South Sudan: A Young Nation’s Painful Experiments with Her Leaders

Published on 23rd May 2016

It is Thursday (May 19, 2016) and she enters our office carrying a baby, probably one and half years old but looking significantly emaciated. It was the third time Ms. Aluel came seeking help. She looked hopeless and in immense despair. Two years ago her husband was sent to Upper Nile state where the fighting between the former rebel group, the SPLA-IO and the SPLA was raging. He was ordered to go and confront “the enemy” but he never came back or heard from ever since. His wife was pregnant when he left and the cute baby boy has never had the privilege of being carried in his father’s arm.

If no miracle happens and his father returns, he would probably grow up knowing no father and be part of thousands of other children who have been deprived of a parent’s love; mom, dad or both. Ms. Nyaulang is in her mid-forties and leaves in Manga-teen IDP camp. Just like Aluel, she lost her husband too. He was blind folded and shot together with a few other relatives and two of his kids by a group of armed men aligned to the rebels because they believed he was pro-government, “an enemy.” Nyaulang and her last born was with her family when the incident happened. She couldn’t return to her house because she knew her life wouldn’t be spared either.

They were later resettled at Manga-teen camp with thousands of other homeless IDPs. She now lives with a painful tag of having lost a husband, children and relatives. Both ladies have moving testimonies. A painful reality in the wave of political conflict and unprecedented wave of violence that has engulfed our nation for the past few years. They were both undergoing an excruciating life burden that’s so uncalled for and undeserved. South Sudan’s famous writer, Jacob J. Akol would call it the “Burden of Nationality.” Just like millions of other South Sudanese, they feel a sense of betrayal by leadership, whether by IO, SPLM/A, or other parties. So much has changed about our leadership since the liberation era.

Having gained our independence and the freedom we so yearned for, we expected our leaders to continue with the second phase of liberation; from hunger, illiteracy and disease. Basic services and improvement of our people’s living standards needed to be and remain a priority. But an attitude was born in us, convincing ourselves that “I fought for this country and now is my time to eat.” We’ve made selfishness and egocentricity overcome our conscience to the extent that we can see a starving neighbor next door but would rather jump over their corpse because if “I fed them, I won’t have enough for my Dubai vacation.” A certain upsurge of deleterious behavior is taking over some of our leaders that never was.

Our greed and scramble for materials and power, things that aren’t everlasting frequently, always turn violent and whenever it does, poor women and innocent children pay the highest price. Our leaders have an obligation to fulfill. Now that peace has come, the leaders have a chance and an onus to reward the people of South Sudan with just and serious delivery of basic needs. Those in cabinet and other portfolios within the system have to put national interest above self-gain. There is a need to make tough patriotic choices that are meant to bring about the advancement of our nation and restoration of our country’s imagine around the globe.

Unnecessary powerful war rhetorics are no longer cool and attractive, because this is the 21st century. They only chase away potential investors and make us look primitive. As leaders, there is need to be visionary and destiny-bound, willing to learn from the experiences of the past painful mistakes and work together for the common good of all. We don’t need a “boss” in our leaders, we need a servant. The kind that is willing to walk with their people not only in sorrow and distress but also in joy and prosperity. We need our country back too, the kind of South Sudan that is happy, developing, united and free with hardworking and rigorous citizenry. Not the one that is enslaved and bound by chains of hunger, tribal hatred, agony and misery.

Only our leaders have the key to uniting us and making us achieve the dreams of our nation, those that our fathers and grandfathers fought to accomplish. This can happy by having leaders who not only understand the tormenting experiences Aluel, Nyaulang and millions of other South Sudanese are going through but who also work day and night to avoid a repeat  of the same. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t have put it any better when he said “a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” For now my only prayer shall be that we create in us a new man, a new South Sudanese citizen that is very patriotic, peace-loving, generous and hardworking.

A new Junubi who is led by moral rather than material incentive shall one day be reincarnated in all of us and our nation shall not only stand on her feet “raising the flag with the guiding star” but will definitely start moving forward with renewed energy; chanting the songs of joy, embracing and reconnecting the cords of love that were once broken. Our faces will once again glitter with unwavering hopefulness and a conquering zeal, with full knowledge of the fact that there is more that unite than divide us.

By Morris Madut Kon, Juba, South Sudan

The author is a young South Sudanese graduate from Kabarak University (Kenya), an entrepreneur and co-founder of YOUTH VISION AFRICA (Y-ViSA). He is a columnist at Juba-based newspaper “The Business Focus.” He can be reached by email: [email protected]

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