Was the Barrage “Leaders of Tomorrow” an Inspiration or a Hoax?

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Friday, 05 June 2009 16:40
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Akol Aguek
(Vermont, USA)--Current Prime Minister of Kenya Mr.  Raila Odinga once said in reference to  President Moi and the leaders of his dad’s generation (and I paraphrase his statement here) that their time had come to lead Kenya and therefore shouldn’t be called leaders of tomorrow anymore.  In his mind, they should be the leaders of Kenya at the time.

Yes, those words must ring aloud to us today. At the prime of our lives in our late twenties and early thirties and with so much education attained in the shortest time possible, we should be saying the same thing to those of President Kiir, and the leaders of his generation. Not to oust them but for their generation to give us a chance to start at the bottom and walk our way up to the top.

Starting from 1987 when we left home in Thousands to 2000 when we finished our high school education, the barrage has always been “you are the leaders of tomorrow.” Or “your sun is still rising.”

It was the most visionary view held (or at least pretentiously held) by so many leaders of SPLM/A.  It was so inspiring and preordained that we really believed our leaders meant it. We were inspired and took our education very seriously despite the odds because we knew the future of entire Sudan, if not South Sudan, was going to be decided by us, and education was going to determine it. 

Of course, unbeknownst to us was the benefit of hindsight, which is always twenty out of twenty.  What does such a barrage mean today? It means nothing! Why? Because the South Sudan civil service has “no vacancies!”

One would rightly question the title of my piece on the grounds that leadership isn’t tokenism or entitlement but rather a virtue that is earned by those endowed with leadership qualities. Therefore, we should not be asking this question when we can show up in South Sudan and start being leaders of today. It is a legitimate criticism and concession is warranted down the road if I must. 

 But what if the old system is denying their anointed “leaders of tomorrow” the opportunities to serve now and therefore not lining up for succession plans down the road? What if the doors of the current South Sudan civil service are closed for those educated young professionals (then referred to as leaders of tomorrow?) Will these “leaders of tomorrow” have a fair chance to start at the bottom and walk their way up to the top? Will they have the opportunities to earn their leadership credentials? Of course not, because there is no opportunity out there to even try out.  Unfortunately, that is where things are today in South Sudan!

The best question then to ask is did our leaders mean it? Of course, they didn’t. Folks, we were deprived of our parental care by “war” when many of us were 7- 12 years old, and are now in our late 20s to early 30s. We are now at the prime of our lives when we should be the most productive individuals in the workforce.  And given the level of education that many of us have attained and the value of work ethics we have learned here in the west, I cannot imagine why many some of us are being turned down in droves in the names of “no vacancies.”

Get me right.  Pay attention to my concerns. I am not after tokenism or entitlement to any government job. In fact, many of us do not dream to make careers in politics or public service. Many of us are planning to make careers in professional fields far away from political bickering and back stabbing. What is disconcerting is the manner in which many talented, skilled, and highly educated returning young professionals ended up  almost destitute in Juba, only to return to the west with little, or no hope of returning to South Sudan. This is a strategic blunder and gamble that South Sudan may not recover from unless curbed now.

Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating throwing out our uncles and veterans who sacrificed everything they had, including their careers, for the liberation of the oppressed Sudanese people. They are entitled to enjoying their peace dividends that they had paid ultimate sacrifices for. They have the experiences, especially their knowledge of Arabic language, to move our nation forward in this critical phase of CPA implementation. They need very generous retirement pension plans before they are asked to leave the public service.

To the extent that they are entitled to serve now, does not mean, the next generation of Sudanese leaders should be denied the entry level jobs, mentorships and other professional development opportunities for advancements down the road.

If we look at some of us idling around in South Sudan towns, including those holding degrees, the numbers are shocking and hard pressing. It shouldn’t be that way. We have shown how to deliver results from very difficult situations. Every challenge that we have set up ourselves up to has always been exceeded.

If our leaders meant it when they referred to us as leaders of tomorrow, they should give us the chance to serve right now. We have delivered and shattered records where success was unimaginable. We can deliver the needed change in the South Sudan public service if given a chance. Our government must make good on the “leaders of tomorrow” barrage or else that two-decade generational promise many bought into  will sadly end up as a scam or hoax!

Akol Aguek Ngong is an MBA student; an Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, he lives in Burlington, VT, USA and contributes to New Sudan Vision regularly. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.