Southern Sudan: Nowhere near the ‘Promised land’ – Part III

(Toronto)  –  If our leaders think that they should rest and have fun after the long struggle, they should leave public offices before they cause chaos.  When citizens lose respect of their leaders, they lose trust in them and conflict develops.  Leaders carry the face of the community they lead and they should try to keep that face clean in order to continue as its custodians.  In some countries, freedom fighters are held as cults of personalities while in others, they immediately become the darkness that befalls their people in one way or another.    Southern Sudanese, be warned!   

My other worry is that our leaders may not have good plans to steer the country in the right direction given the challenges that face it, since they have been pursuing the implementation of the CPA, which is well laid out for them.  Now that the CPA is coming to an end, what do they have for us?  That is something yet to be seen.  While some of them are having fun with women or looting the few resources we have, some other “Arabs” may highjack this hard worn independence and our grandchildren may be left with another war of independence to fight.  If Southern Sudanese do not work hard to exploit their freedom and resources and develop their nation, there will be many vacuums created in the new country and they will be filled by foreigners who may evolve into another “Arab”. Weaknesses in any nation create inviting signals for exploiters in this complicated world and only the competence of the leaders and the resilience of the people can counteract such negative potential threats to our freedom. 

This may sound like a bad timed criticism and pessimism to pain Southern Sudanese’s faces with gloom at this joyous time, but in my view, the best way to honour heroism is to point where it is ailing as early as possible so that it can be healed before it is too critical to handle.   Awareness is the best way to relieve shock.  No one can deny that all the leaders who made this independence possible, starting from the 1940s to the present time, deserve their enormous respect from all Southern Sudanese.  The leadership they demonstrated during the long struggle, despite the obstacles they faced, is remarkable and will go down as the foundation of the history of the modern South Sudan nation.

Another important thing that I would like South Sudan leaders, especially the leaders of the former rebel movement, the SPLA/M is to spearhead reconciliation processes among all the South Sudanese communities.   They should, on behalf of the movement, apologize to South Sudanese around the country for killing them and putting them through pains and consequently planting seeds of discords among them during the war.  In my estimation, more people died directly or indirectly because of the movement rather than for its stipulated objectives.  The worst of them all is the massive killing and displacement that occurred from 1991 to 1996 after the major split which led to cycles of attacks on the Dinka and the Nuer civilians in Jonglei states by the SPLA factions and set a momentum for tribal attacks between the two communities and hatred that still exists today.  The other example is Kerubino Kwanyin’s  LRA-like operations against his own people in Bhar-el Ghazal in order to win them over to himself against John Garang. 

How our leaders turned a rebellion that was formed to fight for the respect and recognition of the marginalized people into personal conflict between them at the expense of the very people is worth apologizing for.  This is not to lay blame on the leaders, but it is the best way to start reconciliation. After the long struggle for freedom in South Africa, reconciliation had to start immediately, not only between the white and black South Africans, but among black people themselves.  For people to feel the full meaning of freedom, forgiveness is necessary between those that were involved in any conflict.  It is the duty of the same leaders that led them to it to lead them out of it. Regardless of all that happened, the SPLA/M is still recognized as one of the most organized movements in history as it stood the tests of time.   In addition, it is important, as some South Sudanese have already suggested that the name of the army should be changed to South Sudan Army instead of the SPLA, the name that is synonymous with the governing political party, which was its former political wing, the SPLM.  It may bring political complications in the future if the name is retained since the army may be loyal to one political party and endanger democratic exercises.

Finally, our people have to start realizing now, before it is too late, that tribalism is only a tool that politicians, especially those that come from large tribes, use to keep them in power and those who do that remain in power at the expense of all regardless of tribe.  After the 2007-2008 post-election tribal violence that killed more than a thousand people and displaced hundreds of thousands after destroying their homes, Kenyan leaders could manage to engage in debates in parliament to increase their salaries while the displaced people continue suffering in the displaced camps.   When we allow tribalism to blur our vision, our politicians will turn into gangs of corrupt leaders that protect themselves, not only with their unity in power, but with tribalism.   There should only be two major ‘tribes’, if there have to be any; common citizens and those in any form of power.  That does not mean that common people should oppose their governments always, but they should begin to identify themselves as people who have more in common than with those in power.   Lets us form and consolidate movements against corruption, tribalism, illiteracy, poverty, bad governance and influence.  All of these are born out of bad governance and they are inextricably interspersed.  Good governance can set domino effect solutions to the rest of the ills.  If we allow bad governance to take root now, it will establish a system of bad governments that will be hard to correct in the future.  It is our duty, just as it was our duty to fight for this freedom, to set up good governance before it is too late.  That can only happen with high level of resilience, vigilance, perseverance, patriotism and courage of the citizens minus tribalism.  Many African countries have enacted some of the most beautiful laws and have secular constitutions that should protect the rights of every citizen and reduce the power of their heads of states, but having a good looking constitution is one thing and implementing it is another.  It will be easy for both the federal parliament and state parliaments in Southern Sudan to establish impressive constitutions, but it will take the citizens to protect the constitution so that it protects them.  Just as, in the words of Nelson Mandela, to which we can attest, there is no easy walk to freedom, I will also add that there is no free ride in freedom as well.  After suffering for a long time under one of the worst systems of government in the world, we should learn not to repeat the same and similar brutalities and we could become one of greatest African nations and an enviable example to the rest of Africa.   However, let’s not allow the euphoria and celebration of achieving half of our goal to make us lose focus on the other half, Abyei.  There is no full independence until it is freed from the jaws of the enemy and brought back to where it belongs.

God bless the heroes and heroines, both dead and alive, who have brought us here.  May God bless us all and lead us to peace and prosperity.

Congratulations to all Southern Sudanese for the freedom half won!!  Let’s work hard for the other half.


Chol Marol Deng is a Southern Sudanese and a student of geology at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..