We should hail South Sudan for progress made

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) founder Colonel John Garang de Mabior. [File, Standard]

In July 2011, a new kid joined the block of 54 independent states of Africa. The autonomy of South Sudan was a welcome infant whose delivery signalled hope to her citizenry.

They earned the pride of sovereignty under the stewardship of John Garang along with his comrades in arms, under the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

After years of civil war, the independence of South Sudan came with the promise of prosperity, but as if nature sought to prove right the words of European writer Arthur Koestler in his book ‘Darkness at Noon’, that the tragedy of the world is that sometimes when you diagnose a disease, and you the antidote, a new wound appears.

There was a time when South Sudan may have thought that the attainment of independence was the antidote, but a new wound appeared. The infant barely grew to puberty as the youngest nation saw a new wave of ethnic conflicts, military factions, ethnic and struggles for control over the vast oil wealth. A circle of violence has crippled the nation, making development impossible.

The SPLA and rebel groups made militarism the order of the day. Political elites and military leaders took control of the oil resources and siphoned them for the creation of their own wealth rather than the overall good of the people. Poverty, human rights abuse, extreme atrocities against innocent civilians, sexual violence and recruitment of children into the armies are among the crimes entrenched in the country.

South Sudan, like any other nation, has had her own share of misfortune and challenges to reckon with, despite all that, progress is imminent and a democratic constitutional order is in the offing. The conception of various agreements including the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in 2018 has constituted their foundational steps towards attaining peace, uniting the rival factions and aligning the citizenry towards a transition government. This year, they have elections coming up.

While holding a general election is a good step, there are questions we must pose: Are there stable political institutions such as the electoral body, to deliver free and fair elections? How about a functional Judiciary? After the elections, would there be willingness to accept the will of the people by rival factions?

The questions point to uncertainty, hence one thing is clear, her neighbours, the East African Community, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union and the international community have a pivotal role in aiding the transition.

There has to be unlimited diplomatic support in instituting peaceful processes. The election will be a resounding indicator of the trajectory the country takes. It will determine whether the fate of a people so disenfranchised, will get better.

People of South Sudan need a working constitutional establishment. They need sustainable peace yielded by a functional democracy. They want food. They want water. They desire that their vast mineral reserves be exploited for improvement of their livelihood. They want an education system for their children. They want roads. They yearn to be secure and integrated in a nation for which they have fought long and hard, in sweat and blood.

-The writer is a PhD candidate in leadership and governance