|Courtesy: Infinite Flash Poll|
For any nation to survive and thrive, it is absolutely important that its activities are conducted in a transparent and accountable manner. No one thrives without friends and allies, and we are not an exception. Six years ago in January 9th 2005, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed here in Nairobi between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. This was the beginning of the birth of our new nation, the Republic of South Sudan (RSS).
The peace agreement necessitated South Sudan to conduct an internationally supervised referendum on its future. As a result on January 9th 2011, our people voted in a free, fair and transparent referendum by an over whelming vote of 98.85% for independence, which was a true reflection of the people’s voice and will. On behalf of all South Sudanese and the leadership of the Republic of South Sudan, I thank the people of Kenya for the continued support and cooperation that made this possible.
The needs of South Sudan are still enormous, and there is much still to be done. The challenges of freedom and independence ahead are daunting and a great deal of work remains to be done. I would like to make some brief remarks about the opportunities and challenges facing my country, the world’s newest nation the Republic of South Sudan.
The Republic of South Sudan is a vast country of 644,000 sq. km bigger than the size of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi put together. It is surrounded by Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda and Sudan. The combined population of this region is 268 million people and their combined economic output stands at 300 billion dollars and their combined economic growth is 7%.
The links of South Sudan to these countries are crucial for them and us not forgetting the River Nile link is both symbolic and strategically important for all of us.
The war in old Sudan was fought to a large extend in the territory of South Sudan resulting into complete destruction of infrastructure and nearly two and a half million people killed through war, disease and famine. Another 3 million internally displaced persons (IDPS); while another million were refugees in the neighbouring countries and internationally. Today, South Sudan streets are thronged with people from the diaspora. With these new arrivals they bring innovations and ideas. There is a measure of confidence that things heading in the right direction.
South Sudan also has potential to provide food security for both local and regional markets. Our Late Leader Dr. John Garang described the rich agricultural land as “the largest organic farm on earth.” There is also a large herd of livestock of nearly 14 million heads of cattle and 11 million sheep and goat.
Beneath the soils are untapped reserves of natural resources. There are enough water resources of river water, rainfall and underground water. We have 8 months of rainfall except during natural disasters of drought or floods. You can grow crops twice a year.
South Sudan has the biggest wildlife migration in the world today. This is a resource for successful tourism and challenge to the Maasai Mara of Kenya and Serengeti of Tanzania.
The White Nile and lakes in South Sudan can provide over 300,000 metric tons of fish especially tilapia and Nile perch. Our brothers and sisters the luos, are quite knowledgeable in this area.
In addition to accessing these resources and building diversified non-oil dependent economy is crucial as we emerge from years of conflict and face the challenge of building a land fit for the next generations, the majority of whom are young people of our population both in South Sudan and the East African Region including Kenya.
Other challenges include; roads which have to be constructed and rehabilitated to connect our countries in the region including railways and air transport. Navigable waterways of 1500km in South Sudan require ports and docks to be built. There is need to build hydro-power stations, dams, water supply and treatment plants and cities to be renovated and built.
There is need to deliver services to the people by building schools, universities, hospitals, health centers including building infrastructure for the 10 states. All these need skills and well trained individuals for example, capacity building in teachers, engineers, doctors including small scale.
Above all, the private sector needs to be developed out of all these resources in order to create jobs for thousands of young people who are now not getting enough vacancies within the government. The agricultural sector is most appropriate since 90% of population is rural in South Sudan.
As spokesperson and mouthpiece of this young government, we need to communicate to domestic, regional and international audiences effectively and coherently. This is no mean feat in a place of so many ethnic groups and languages spoken and high illiteracy. People must be well informed in order to get their answers to their high expectations.
Private businesses and proper investment policies need to be in place. Private companies like telecommunications should expand their operations to cover all over the country. A lot of new businesses have now taken off in the new Republic. Five airports are being extended and rehabilitated and Juba receives many flights in a day, five of which are daily flights from Nairobi.
Any government must speak with one voice and communicate to its citizens for their needs and concerns. This is necessary for stability to sustain peace and avoid having ground fertile for the propagation of false rumors. This is a confusing scenario that we would like to avoid in South Sudan. Our people are fueled with post-independence expectations and can be left disheartened and disillusioned wondering if things have really changed at all.
Upto now, independence presents new opportunities for the people of South Sudan to build a new nation that embodies their values and aspirations. It also presents an opportunity for the people of South Sudan to redefine their relationship with the international community and pursue a more prosperous future. South Sudan is number 193 member of the United Nations and number 54 state of the African Union.
As the new nation gets built amidst the background of war, there are many governance institutions, structures, systems, policies, strategies and positions that will need to be developed. Few existing ones will need to be improved in various ways.
The need for advisory, supportive, technical assistance, mentoring and coaching positions as part of capacity building and enhancement in South Sudan should be foreseen by enterprising minds. In Juba for example, entrepreneurship opportunities including hospitality, ICT, Infrastructure among others are dominated by entrepreneurs from Kenya and other neighboring countries like Uganda. Banks from Kenya such as Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity Bank have already been on the ground in Juba long before independence of South Sudan. Services like insurance, microfinance, consultancies and many others are still short of supply in relation to demand for the same.
Indeed, it is only through courage and aggressiveness, boldness, perseverance and confidence to resolve the challenges and benefit from the unfolding.
In conclusion; South Sudan and Kenya will continue to enhance the engagement of both public and private sector in peace building and post-conflict reconstruction. We also welcome the contribution of Kenyan troops to be a part of 7,000 United Nations Peace Keeping and Peace enforcement contingents (UNMISS) under chapter VII that are being deployed in the Republic of South Sudan.
I am aware as we all are that challenges remain immense as we seek to change the mind-set of the people from being in a constant state of conflict to one of peaceful co-existence with neighbors. It is important that we professionalize our army from being guerrilla fighters to a normal defense force together with a friendly police force that contributes to rule of law; establish embassies as well as find teachers, health workers, accountants, road builders and farmers who are all prepared to work together and forge a path of the future.
Yes, the public’s expectations are high, our donors and supporters expectations are equally high- but all our will and determination is strong and with further support and encouragement from beyond our shore, I am sure we will and can win.
By H.E. Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin (M.P)
Minister for Information and Broadcasting (MOIB), Republic of South Sudan (RSS).