“I am calling upon all of you to support us your leaders…as we work tirelessly to overcome challenges associated with peace implementation, we would like you to cheer us,” remarked President Salva Kiir in his Martyrs Day speech on Thursday, July 30, 2020.
But some South Sudanese have come out to condemn the current leaders for what they describe as “misleading” the country and driving it towards “political abyss.”
The members of the public say they can’t cheer on the current leaders for bringing the country to the stage of stagnated development and recurrent conflicts.
They instead criticize them of looting resources and stacking their accounts with public funds.
They particularly expressed disappointment over what they call the failure by the current leaders to “take towns to the people” as envisioned by the late Dr. John Garang.
Taking towns to the people through the development of water, agriculture, electricity and other social amenities were at the core of Dr. Garang’s vision during the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement.
He envisioned that people’s needs should be met at their rural locality and by creating an accountable system of governance.
These include the provision of employment and development at state and county levels.
In his remarks to the world in Nairobi, Kenya on January 9, 2005, Dr. John Garang pledged that the SPLM would implement a social, political and economic development strategy and programmes that include using oil money to strengthen agriculture as the engine of growth.
His aspiration emphasized on developing health, education and water sector by constructing windmills, build micro-dams for generating small scale hydro-electric power for rural towns as well as the use of solar, wind and biogas energy sources.
Besides, the SPLM document on transformation from War to Peace also created a blueprint for building physical infrastructure – roads, rail and river transport and telecommunications by involving the state and local communities in the infrastructure building.
The goal according to Dr. Garang was to restore the dignity of the people.
“There is no meaning of revolution unless it makes our people happy. Unless the masses of our people -as a result of the revolution become prosperous, they advance, and they get food, shelter, clean drinking water, education and they get health services, then our people will prefer the government of the NIF [the then ruling National Islamic Front in Sudan] that provides salt to the government of the SPLM that does not provide salt,” stressed Dr. John Garang in one of his speeches.
But since his death, experts say virtually everything in South Sudan, including the economy and the oil revenue, appears rigged in favour of the few at the top.
Developments have also been bogged down by renewed conflicts since 2013. These conflicts have been attributed to power wrangles among the elites.
Activists say, even during peace talks, the leaders do not negotiate on behalf of their constituents, but rather strike transactional deals to preserve their power.
Some members of the public agree that the leaders have used the last 15 years of self-governance in South Sudan to enrich themselves.
They believe Dr. Garang’s aspiration died with him, despite leaving behind rich archive and booklets that can be used as a reference by the current leaders.
Those who spoke on Eye Radio’s Dawn Program criticized the leaders for prioritizing selfish political interests over public security, agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, among others.
“The late Dr. John Garang wanted to take the towns to the people -meaning opening up roads, schools and hospitals. Unfortunately, this is not happening. Our leaders are failing us. We need to remember why we fought for our independence.”
“It is very unfortunate that the widows and their children are still suffering even though their loved ones lost their lives for this country. Politicians who are now enjoying the resources of South Sudan, pretending that they are the heroes and heroines of this country have forgotten about the struggle for freedom of this country. We should remember that we got to this country because of those who died from 1955 until now. We should have humanity in our hearts.”
“Tarmac roads, good schools, good hospitals, infrastructure and development is what we are supposed to be enjoying now, that is why we went to the bush.”
“Our security is supposed to be maintained so that there are no road ambushes and random killings, these are the expectations of the normal citizens of this country. If our martyrs come out today, they will be very angry at us, because this is not the country they want.”
Martyrs Day was proclaimed in 2011 by the government to remember and honor those who dedicated and sacrificed their lives for the 21 years of civil war in Sudan.
There are no public events scheduled in the capital Juba to mark the day. Such celebrations have often been cancelled due to what the government described as “lack of funds.”
This year’s commemorations come at a time when South Sudan is still battling with the global coronavirus pandemic.
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