OpEd, Politics

Are we rich or poor? – the way I see it

By Joseph Ring Lang


Historical overview

From our sketchy documentation, the Arabs invaded our Continent in waves and droves when the Middle East became too small to accommodate them all and subsequently decided to conquer new places which happen to be Africa. They came as far as Sudan and settled in the Northern, Eastern and parts of Western Sudan. They were in continuous clashes with some of the indigenous tribes that were on the front line facing their onslaught. They appeared also to have been comfortably there until the arrival of the Turco Egyptians who were commanded by the Turks.

During the arrival of the Turco- Egyptians with the main aim of recruiting black Africans (as a human resource potential power for them) so as to further their wars Northwards, they made Khartoum their Capital where they could invade the black Africans so as to obtain the objectives of their national mission – which was slavery. The assignment of their troops was not to form a government for the black Africans so as to help them to administer themselves but to establish a center where their military operations could be mounted to capture as many black slaves as possible for furthering their wars of future conquest in other parts of the planet which was outside Africa.

Their efforts were frustrated when they were easily pushed back by the ethnic Arabs that quickly learnt from them the usefulness of good military organization which they had forgotten after their settlement. The demise of the Turco Egyptians was due to gaps of timely coordination of resources and manpower between the Turco Egyptians and their home Countries. Their home Countries couldn’t provide to them the logistical support of provision of needed resources so as to maintain their position in Khartoum as a military power. Their military power eventually collapsed due to continuous siege of the military barracks by the ethnic Arabs of Sudan which made it difficult to provide food for the Turco Egyptians.

The ethnic Arabs of Sudan who took power from the Turco Egyptians took over the agenda of slavery and added another Agenda of forcefully taking food (crops and domestic animals) from the locals in order to feed their armies until the arrival of the Anglo Egyptians.


What could be understood from the Turco Egyptians invasion including the ethnic Arabs brief reign in Khartoum was that the black Africans of Sudan without having a viable strong Government to defend its people, they are in the open market where they are easily forced to be slaves of those that conquered them.


The arrival of the Anglo Egyptians that were commanded by the English was characterized by the removal of the scattered small military units along the White Nile after taking over Khartoum. They then started to subjugate other areas in the South, East and West of the Country so as to be part of their newly established Government of Sudan.

The new power that named themselves as ‘Anglo Egyptian Sudan’ subsequently formed a government on the semi-model of the (UK) United Kingdom. It was a semi-model of the English because it didn’t have the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary like the UK. But when they left Sudan, they did put in a rudimentary system of Government that mimics the UK system of Government. Since, it didn’t have strong roots to make it very formidable, it resulted into relapsing into their old way of life which was continuous anarchy with no viable government to settle national problems peacefully.

Eventually, the South Sudanese found themselves targeted because they were completely different from their cultures and they were determined to impose their cultures on the South Sudanese. In their concept, they wanted the South Sudanese cultures to be erased and replaced with the cultures of the ethnic Arabs worldwide. In other words, the strategy of the ethnic Arabs Government that had taken power from the English was to destroy all that was none Arab culture and replace it with their culture so that the conquered black Africans were left hanging in the air with no roots to go back to, in case of confrontation with the ethnic Arabs of Sudan.

A request for an autonomous Government for the South was rejected. When the South Sudanese in Khartoum Parliament insisted on their demand, the Northern politicians decided to hand over the government to the army so as to uproot the discontent through the barrel of a gun.

The Southern Sudanese, former Members of Parliament (MPs in the dissolved Khartoum Legislative Assembly who were headed by Rev. Fr Saturlino and Muorwel Malou decided that the only option available for them was to start the liberation Movement. After establishing the Liberation Movement, they named it the Anyanya Liberation Movement. The Liberation Movement continued fighting the Government of Sudan until the negotiated Agreement was reached in 1972 in Addis Ababa.

A self-rule Government called the High Executive Council (HEC) of Southern Region Juba under Abel Alier was established in Juba in 1972 and ended in 1983. It was a result of an Agreement reached between Sudan Leader under Jaafar Mohamed Numeiri and the Anya Liberation Movement under Joseph Lagu. That Agreement lasted for 11(eleven) years before it was abrogated in 1983 by the same Government of Sudan that created it.


