Where is our payback, ask the grassroots?

By Malek Arol Dhieu

Remember how dismayful it was to give your dearly son to the movement whose victory was uncertain. A son given to the SPLA was almost forgotten because he was considered to have visited the land of demise in that if he didn’t die today, then he would die tomorrow, if not tomorrow, then next tomorrow. As recruitment for soldiership followed the family line, it was always wished by the next families not to arrive soon to cause sorrows and chaos of who to be given and who to remain. If it struck families whose children were still small, then their fathers would go instead.

It was a sad moment for the families to sit down so as to choose who would go, although sons whose fathers died, and middle and lastborns were the ones often given, the reserved ones also made it to the SPLA. Millions of people were recruited as soldiers to fight in the liberation struggle of the Republic of South Sudan. Though it was mandatory, there were convincing statements often made by the SPLA leadership at the time when newly recruited soldiers were driven to the training fields. One very convincing statement was that, “it is fighting today and it will be enjoyment tomorrow”. Now fighting is over and this time seems like ‘enjoyment time’, has the statement changed?

Remember nobody didn’t contribute for the liberation of the then Southern Sudan, women, besides their being in the army, contributed so much by cooking foods and transported them to army garrisons. Elders contributed by giving their dearly sons and blessing them and army commanders to succeed in the liberation struggle, those blessings couldn’t be underrated as warlords can now attest to them. Elders also contributed cattle as live foods for soldiers and other necessities aimed at bringing success such as offering of homes as bases for SPLA, among others. Boys and girls contributed by carrying boxes of bullets to distant places, I’m a living witness to this contribution as I was caught and forced to carry a box of 51 bullets to a station walked for 3 hours.

 Spearmasters didn’t also lose sleep on making sure army commanders won wars. Even moderately crazy people have contributed too, for instance, a somewise mad soldier sent to Yirol in 1997 to locate where Arab officials were so that they could be shelled. When the CPA was signed in 2005, another effort-demanding process called self-determination commenced and set to finish after six years. During the elections for referendum, almost all Southern Sudanese voted for separation, leading to the independence of South Sudan. Now, why were people committed to bringing South Sudan to where she is? People sacrificed to have independent South Sudan in expectation of service delivery, period! What are these services for which people bought with lives?

What are these services for which people exchanged for their sons and daughters killed in wars? These services are good roads, clean drinking water, equipped health facilities, schools, enhanced agriculture, and other services that raise living standards of people. Since South Sudan became independent, there are still people drinking pool water, there are still delivering mothers being attended by traditional birth attendants, there are still families that say education isn’t for our ancestors and it’s the role of the government to make an awareness, there are still people who walk for hours just to come to where highways are and there are a lot of things contrary to the promises made during the liberation struggle. Dr. John Garang de Mabior, when he visited Rumbek, said the voice through which the citizens could ask for their services is SPLM.

Dear SPLM, I can’t hide because I’m a loyal citizen of this country, the two regions in the names of Equatoria and Upper Nile have tasted their sweats by having links (roads) to the city, what mistake did Bahr El Ghazal region do much that it deserves a slap on the face like this? Is it a crime to have a son as the head of the state or does including your birthplace in development programs take away power? I’m not a tribalist, it’s bitterness that asks those questions, not me. To Bahr El Ghazal sons and daughters, don’t be like palm trees, the shadow of a palm tree never shelters its owner because in the morning, it shelters the neighbour house in the east and in the midday, it shelters itself whereas in the evening, it shelters the neighbour in the west. It never shelters people in the house it’s grown in. However, it isn’t Bahr el Ghazal alone that asks for payback, every region is bleeding, be it poor roads, floods, insecurity, poor healthcare systems, unclean drinking water, inadequate schools, and many more. Because of unavailability of such beneficial services, the grassroots ask, where is our payback promised during the liberation struggle?

The author is a medical student, University of Juba

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