South Sudan’s President Silva Kiir, center, during the anniversary celebrations at the John Garang mausoleum in Juba. (Photo: Shannon Jensen/AP)
Soon after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005, the veteran politician Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud, the Secretary- General of the Sudanese Communist Party, commented: “This agreement embodies one country, two systems. I fear that by July 2011, it would end up in two countries, one system”. Many Southern Sudanese resented this comment at the time. One wonders how many today are seeing sense in the forebodings of the late Communist leader.
The purpose of the CPA was two-fold: bring about a democratic transformation in the whole country and accomplish a sustainable peace whatever the outcome of the result of the referendum on Self-Determination in South Sudan. Arguably, it achieved neither.
The CPA was based on a partnership between its two signatories: the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM). The two lorded over the country for the six years of the interim period and tacitly agreed to give each a ‘sphere of influence’, the SPLM in the South and the NCP in the North. Each had the freedom to do anything it wanted to do in its sphere of influence as long as that did not encroach into the other’s territory. What we have been hearing and seeing as quarrels between the two those days were, regardless of the slogans used, really about either resenting what it saw as the encroachment of the other in its sphere of influence. Slowly, the pre-CPA system in the North found its way to the South with the acquiescence of the NCP and no challenge from the international community that brokered the peace and cherishes multi-party democracy.
When South Sudan became independent on 9th July 2011, it was already in the grip of one party politically, militarily and otherwise. It was not a people-based government claiming its legitimacy emanates from “having liberated the Southerners”. It imposed a one-party constitution and the civil service was politicized by appointing SPLM cadres as Undersecretaries in all the ministries. Not much was expected from that government. Even before its first birthday, South Sudan is the fourth in the list of failed states according to the US think tank, Fund for Peace. Now, South Sudan is in the grip of problems including insecurity all over the country, rampant corruption on the highest echelons of government, an economy in tatters, abuse of human rights, and being under the threat of UN sanctions. The lot of the common man has not seen any change to the better. Hence they have nothing to celebrate.
However, let none of us mistake the wood for the forest, so to speak. The South Sudanese are extremely happy that they have had an independent state of their own. They do not regret having voted for statehood in January 2011. On the contrary, they hold steadfastly to that choice. They are aware that it is their current leadership that had let them down. It is not enough to celebrate just to mark independence day; independence means a change for the better.
Lam Akol is the chairman of the SPLM-DC, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Government of National Unity in Sudan, and a former professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Khartoum.
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