South Sudan: third time is a charm!
David Majok, April 16, 2013
It is interesting when one thinks of the opportunities gained and lost in South Sudan since 2005. It is also perfect to look at the past from hindsight and make conclusions as to what could have or should have happen in the given time period—2005 to present. This is especially important in our situation in South Sudan because of the euphoria created by the prospects for change ushered in with the CPA: for it has provided South Sudanese with level of optimism that is unrivalled by any time in our history. Thus, as part of our recent history or story, one would be remised if one does not contemplate on what was missed in the march to freedom. This story or history can be explained by the charms—CPA, Independence and Cooperation Agreement that was signed last year but did not come into full force till March 2013.
As indicated above, the CPA was one of the lucky or charm moment in our history. We gained our autonomy and with it incredible levels of leverage to set in motion policies and programs that would have transformed Southern Sudan. Our people were expecting much more than what could have been achieved. The quest for peace, freedom and development was outpaced by the expectations, given the lack of skills and experience required to deliver on the promises of better life. The period also has been marred by the uncontrolled excess of corruption, nepotism, lack of rule of law, and above all, vision. Or, the vision that was espoused during this period of CPA implementation was mainly geared towards attaining the right to self-determination at the expense of all other needs. The work of building a sustainable society was left to the NGOs and IGOs, some of which have delivered basic emergency needs, such as mobile health units, water sanitation in the severely affected areas of the country.
The referendum, which constituted a bigger part of the politics of CPA, has also provided South Sudanese with hopes for better future. South Sudanese made history in terms of turn out, despite of the road blocks that were erected in trying to make the process a difficult one. However, the perseverance of SPLM has paid off in standing on the principles of the CPA (spirit and letter) till those who chose to be part of history, registered in South Sudan and all over the world, to cast their decisive ballots to complete the accorded rights enshrined, not only in the doctrines of international law but also the CPA itself.
The second lucky charm moment in our history and story of struggle comes as a result of the independence, with the pronouncement of “erga omnes” confirming that South Sudan became an independent state on July 9th 2011, with full rights and responsibilities. This milestone has also created euphoria in our nation and many, for the first time, felt that a new phase in our history and story has begun. This was another point of departure that many have waited for, to allow South Sudanese to break with the recent but unpleasant reality of transformation that did not materialize.
With Oil completely in our hands and destined to enrich our lives and change the course of our history, nothing would have stopped us from attaining what we have so long suffered for. An independent country, shared history of suffering, strong referendum results indicating the will of the people to create their own destiny, which only few nations, have so willingly chosen, is a testament to better future.
Then the short lived euphoria was eclipsed by the breakdown in relations with Sudan, hence, the shutdown of the only source of income for South Sudan. Suicidal as it was, many in the nation applauded the decision of the leadership that implied, among other things, a sense of sovereignty, control over our own resources and a desire of people to be free from the shackles of Khartoum. Though seen as a decisive step in post secession, the decision exposed South Sudan to the realities of dependence on single source economic output. Many have indicated that the decision to shut down oil production and flow through Sudan was short-sighted and did not factor in vulnerable state the economy. The SPLM led government kept on and maintained a strong position on its decision to shut down the oil flow. This decision was marked by the Panthou crises, which also exposed South Sudan to another short-sighted decision to go to war under the assumption that the international community would willfully accept our interpretation of the facts on the ground and side with us against the intransigence of Khartoum regime’s approach to bilateral relations on the issues of separation. The International Community, fairly or unfairly, always rushes in at the last minute to rescue its reputation but leaves those affected by the conflict to fend for themselves, which was the case in the border areas affected by the war.
AS well, the Panthou war and the resultant international community’s indignation on the occupation of the border town exposed our diplomacy to the harsh reality of the bilateral, regional and global politics or realpolitik. South Sudan was caught unprepared to deal with how to fend off the accusations of being an aggressor state. Futile efforts were made by the ill-trained and unprepared diplomats in the finesse of international diplomacy, to educate the world on the geography and historical boundaries of the provinces of Sudan which translated into international borders as of July 9th 2011.
The protracted negotiations under the AUHIP and UNSC decision to force the two parties into negotiated settlements of post secession issues was instrumental in ratcheting down the rhetoric of brinksmanship. The September 2012 Cooperation Agreements and Oil Transportation Deal that was reached has paved way for calculated measures of building bilateral relationships on better terms. The results of these negotiations have finally demonstrated the need for responsible leadership and governance on the part of South Sudan.
Now the Oil is flowing, it is incumbent upon the leadership to kick start the economic engine of South Sudan with strong emphasis on immediate needs of building infrastructures, institutions and identity for our nation. This is an opportunity that has been missed twice before and with the resumption of our main source of income, the government and leadership in South Sudan is faced with moral duty of changing the image the world has about us. The image that the world has about us can be captured this sentence: South Sudan is new country, tribal, poor, corrupt, lacks ability to govern itself and lawless. This view of the world can be changed or transformed with committed leadership and determination to destroy the vices of what we fed the world about us.
This third phase or lucky charm moment is the last ditch effort to resurrect the image of the Nation and of the Party that fought to give us a chance to choose between being a second class citizens or free willing people. The SPLM, as movement that fought the liberation war and helped us make our choice, is now facing a make or break moment with South Sudanese people. The path is open and the decision is theirs, since the party controls every aspect of the way forward. We have presented South Sudan through our vote for independence, to the SPLM in “silver plate,” so it is their chance to show us what the SPLM Party is made of.