The members of the High Executive Council realized that for them to be a self-reliant, autonomous government they should create a strong and viable economy that is able to be self-reliant. Since Khartoum was only paying salaries to the working Government officials in the High Executive Council (HEC), the Autonomous Government of Southern Region Juba managed to create resources for Services and Development (1972 -1983) during its reign.

They established Economic Institutions like: Yei Coffee Marketing in Central Equatoria; Irish Potatoes at Upper Talanga in Eastern Equatoria; Pineapple Production at Source Youbo in Western Equatoria; Boatbuilding and Fish Marketing in Upper Nile; Marial Bai (near Wau) Cattle Ranch which was implemented by the provision of Friesian bulls to enable the crossbreeding with local calves; and Agro-Industrial Complex at Mangalla in Central Equatoria. Unfortunately, Mangalla Agro-Industrial Complex could not take off because Khartoum refused to allow steel and cement to be transported to Mangalla for construction of the Agro-Industrial Complex after the factory machines had already arrived at the location.

Due to shortages of funds and sabotage from the Central Government in Khartoum the High Executive Council (HEC) was not able to do much but they were ever trying despite the enormous obstacles that were confronting them. To paint the whole holistic picture apart from what the High Executive Council (HEC) did in developmental services, the Central Government in Khartoum had its ongoing projects which are not part of the current presentations.


The Second Civil War started when the High Executive Council was dissolved in 1983. The conflict lasted for 21 years until the Comprehensive Agreement was reached in 2005 which culminated into the Independence of South Sudan from the Self Determination vote in 2011 which was embodied in the agreement.


Overnight, our former rebel leaders found themselves statesmen of South Sudan. In their eagerness to prove to themselves that they are completely independent from Sudan, the leaders of the newly created Government of South Sudan didn’t want anything to do with the North.  For them, anything that was Northern was evil which included the administrative setup that was existing – which was a carryover of the administrative system from the English when they left Sudan at the end of 1955 which was also later copied to some extent, by the High Executive Council (HEC).

Historical Lessons that were missed

The new leaders of South Sudan, with no past reference point because the liberation war was not an administrative point of reference. In that line of thinking, The High Executive Council (HEC) had copied from the administrative set up of Sudan who had earlier copied from the English. Since the High Executive Council was not there for them to copy from, South Sudan decided to move on, in darkness. A photocopy skeleton of the administrative structure was then copied from somewhere and maybe taken from the Management Books and subsequently pasted with no flesh in it. In other words, Government Departments were created – what to do in those Departments so as to bring output of Developmental Services was not part of the Nation Vision. Looking at it now retrospectively, creating strong institutions of Government and businesses that could continuously rejuvenate the economy was never contemplated.


When the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005) the Civil Aviation Department in Khartoum decided to send to Juba one of the South Sudanese by name Felix Deng Malual who had been a lecturer for a long time at the Civil Aviation School of Air Traffic Management in Sudan, in order to help in establishing Civil Aviation Authority in South Sudan that will be recognized internationally. His services were refused by the relevant authorities in the Department in South Sudan.

The only advice they took from him was the sending of civil aviation students for training. Instead of sending them to Khartoum (Sudan), they decided to send them to Nairobi – Kenya. It thus transpires that from the number that was send to Kenya, only approximately four of them were able to graduate.

The former lecturer at Sudan Civil Aviation Management Training advised the Department of Communication to send those that had graduated in Kenya for further training in Sudan so that they receive International Certificate of Civil Aviation which was rejected by the Ministry with no alternative given.

Since, Civil Aviation Training is done separately from one Country to another, they have one thing in common. Those managing Civil Aviation in any Country must have International Certificate of Civil Aviation. That requirement makes air traffic movement of passing planes to understand themselves easily.

As a result of that, by the time of Independence of South Sudan was achieved there were no officials who had International Civil Aviation qualifications in South Sudan to manage the airport tower so as to receive the incoming planes of those attending the Independence celebrations.

