South Sudan: Questions from my motherBy MWENDA wa MICHENI | Friday, July 13 2012 at 09:54
That Saturday afternoon when Juba exploded into ecstasy as country’s independence became real, I was on duty, at the Africa Review. It was a cheerful moment across the country, with the rest of Africa following the celebrations keenly.
Streets of Juba were as colourful as they get; dignitaries from the different axis of global politics were present, making it a protocol nightmare for the then new-born country. The triumphant steps and sounds, I have no words that would aptly describe the moment.
Earlier, I had keenly followed the country’s tense election and the decisive referendum that opened doors for region’s secession, with an overwhelming vote for it. Many analysts, including several international reports that had earlier predicted doom, saw a different Sudan. But did that survive the tides of time?
In my opinion, yes and no.
Those who have been to Juba, the provisional capital city for South Sudan, will tell you that it is an expensive city just like are Luanda and Ndjamena. It is also heavily infested by the NGO types and expatriates, who have dollars to spend in the few classy hotels that the city offers.
Oil politics have their mark on the city too. Juba’s decision to cork oil taps, after a quarrel with Khartoum over transportation charges and allegation that one of the partners was cheating on the other, has transformed the city in more than one way. At this point, a number of questions stir my imagination.
Statistics from different sources indicate that South Sudan relies 95 per cent on oil for survival, with very little else. What if there was no oil in the country?
That would certainly tilt the country’s fortunes, but not necessarily for the better, but Sudan would most likely reduce the force with which it has been fighting to control a piece of the former partner.
Allies such as China and the US, who have been on the Sudan’s case for some time, would probably be sniffing around Turkana where Kenya has struck more oil, and other such places, not Juba.
This would reduce number of interests South Sudan must work around.
Economically, it would be a different picture, probably forcing the country to work harder on the farms that have been mostly deserted, despite proven potential.
I hear they are a bit corrupt over there? How is it likely to end? They just revealed that South Sudan’s billions, in dollar terms, have been pocketed since the signing of the 2005 peace deal that offered the region some autonomy from Khartoum.
I pity President Salva Kiir. He has already sent letters to these suspects, some have held press conferences, others are still underground.
Depending on how he plays his cards, the graft scandal could be Kiir’s moment of political glory, or endgame. The latter is more likely, looking at the situation that he finds himself in.
One, he is surrounded by dozens of hungry men who think it’s their right to eat, after years of fighting in the forest, plus a number of tribal chiefs out to cut a piece for themselves, and their people.
Earlier, there was Dr John Garang, who died a few months after Southern Sudan gained its semi-autonomy state from Sudan. There have been speculations on his death.
What if killed he was still alive today? Would South Sudan have come to be?
In his days, Dr Garang was very clear on what he called the New Sudan, but never did he clearly call for secession of Southern Sudan.
In a way, he was very practical, but difficult too.
So what is the situation in South Sudan and how is it likely to move? Several likely scenarios; but I pick one: Moving forward, South Sudan is likely to crumble on its own weight, even after institutions are created, unless drastic measures are taken.
If President Kiir opts for tough talk and action, he will face rebellion from within, if he opts for status quo, he will still faces rebellion, but this time from the thousands of South Sudanese without access to national resources and services.
President Kiir stands at a crossroad. His legacy depends on the choices he picks now.
Unfortunately, either options has painful consequences, but isn’t noble leadership about the majority as opposed to an elite?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Twitter: wamicheni
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