Op-Ed—Independence Day – A new call to arms for the people of South Sudan

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(Washington, DC) - Less than 48 hours separate us from the inaugural trumpets announcing the arrival of the Republic of South Sudan among the fraternity of nations. This arrival will be witnessed by millions of South Sudanese all around the globe, elated by the achievement of what has been an elusive dream for many since the British and Egyptians abdicated their abominable colonial rule in 1956 in favor of an equally unjust system of local Northern repression and marginalization. So these are certainly days worthy of celebration, commemoration and chest thumbing on account of the triumph of a liberation struggle. This occurred in the face of international indifference and hostility at the onset, internal division among the erstwhile freedom fighters, acute resource deficiencies, and most tragically, brutal violence by a succession of civil and military regimes in Khartoum equally committed to the project of Southern subjugation.

This rare story of triumph for liberty and autonomy against racial and religious fanaticism however provides an opportunity to reframe our national struggle in a broader context that sees arriving at the historic day of July 9th as just the first chapter.  Today, we have an opportunity to take stock of the long and painful journey, to salute the fallen heroes and heroines, to extol the virtues of our brave men and women of the Anyanya and SPLA, to thank our neighbors and friends around the globe who unfailingly came to our aid in myriad ways, and to most importantly chart a way forward together.

Charting this way forward now falls to all of us as citizens of this new nation, because we are equally called on to rise to the occasion and help make the idea of a viable state in South Sudan a reality against the persistent doubts of both pitying friends and malicious enemies. Consolidating our various yearnings and aspirations in a manner conducive to our collective good is what the call to arms in this article alludes to. It is not an easy proposition given our broad diversity and the baggage that we all bring into this new national project from our sad history as part of the old broken Sudan. However, it is indispensable that we do that to ensure better prospects for our future as a people and a country.

Ironically, the failings of the old Sudan at a similar juncture might be a blessing in disguise, as they provide all the cautionary tales that we need to chart a different and happier course. A quick glance shows that the leaders of Sudan at independence from condominium rule barely paid any attention to the need to re-assess the reality of their nascent state before gleefully getting on with the spoils of power. Here was a country that was very diverse, facing a rebellion from autonomy-seeking Southerners, and riddled by racial and religious fault lines among many of its people. The leaders of the first indigenous post-independence government never saw those as grave dangers to their new enterprise, and barely finished raising the new flag before getting on with their vicious partisan infighting that would end up inviting the military to grab power to disastrous effect. We all know the rest of the infamous history of successive civilian governments led by the sectarian parties and military regimes led by bloodthirsty egomaniacal soldiers.

South Sudan now emerges with its own set of challenges that are unique to its current demographic, economic, political and social realities. Just to list a few of these challenges, we have a fluid precarious relationship with the government in the old Sudan that will continue to tax the wisdom and patience of our leaders and people. We have a political scene that is fractured and susceptible to the opportunistic tribal and regional machinations of some of our own brothers and sisters, as tragically exhibited recently in Jonglei and Upper Nile. We are endowed with huge natural wealth yet to be exploited, but significant gaps remain in our overall development blueprint to do that while avoiding the perils of solely relying on diminishing resources like Oil. Finally, we have capacity shortcomings in our nascent government that will need new approaches to overcome, especially with regards to reaching the bulk of our people with services in the rural areas.

All these problems should not be swept away or ignored so as not to dent the euphoria of our glorious independence. Addressing them head on, especially by the government at its highest levels will go a long way towards resolving them or mitigating their impacts. My hope is that the President’s address at the independence ceremony takes maximum advantage of the bully pulpit that he will be occupying then, as a triumphant liberation hero and the first President of our new state. I hope his address lays out a clear-eyed assessment of the experience of governances over the last six years of the interim period, reckons honestly with the vice of tribalism that is sustained by both real and imaginary grievances, offers an emphatic message of national unity that is anchored on a call to service by everyone of us, lays out a development agenda that will focus more on the rural poor population, lays out a robust new campaign to address the persistent problem of public corruption, and asserts an ironclad commitment to a democratic secular system of governance that will empower and protect each and every one of the smiling and tearful faces celebrating that day.  Most importantly, I hope we all end enjoying this wonderful occasion with a renewed understanding that the heavy lifting just begins.

*Parek Maduot is graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. He’s also regular contributor to The New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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