9 November 2017

South Sudan: An Open Letter to President Salva Kiir

Photo: allafrica.com
South Sudan's former Chief of General Staff, Gen Paul Awan Malong and President Salva Kiir.
opinion

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir seems to have failed to hold together Africa's newest nation. The citizens are under attack by rebel groups and undisciplined government soldiers. How long will this go on? When is the government of Salva Kiir going to create an environment of peace especially for the young people to realize their dreams?

The lost boys/girls of Sudan are hitting their 40s. In the West, when someone reaches her 40s, she starts to freak out and goes on a spending spree, because she begins to realize that half of her life is gone, never to be recovered. Similarly, Mr. President, you are in your mid-sixties and those of your generation have spent 22 years of your lives fighting for the cause of southern Sudan. That means two generations of South Sudanese have wasted valuable and unrecoverable time of their lives struggling to piece together the peaceful nation we all dreamed of when we started to take up arms against the Arab-dominated government. The new generation that is beginning to see light as we speak must get to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that the last two generations of South Sudan have missed out on.

Mr. President, you don't have an offensive personality. In fact, you are in the same league with "Mr. Nice Guy" Pope Francis. For 22 years, you stood firm and steadfast with Dr. John Garang, when everyone involved in the upper echelons of the leadership was fighting over the chairmanship. And soon after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, a surge of rebellion became a force to be reckoned with. You swiftly acted to integrate these rebellious and disgruntled leaders into our national army. That is the people's personality we have always associate with you during the era of liberation.

However, when it comes to the delicate affairs of the state, you are always constantly juggling matters that need decisive and shrewd maneuvering to avoid making errors that might cause injury to the masses of the innocent populace. Being a leader of the state doesn't require someone to be constantly nice to everyone. Playing niceties to everyone is the role that we normally see being handled by the priests and pastors of our religious entities. You are perhaps surrounded by a small crew of advisers that numbers a handful to a dozen. On the other hand, South Sudan has a population numbering millions. This small crew of advisers has grounded the nation to a screeching halt. You constantly listen to their bickering and act upon their recommendations without looking at the bigger picture, which entails the head of state to put the interests of the people ahead of everything else. Jieeng Council of Elders is not a South Sudan Council of Elders. Even if they were, the older generation tends to advocate for maintaining the status quo and leaves little room to forecast the issues the future generations might come up against. Our nation is way far more important and bigger than a few rent-seeking advisers and elders.

An unknown number of our people have perished in their thousands since the catastrophe took centerstage in December 2013. Two million people are sheltering as refugees in neighboring countries. Another two million are internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

According to Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan political commentator, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni embezzled $8 million to maintain his personal jet plane every year. This is the man who took up arms to get rid of dictators from personally enriching themselves with the coffers of state. He used taxpayers' and foreign aid proceeds to satisfy his insatiable greed while some schools have no roofs and the unemployment rate is running mad at 62%.

As you can see, Mr. President, Museveni came to power to live the good life albeit he claimed to have come to power to revolutionize Uganda to a modern state - in fact Uganda has remained an agricultural state since he took power in 1986. Museveni, along with many false prophetic leaders in Africa, loves the easy access to public coffers that they can easily exploit when the throne has been thrust upon them. Museveni is currently pushing to abolish the presidential age limit so he could continue to enjoy the constant supply of public wealth. These leaders are known the world over for being too corrupt and abusive of their mandated powers, but they always make sure that the national security doesn't turn against their favor.

Unlike Museveni who falsely took power to enrich himself with the public coffers, your personality shows otherwise. Even when we had oil proceeds supplementing our coffers, you had no interest to take what rightfully belongs to the public. Our great friend Museveni, who lent his hand during our struggle for freedom, has been in power for over 30 years. Similarly, we would like you to lead our nation for the next 30 years after helping to stabilize our national security.

A few weeks ago, our government hired a Rwandan to spearhead our revenue department. Who came up with the idea of hiring a Rwandan, when we have so many educated South Sudanese in finance and economics? It is not the area of revenue that we badly need help on; for that matter, even our old man Dr. Lual Achuek Deng knows a thing or two about playing with the numbers. We are urging you to put security mechanisms in place so our people can start to return home.

Our army is out of control. The first duty of the army is to ensure the integrity and safety of the people within its given territorial realm is protected and secured. Our army does otherwise; it goes on raping our women, killing defenseless citizens, and laying to waste personal properties that belong to others. As a tiny-bitty kid in Panyido (Fugnido) Refugee Camp in Ethiopia in the late 1980s, whenever an SPLA soldier committed an inhumane act against his fellow compatriot, the offender in question was immediately rushed to be executed. That was how the army's behavior was kept in check from getting out of hand. Museveni did the same thing when his National Resistance Army was committing similar heinous crimes. Mr. President, has the army grown too big that you can't handle hammering in one nail or two when they have gotten out of line?