They addressed that problem by borrowing officers from Kenya air traffic control and not from Sudan to come and handle the airport tower when they were receiving dignitaries from the International Communities for celebrations of Independence in 2011.

All in all, Khartoum continued to handle the civil Aviation airspace long after Independence of South Sudan because of absence of trained International Civil Aviation officers to handle the tower in South Sudan so as guide airplanes passing through the airspace of South Sudan. In that respect, the tower has to operate 24 hours a day in order to regulate the moving airplane traffic crossing South Sudan through the synchronization of flight bearings of different planes so that airplanes don’t collide in the air. Khartoum continued to play that role, until war broke out in Sudan in 2023. After that it was not easy to follow who was handling air space traffic of South Sudan.

What is relevant here is that we have programmed our mindset not to learn from others or specifically from those we don’t like, even if they had something to contribute towards our betterment.

Having stated that, once our mind is programmed to reject some new ideas from those we don’t like, it becomes part of the mentality that subsequently reject any new idea even if it is good. Furthermore, creativity also becomes a victim which makes the Nation moves on with no new inputs of new ideas for future progress.


If we reflect over the 19 years’ period that had passed and examine what we did and what we had not done correctly, we will discover that our Nation called South Sudan is a nation by name. it is still yet to nurse the characteristics of other nations which made them to be industrious so as to be prosperous through the creation, building and enhancement of the Nation wealth.

In that respect, by using audio visual observations – what do we observe in other countries which are near and far from us?

  1. We observe other nations are not only producing their own food but also do store a very large quantity of their food in order to solve in advance the possible problems that could occur if circumstances of food production change due to altered environmental conditions. Are we doing that? No – we are continuously buying food from the International Market.
  2. We also observe other nations selling to us their products of various food crops which we could produce also like them while we sit idle like sitting ducks.
  • We do similarly observe other Nations selling us their multiple products from their manufacturing and their multiple industries which we buy from the sale of our crude Oil. In case certain unpredictable circumstances occur and we are unable to sell or crude Oil, that will be our demise as a nation.
  1. We likewise observe other nations continuously investing (just to mention a few) in their infrastructures like: asphalted roads; bridges; running tape water; powerful electric grids for home and commercial consumption – we are still unable to copy those things because our movement is at snail speed.
  2. We also observe other nations utilizing their Rail and River transport for transporting bulky goods cheaply. Our Rail and River transport systems are still a long way to go.
  3. We nonetheless observe other nations collecting all their taxes to pay their working officials in the Government on a timely basis with no delay. We are still far from those activities.
  • We do too observe other countries using the Oil money for investment in production, manufacturing and services that couldn’t be solved through taxes.
  • We do however observe other nations building dams so as to create hydroelectric power for their home and commercial consumptions. It is still yet to be realized.
  1. We do observe too other nations creating their irrigation systems so as to have alternative ways of cultivating crops without relying completely on rain waters. That approach is still far away.
  2. We do observe other nations launching satellites to space in order to ease their communication systems. We are still yet to develop our fundamental sciences.
  3. We likewise do observe other nations coming in waves from their different countries to establish small businesses like Retail Trade which we could do ourselves.
  • We do observe other nations sending their space ships to the: Moon; Mars; and to the planets that rotate around the Solar system so as to discover what could help them to increase their science knowledge. Our sciences and technology are still yet to be developed.
  • We also do observe other nations building and sending their space ships also to outer space so as to explore possibilities of discovery what could be useful to them within the solar system and outside it. It is not yet, even in our dreams.
  • We do observe other nationals that are not far from us, like Tanzania laying down framework for creating a springboard for their people who are interested in jumping towards business activities. We are stuck to foreigners to give us all different services on their own terms and not on our terms. The prices of their imported goods are appreciating (meaning they are being increased inside their shops) as they like. There are no Government Regulators to put a break to their business greed. South Sudan is a classic example of the market where the Seller is the King and not the Consumer.

To conclude

All that was an attempt to answer the question whether the South Sudanese are rich or poor by using completely different perspectives.  It is finally left for each individual reader to give an appropriate answer to the question whether we are rich or poor in South Sudan from the current presentation.




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