, I strongly disagree with you if you and the rests believe that the entire Dinka community is the only problem to peace and co-existence in South Sudan. To be honest with you, I am a Dinka and I can tell you Dinka as a community is not our problem but the other 63 tribes. Why, they are the very ones that allowed/allow crooks such as Salva Kiir from the Dinka community to manipulate and use them against their own tribes’ men, I hope you won’t ask me to explain that to you. Please, tell your greedy politicians ( I heard your’re one of them) to put South Sudan first than their own interests and stop being stooges for crooks individuals Dinka men if we really need peace in South Sudan.

    • GatCharwearbol says:

      I have no rational reason to disagree with you. Salva Kiir has taken advantage of greed from all tribes including Dinka community. The politicians from all 64 tribes are to blame for giving too much power to this sick man. It is known that absolute power corrupt absolutely. We have now seen the reality and its consequences. Because of money, these politicians become stooges and have no clear direction to follow. All have no ambition to achieve except to get rich quick through the back door of begging Salva Kiir. Had they all denounce Salva Kiir and wrote and a suitable constitution and enforce it at all means, we wouldn’t have gotten ourselves in this mess. So the onus is on all politicians and us, the ordinary citizens for allowing ourselves to be used as fuel of getting rich and maintaining their power. To some extend, the Dinka community is to blame as well. Why? Because they allow Salva Kiir to performed criminal activities in the name of Dinka Community. You should have distance yourselves from him. The fact that you are supporting him is a clear indication of your participation in this mess. Thus, do not think that you are clean here.

  5. Easy Money says:

    Deng, I think you are right to some extent. However, food is the dominant factor when it comes to maintaining position in government. Regarding the rest of the 63 ethnic groups,only one seems to be well armed to dominate the majority militarily. However, their Kingdom is quickly crumbling. The people of South Sudan have learn a bitter lesson, never again to be cheated, when it comes to military domination. Secondly, they have looted the wealth of South Sudan and never again will that repeat itself. Public finances will no longer remain family property,to be looted at will. Properties purchased abroad, will be auctioned and money from their proceeds returned back to south Sudan for developing infrastructure. Our friends,the US,UK,AUSTRALIA and other countries where south Sudanese corrupt politicians have hidden stolen money of the state, will document and send back the stolen money or otherwise.

  6. bismark says:

    The fact of the matter is the truth as it stands must be put across to the public for consumption. Nothing is destroying this dear country other than Greed that is mentioned by Honourable Lupai. He was born and grew up in the motherland and knows very well the political dynamics of South Sudan. What is going on is completely wrong. It must be halted. Unless we are stupid enough then we can believe our social cohesion and development can come from the tenets of sectarianism like tribalism, nepotism and wanton corruption that seem to have grossly been effected by a certain group of people amongst us in this expensive country of ours. No tribe or race can think they can successfully dominate, oppress and suppress all the political views of the opponents of those in government. For sure any government that does that in a multi-tribal, multi-racial or multi-religious country can expect nothing but resistance. Always the solution to that is making the work of government unmanageable by employing the tools of resistance. That is what is happening. It is unfortunate situation but the cause of it is we ourselves specifically those in government. This situation can be arrested by those who caused it in the first place and those who are affected with a clear, sober mind that is full of patriotic ideas to make the country move forward. No blame games can solve our issues. Those who committed crime must face justice in order to implant confidence to the people. Lupai is a patriot. He never fails to enlighten the mass about the facts in the motherland. He puts across the causes of this calamity and possible solutions to those causes of the present blood flow and possibly another bloodbath if we do not change the way we view ourselves as people of different ethnicities and culture that are trying to come together to make a home called South Sudan. If all the components of what is South Sudan do not respect themselves and agree to work out a deal that is multi racial, multi tribal then I am afraid we still have a long way to travel to create a real country that is free from bleeding to it’s dismemberment.

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