21st January 2020
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Martyrs Day evokes mixed feelings

Authors: Obaj Okuj | Charles Wote | Published: 6 months ago

File: Late Dr. John Garang being sworn in by the late Yusuf Kuwa before the late General Garang Diing [Left] and others in Chukudum in 1994 -to uphold the ideals of the SPLM/SPLA.

South Sudanese have expressed mixed feelings regarding how the leaders and individuals have honoured those who died in the line of duty over the 21 years of civil war in Sudan.

Many believe the current leaders have failed to live up to the promises of the liberation struggle, and the ideals of Dr. John Garang.

These ideals include justice, liberty and prosperity for all.

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.

“My brother was killed in 1997 in the frontline, and recently his child was sent out of school because of only SSP 10,000. Nobody cares about the widows and orphans,” said Manyiel Simon in Wau.

Others say the country should create war a cemetery where those who died for the independence of South Sudan are honoured, while others say the shrine should be dedicated to the martyrs of all the liberation struggles -dating back to 1955.

“These people suffered and shed their blood for the independence of their land, they are patriots, they should be called heroes and heroines,” Jada Moses in Lokiliri said.

The Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs also called on the public to pay tribute to the martyrs of the liberation struggle by embracing peace and exercising forgiveness.

Kuol Manyang said there is no need for South Sudanese to continue to fight -64 years later.

“There is nothing like independence even though we have a crisis in our country…we have to work hard so that peace comes to our country,” Kuol said.

South Sudanese observe 30th July every year as the day Dr. John Garang died in a helicopter crash as he returned from an official trip in Uganda.

The day is observed yearly to also pay respect to millions of other South Sudanese who died during the 21 years of Sudan’s Civil War.

This is the first time in 3 years that the government has officially marked the day in a public event.

Such celebrations have often been cancelled due to what the government described as “lack of funds.”

Kuol said South Sudanese should use the martyrs day to reflect on the sacrifices of the millions who perished during the liberation struggle.

He urges the leaders and the ordinary people to support the peace agreement and work towards nation-building.

“We did not fight so that we come and destroy our country,” Kuol told Eye Radio on Monday.

Last year, Kiir and Kuol apologized to the families of the martyrs and the wounded heroes for the failure of the current leaders to support them as enshrined in the constitution.

“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,” Kuold told the SSBC.

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.

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/kiir-kuol-apologize-to-widows-orphans-and-veterans/

Four years ago, the Ministry of Defense announced that it has set up a pension program for the families of martyrs.

It said registration of families of martyrs was ongoing to help them “receive benefits when the economy improves.”

The National parliament also said a public hearing on Martyrs’ Family Fund Bill 2015 was to be conducted, although some MPs said the bill does not clearly define who is a child and who is a widow.

“If we want to give an allowance for a child of a martyr, we should fix the limit. A woman or a widow who has been married to another person cannot continue to be a widow of the martyr,” Honorable Ajang Bior Duot said.

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/nla-calls-public-hearing-bill-improve-welfare-martyrs-families/

Meanwhile, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura – Yambio said the Martyrs day should not only be used for remembrance but to also reconcile and heal the nation.

Bishop Barani Edwardo Hiboro says stability through peace and security will enable the country to achieve the ideals to which South Sudanese died for.

“Many people have died physically died, morally died, socially died, and psychologically died. When we have lost like this, then we need to resurrect and behave differently,” said Bishop Hiboro.

Apart from Juba, celebrations were also underway in major states across the country –including Wau.

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