How we can construct a shared vision for South Sudan’s future?
David Nyuol Vincent
OPINION — To craft a shared vision for the future of South Sudan is difficult but not impossible. To surpass the perilous situation in which we are in now, we need to learn to collaborate with those with whom we would rather not.
The very first step towards crafting this shared vision is for every South Sudanese citizen to accept the fact that President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the First Vice President Riek Machar with their associates have different opinions of how to govern South Sudan, that the Dinka and Nuer will always fight over who is superior and that Equatorians will never trust a Dinka or Nuer and so it goes to the rest. We are working in an extraordinarily complex situation; therefore, it also calls for a complex approach and solution. It is not necessary for President Kiir to like the First Vice President Riek or agree on one school of thought to govern South Sudan – no, this is not the true meaning of collaboration. Collaboration means we can still get things done with people to whom we do not like, have a different opinion and, or agree with. We can also work towards a shared vision by experimenting systematically with different perspectives, opinions, and possibilities. South Sudan is diverse, and this will always mean we will have to travel long routes to achieve what we can all be happy with – and this requires us all to be gentle and patient with each other. The years of conflict and hatred have made us all suffer from an enemy flying syndrome. We do not see the good in each other but rather see each other as foes and so are our opinions and ideas.
It is noticeably clear that we have reached a stalemate, impasse of ideas and ideologies to govern South Sudan. South Sudan is a country where everyone thinks his/her opinion counts and is better over that of others – it is a country of a free fall of dangerous ideas, to say the least. As opinionated as we all are, one thing that is missing is a place where these dangerous ideas are debated freely and sieved for the betterment of nation-building. People are talking over each other and no one is listening to what the other is saying – and this to the outside world makes us look stupid!
South Sudan is a nation of now. If you look closely at everything that has been done since the independence of South Sudan in the year 2011, you will agree that we are a nation of now. Partly justifiable considering we spent over two decades fighting to be free. The current situation we have found ourselves in was completely avoidable – regrettably!
During the civil war that was launched in May of 1983, there was a clear vision outlined and that enabled the unity of everyone irrespective of tribal or political affiliations we individually represent, and it was not difficult to sell that vision to the masses who self-recruited to fight the Khartoum regime. Willingly everyone saw their role in achieving that vision – freedom for the South Sudanese people, freedom to self-govern and control our own affairs. It made more sense to give one-life without a question because you knew what it would mean after you were gone – this was the ultimate sacrifice made by those who gave up their lives for the partial freedom we still toy around with today. We have betrayed the liberators who gave their precious lives for us all and we must all be ashamed of it.
The dividend of peace has not travelled far to some parts of South Sudan, people still drink from ponds, children are still walking bare feet to under the tree classes with no books, there are no health clinics, no roads to say the least. It is not a question of resources for we are a very rich country compared to some countries in our continent.
It will be nine years this July since independence, there is no excuse whatsoever that makes sense to the self-imposed deadlock we are experiencing. If you listen prudently and have followed the discourse taking place day and night, you will realise, we are saying and are wanting the same thing. The difference is in the detail, the how and whose idea is brilliant but in actual sense, we want the same thing and to put it bluntly as the famous saying goes in Dinka and Nuer – one side is saying abul and the other is saying anyop – ha a little homework for those who do not understand this phrase.
The question now is, how do we reconstruct the yesteryears’ spirit and synergy that united us all under one vision. In the messes of opinions that are floating around, sits a great vision for South Sudan but we cannot see it because we have allowed the cloud of hatred to cover our reasoning. In our current leaders, we have brilliant minds to take us forward. I for one do not believe that, if Kiir and Riek go today we will have a better South Sudan – in fact, we would turn back and say, we wish they were here. We will never be contented whatsoever. The challenge as of now is, to find a way to work together with all our differences. Name any leader in the developed world and tell me if they are any better than Kiir or Riek – absolutely not. What would be questionable of our current leaders is their emotional intelligence.
Now to those of us with the ability to express our opinions so belligerently and quick to point out the mistakes of others are also a part of the problem – when you point a finger at someone, remember there are three more pointing back at you. Exercise restraint give options that you have thoroughly thought through and do not throw words anyhow because they will hurt others. Be encouraging and supportive of our leaders – if possible, speak to our leaders directly and be honest to them in your delivery. Say sorry to each other and be able to forgive – we are a nation with a painful past and this needs us all to be patient with each other. Offer constructive criticism and solutions and always be that positive voice. Let us learn to respect the views and arguments of others.
When First Vice President Riek Machar tested positive of coronavirus, I was amazed to read the following day President Salva Kiir’s message which was read out publicly wishing First Vice President a quick recovery. It was so touching, and I was proud of him at that moment. I honestly think it was not a pollical stunt, but he really meant well.
Similarly, I read of the First Vice President Riek Machar’s brief to his people who wanted to know how he and madam Angelina were doing and he said, and I will paraphrase here “I want you all to know that I have the virus and just in case anything happens to me, people should not think this is something planned, because I know you, my people.” Again, I was so proud at that moment too. This shows he cares, and it is true leadership.
What is common between these two leaders is, their absolute love for South Sudan have never changed and with our support, they can stir us back to the right path. They have different approaches but want the same outcome for us all – a developed, peaceful and prosperous South Sudan.
Let me end this with this quote – “Despair shows us the limit of our imagination. Imagination shared creates collaboration, and collaboration creates community, and community inspires social change.” – Terry Tempest Williams
David Nyuol Vincent is a dual South-Sudanese/Australian citizen who has been heavily involved in peace and reconciliation initiatives in South Sudan and with the South Sudanese diaspora in Australia, aimed at laying the foundations of trust for sustainable development. David has co-founded and played a pivotal role in several community-based organisations and social enterprises in South Sudan including the “Annual Sudanese Summit on Peace Change and Leadership” (2010), “Peace Palette” (2011), the national “Peace Mobilisers initiative” (2013) and the “Sport for Peace Initiative” (2016-2019. He is also an author of his memoir titled “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die,” published in 2012.