28 January 2013

South Sudan: For How Long Will President Kiir Fly On Ethiopian and Kenyan Airliners?

opinion

Wait a minute. I have a confession to make: I'm a fool, the greatest fool of all times. I have been a fool. Due to this folly, I've been relying on my President for protection. I have always counted on him to protect my life and of my children, relatives and South Sudanese in general.

Alas! I was wrong. If the President of the Republic, Salva Kiir, is insecure, who am I to complain about the growing insecurity situation in South Sudan? Who am I to rely on him? If my President sweats and panics every time he exits and returns to the country, who the hell am I to question why civilians are killed on a daily basis in Juba, in Wau and in the whole country? If the President does not care about his own personal security, life, why do I expect him to protect me? I'm a big fool. Don't you agree with me? Is he safe? How safe is he?

Relax. The President is safe and there is no potential danger at all.

Do you ask yourself why insecurity is deteriorating in the country? Do you wonder why women and even 14-year old girls are unarguably systematically raped in Juba and beyond? Do you know why many citizens spend sleepless nights due to constant attacks and burglaries staged by armed and uniformed men? This is simply because the president himself is insecure; (I know I just assured you that he is safe). So, how do you expect somebody who does not value security to protect you? It is like asking a pauper for a piece of bread.

World nations maintain one or more special plane to transport to fly their heads of states and other senior government officials. There are so many reasons why they do this. One of them is security concern which happens to be the most important one. Another one is prestige. For South Sudan's case, trash prestige.

My point is: why does Mister President depend on hired commercial planes? Why does he fly on a chartered jet? Come on. It has been seven and half years now. For how long will our beloved President continue to use Ethiopian and Kenyan airliners? Is it lack of money? Is it that he is too humble to have a presidential private jet? What exactly is gagging the old man?

South Sudan just emerged out of a bloody civil war which killed millions and displaced over four million others. Besides, the same people we have been at war with are still as violent as Islamic Radicals. Practically, we are still at war with Sudan. Ask the people of Mile 14, Renk and Raja. And our borders are as porous and dangerous as ever. The world economy is at the verge of collapse. No, it has already collapsed. This is sending all types of people- the bad, the good and the ugly - to South Sudan which they believe is the new business hub. The influx of these questionable foreign nationals bespeaks a serious concern. Most of these people are running away from their countries for a reason, just one reason - poverty. They are very desperate. That means they can do anything for money.

South Sudan charters a plane every time the Cowboy has to travel outside, to and fro. The common planes are the Kenya's KQ and the Ethiopian Airways. He has flown on these jets a million times. How safe is this type of transport? How much do we have to trust our cousins?

I am not saying the two airliners can do us any premeditated harm but I would like you to look beyond the horizon. Think.

I know that many world leaders chose to travel on commercial flights, like the rest of the great unwashed. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, for instance, has his own plane but sits in an ordinary aircraft seat, rather than a reclining sofa. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke flies Air New Zealand. That's fine. And Malawian President Joyce Banda is an extraordinary woman. She travels by scheduled commercial liners. However, the beauty of this is that the said heads of states fly on their respective nations' commercial planes, say, Air New Zealand or Air Australia.

Look around. All of our neighboring countries, including broke ones, have presidential jets. President Kibaki trudges in and out of his fifty-million-dollar Fokker 70. Museveni swaggers in a forty-point-two-million-dollar Gulfstream G550 private plane. This is very convenient for them. This special jet, say, Museveni's, is serviced in Uganda by Ugandans. It's kept in a hangar managed by Ugandans. It's watched by Ugandan security agents.

Can South Sudan afford to buy a cheaper jet for the head of the state? Yes it can. I know the government is broke but there is an alternative - just squeeze hundreds of millions of dollars out of the seventy-five thieves.

I acknowledge the destructive monetary effects that come with a presidential jet but what difference would it make? The government has had its hand on billions of oil money all these years but it could not use it appropriately.

In actual sense, if we sum up all the money the state has spent on President Kiir's chartered flights since 2005, the amount could buy a jet more expensive than Kibaki's. Even if it would mean buying a second-hand plane, the parliament should do something. South Sudanese would be more comfortable and relaxed to see the plane their President flies piloted by the sons and daughters of the soil. Need I remind you of the past fishy events involving influential people in Eastern Africa, even our own? No, I don't think so.

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