29th September 2020
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Families of martyrs accuse gov’t of neglect as they bemoan loved ones

Author: Emmanuel Joseph Akile | Published: Thursday, July 30, 2020

SPLA''Lion-Battalion'' few miles away from the battled town of Malakal in southern Sudan on April 4, 1986. PHOTO//Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

The wives and children of some of the martyrs of the South Sudan liberation struggle have decried what they call years of neglect by the government.

According to some of the widows and orphans who lost loved ones during the 21 years of civil war, the current leaders have failed to live up the promises of the liberation struggle.

They say they have not been receiving any form of support.

South Sudan is today commemorating the death of the founding leader of the SPLM/SPLA, Dr. John Garang.

Dr. Garang’s died in a helicopter -crash on his way from Uganda on 30th July 2005.

The day is marked annually to also remember those who died during the years of Sudan’s civil war.

In honor of the martyrs, the Transitional Constitution mandates the government to support orphans, widows, disabled war veterans and care for the dependents of deceased war heroes and heroines.

In 2015, the Ministry of Defense set up a pension program for the families of martyrs, who were expected to receive benefits.

In the same year, the national parliament conducted a public hearing on a bill to improve the welfare of the families of martyrs.

The Martyrs’ Family Fund Bill 2015 was presented to parliament by the joint Committee of Gender, Religious Affairs and Justice for deliberation. But nothing has so far materialized.

In 2018, Kuol Manyang Juuk, the then Minister of Defense and a veteran of the SPLM/SPLA liberation wars admitted that the current leaders have failed to honor the sacrifices of their comrades who died in the civil war.

President Salva Kiir also said the inaction by the government to care for the widows, orphans and the wounded heroes was a “mistake” though not deliberate.

Both leaders apologized to the families of the martyrs and the wounded heroes and heroines for the failure of the leaders to support them.

President Kiir appealed for patience saying with efforts to restore peace in the country, the government will embark on supporting them.

But some of the widows and orphans of the martyrs say the delay to support them has been persistent. They say nothing is being done to honor those who died or their legacy.

They spoke during Eye Radio’s morning program, the Dawn.

“I lost my husband in 1992. There was shelling everywhere, the situation in Juba was really bad. The airport was flooded with water so we could not go anywhere, and there was hunger. But after all the things we have been through; losing my husband and many others, we are just here without help or support from the government.”

“We survived several shellings and explosives propellant during the war. We always ran to the trench of our neighbors, then I lost my husband during that time. After independence, I thought our situation would improve, but nothing has changed. We are still suffering, and the government must do something about it.”

“They died as men and we are proud of them because they did their part as liberators. Our husbands did not die for nothing. We want this government to remember them by helping and supporting us. This is our plight.”

Some the orphans who lost their parents during the civil war, including the 1992 massacre in Juba had this to say:

“My father sacrificed his life leaving behind his family and loved ones because of this country. I was a young boy at the time. He was in the SPLA. Since the independence of South Sudan in 2011, the government is not talking about or even recognizing those who were arrested and killed in 1992, my father was among them and this is painful to me.”

“Sometimes we don’t have school fees. When I go to my fellow pupils and talk with them, they often insult me because I wear an old uniform and I stay for years without getting new shoes. While at school, the administration would ask me to call my father to the school, but I would always tell them my father died. Then they sometimes will say ‘why do you come to school for those who have fathers or parents like this?”

South Sudanese took up arms against subsequent Sudanese regimes in 1955 and 1983 to protest years of marginalization, injustices, resources mismanagement, and lack of development in the South.

Those who spoke to Eye Radio say the veterans took up arms to also establish a state that treats all its citizens as “first-class.”

They said the government has abundant the widows, orphans and war veterans.

“Their kids are suffering and even those who died are not considered by the government. I am appealing to the government to support their education,” said a listener in Aweil.

In 2018, President Kiir and the then Minister of Defense, Kuol expressed regrets over their neglect for the families of the martyrs.

“We accept that we did them wrong because we have not taken care of the families of our martyrs. We have not taken care of our wounded heroes, and this is a huge mistake,” Kuol told the SSBC.

President Kiir appealed to the families of the martyrs and to the wounded heroes to continue to remain patient.

“We are not taking good care of them, not because we have forgotten the loved ones that have died during the struggle, but because of the situation we are subjected to by our comrades,” Kiir said.

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