The story of Chilean miners - A lesson for Southern Sudan

Category: Commentary
Published on Sunday, 17 October 2010 16:41
Written by Geu Machar, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), www.newsudanvision.com
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Chilean-miner-rescue-006(Winnipeg) - Like many in the world, I watched the first and the last trapped miner lifted to the earth surface. The heroic Chilean miners rescue has sent a rare level of joy and celebration across the globe. While the watchful glare of international media sensationalized the rescue effort, the Chilean people led by their president who took full command of the rescue operation, demonstrated what has become a once in a lifetime tragedy-turned-blessing story to all humanity. In a world filled with human tragedies caused by accidents, plane crashes, tsunamis, hurricanes, terrorism, earthquakes, epidemics etc – not often do we hear of such magnitude of success.

The 33 men that were trapped 700 metres below the earth surface had the luck of their life yet. Their lives didn’t become theirs, or their families’. Backed by the Chilean people, the courageous president took the responsibility over his shoulders to ensure that the deep-earth stranded miners were safely rescued. Some might argue that President Pinera took the advantage of intense world media coverage for political purpose to ensure that his rating soar to the roof. In any event, he did what Chileans and the world expected him to do – he gave his all for the lives of 33 stranded miners.

The heroes of this whole drama have been rightly applauded but one of the unsung heroes has had very little media mention. That first rescuer who emerged from the rescue capsule to the cheers of stranded miners fits what brevity and courage means.

Anything could have happened when he was down there. His life could have been in danger too if the rescue effort had failed. But, how can he not do it considering that their whole nation was behind him!

Besides the books, movies, documentaries and TV shows that are going to be borne out of this extraordinary rescue effort, what struck me the most is how precious and valueless the Chilean government hold the lives of her citizens. The Chilean government almost bankrupted their country’s economy to save the lives of 33 men.

They made the cuts in all sectors to make sure that the miners were rescued.  At the end of the rescue operation, the Chilean president claimed that what they accomplished in Chile could not be done in many parts of the world. Any country in the world would have access to the resources Chile had. But, this brutally honest claim touched me and those from the implied parts of the world.

Can this show of support and relentlessness ever be replicated by any government in Africa or Sudan in particular? From the atmosphere where politicians invoke civilians’ emotions to cause countless loss of innocent lives, does this story hold any significance? These and many other questions came to my mind while I was watching the trapped Chilean miners being lifted to safety. If this had happened in Africa the most likely response from the government of the day would be to cover it up as much as possible and to let the families deal with their losses however they like it. Our leaders, current and aspiring, have to take note of what Chile has done. Africans and Sudanese need to see the time when their leaders will demonstrate to their fellow countrymen and women that their well being is the number one priority of their governments.  What has been happening in Sudan is absolutely contrary to this exemplary act of government responsibility. Our government needs to recognize that it is their responsibility to respond to all kinds of misfortune that befall any family or community whether accidental or incidental. How many times has anybody seen our president issue a statement from a disaster zone?

It is equally a government responsibility to make sure that the security, external or internal, of her citizens is assured. A government’s representative to Canada recently shamelessly claimed in Winnipeg that insecurity in Southern Sudan is “isolated and contained”.  Or he needs somebody to remind him that insecurity in Jonglei State did not start with George Athor?

I recon that acceptance of reality is the first step towards achieving a meaningful solution. Sudanese or South Sudanese for that matter need to see their leaders demonstrate that the lives of their fellow citizens are a priority.

The story of Chilean miners rescue made Chileans and the world proud. It brought Chileans together. South Sudanese need a story of similar significance that will make them proud as a nation should the referendum materialize.

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