In reference to our dire situation, Museveni once said, "it is not your tribesmen that buy your goods." By that he means you can't solely rely on your tribesmen to lead a successful business life. In other words, in a nation that has a strong identity and cultural cohesiveness, you can very much get along with just about anyone. During our liberation days, South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF), formerly the SPLA, treated its prisoners of war better than the manner it is now treating its own national citizens. In liberated Yei and other towns, for example, Jallaba's prisoners had their own quarters where they planted their crops and no one was allowed to approach them. On the other hand, our former northern adversaries didn't return one single prisoner to us in exchange for letting their brethren go scot free. Our army took up arms so we could all be free and sacrificed so much in the process for over two decades. If we didn't value our people that much, one would wonder whether we were really fighting for a true cause.

Mr. President, we have been too busy either fighting our northern oppressors or fighting among ourselves for over half a century. And during that time, the world has never stood still even for a mere second. Our national borders remained undemarcated. The Kenyans now claim Ilemi Triangle as their own. Similarly, Uganda is slowly encroaching on our borders stealthily like a tiger.

We would like you to age gracefully in office. However, when there is a constant catastrophe engulfing the general populace every now and then, you would only live a nightmarish life. You have a 22-year experience of military life under your belt. What we needed, to begin with, was to transform our former guerrilla army, the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF), into a national army. Uganda has enjoyed a stupendous period of political stability under Museveni, apart from the sporadic unnecessary rebellious scourge caused by Joseph Kony in northern Uganda, in the last 31 years. You can ask Museveni to lend a hand once again to help with transforming the national army.

South Sudan is blessed with many friends; whether they are our neighbors across our borders or far-flung places like Norway. We don't need to even go as far as Uganda to find the right people to help with the issues of our national security; some of our current army personnel were trained in military academies in far-flung and sophisticated places like Cuba. That is why I have reiterated above that we don't need a revenue expert at this very moment to spearhead our revenue authority when we have a bigger problem at hand: which is to fix our national security.

African people are truly a resilient bunch. After the end of colonialism, a new breed of African leaders sprung to the fore and immediately ruled with an iron fist. In addition to their misrule, they even entrenched themselves with looting what rightfully belonged to the public. When a dictator left office, another one came through and it has been like that up to this very day. The people persevered. Even though the people were robbed in the broad daylight of the abundant natural resources, they were able to live in freedom and farm to feed themselves. The freedom to farm and do whatever life demands of you to stay alive is what has been eluding South Sudanese for far too long.

Mr. President, the elders, and advisers you surround yourself with are very close to their retirement age, while the majority of our youth haven't reached their prime yet. South Sudan is very much a youthful nation where the youth make up 70% of the people. In the not so distant past, when the current generation of our elders was showcasing their youthful exuberance, the wisdom of the elderly population was the institutional foundation for every cultural aspect in the society. Now, times have changed and the youth are stakeholders in matters pertaining to the future. By 2050, Africa is poised to have a younger working-age population than anywhere else in the world. In Europe, the youth are about to establish their own parliaments where they will debate the issues pertaining to their future prospects and ask the national parliamentarians to work on those issues.

In South Sudan, no one has done a superb job better than Peter Biar Ajak with what the Europeans are trying to achieve with their youth. He single-handedly assembled some promising young South Sudanese so they could debate matters concerning their immediate future. Furthermore, Peter Biar Ajak, along with his South Sudan Wrestling Entertainment (SSWE), has been in constant collaboration with the Anataban, which is a group of artists who aim to promote peace through their artistic endeavors. Their artistic creations can be seen throughout major towns in the country. Mr. President, we urge you to work with these groups of youth to create a conducive environment where their voices are heard and policies directed toward their future prospects.

Our elders continue to hold a very special place in our hearts and they will continue to do so going forward. All over the world, globalization is trying to create one global culture, meaning the world is becoming the so-called global village, where the sharing culture will enable people to consume the same information at the same time. Our elders will only hold us back from achieving our dreams of joining the global village. The elders are fond of basking in past glories and going on about how we can maintain the purity of the tribe; meaning other cultures and people will only make their tribes foreign and impure, and thus unacceptable.

We are not asking for these youth to be employed as Members of the Parliament; we are only urging you to find a medium or a means by which you can implement policies geared towards their aspirations. That is how we can stop the surge of rebellion that has plagued our nation since 2005. By neglecting our youth, we are only creating more George Athors, David Yau Yaus, Arrow Boys, Riek Machars and Thomas Cirilo Swakas.

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