24 May 2012

South Sudan: The Peace Dividends


2005 has since been long gone. Some clauses of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) are slowly getting off our (South Sudanese) radar.

Of late, the focus is on our oil and how best to protect it from the desperate neighbour in the north, whose callous, if not simple stupid nature of their long treatment of Southerners ever since they were hospitably opened a door to the Sudan, has sowed deep division amongst ourselves.

You bet it was a decision our ancestors would unforgivably regret, if they were to come back now. But, really, I leave this to historians to continue dissecting the consequences.

For now, though, let me revert back to the point of this article - peace dividends. In the last four or so months, there has been a surge of inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei State. Our politicians (especially, Ismail Konyi of Murle Community) jumped at it; accusing the State authorities of failing to deliver services to the "people".

He wasted no time before proposing division of Jonglei State to two states. Indeed, confirmed again in the recent peace deal as a demand once put forth by Murle leaders, or caucus that was involved in mini-peace conferences in Jonglei State. Ideally, in a normal circumstance, this is an acceptable idea.

Decentralizing systems of government brings the government closer to people. But, I am of the opinion that in environment where some are in a way specialized in destruction of both human and properties, a division of Jonglei State into two, three, or even six states, to meet the need of each tribe, would not change a thing.

What I think would allow the Jonglei people to enjoy development or to realize peace dividends is to take example of other southern states that are in peace.

I worked in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State for over three (3) years and what is going on there will take Jonglei another few more years before it could match it (assuming the border conflict gets resolved amicably). Drinking of unsafe water is a thing of the past. You can literally access all the counties regardless of the season.

Schools are coming up everywhere. There are markets days throughout the week; a great signs that economy is growing. And more recently, political reform is shaping up. However, I would not attribute all the progress there wholly to its leadership. More so, the people of Northern Bahr el Ghazal deserve credit for having understood the trick: peace equal development.

Sometimes last year, 2011, I heard governor Kuol Manyang Juuk talked about challenges of development in Jonglei State. Generally, I was in a way impressed with how he sees things. What struck me the most was his vision for wanting to have Jonglei State be the hub for industries such as agriculture, tourism, fisheries and so on. But, what really got my psychology was the example of enemies of development he gave.

"Here in Jonglei, people do not feel secure to do development", revealed the Governor. "This year a driver of a road company sustained a gun shot while grading the road between Gandiang and Pibor County. This put an end to the process of constructing roads meant to link Counties to the State Headquarters," the Governor explained.

Really! And given what I know now about this situation, I sympathize with the governor a million times. This story reminds of me of an English phrase that says, "Don't bite the hands that feed you". At times, one wonders whether those involve in terrorizing Jonglei State actually understand the consequences of their actions.

In a recent shutter peace process, which subsequently resulted to a peace deal witnessed by the President of the Republic, all statements on the situation of Jonglei were categorically clear - live in peace and development will come. Don't mark me wrong, I am a graduate of development.

I know development doesn't have to wait for a total peace. At times, development is done to create peace. For those who know theories of development well, government does not solely provide development.

It creates environment conducive for development. Even this is not enough. The ability of government to create conducive environment for development comes from all citizens united by common purpose, not tribe, boundaries, or culture. The very notion that created insecurity is an incentive for bringing development that is severely distorted.

In fact, the opposite couldn't be truer. The proposition is that, it is when, and only when, the citizens of Jonglei State unite in peace that peace dividends will be realized far to the border of Ethiopia where the Kachipo community of Jonglei State lives.

Mind you, the President challenged us all to tell him where to bring people who would risk their lives building roads!

Panther Alier lives in South Sudan.

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