Today is a great day. Last night, at the stroke of midnight, we welcomed a new brother nation into the African fraternity, Southern Sudan. Last night, the dreams of the late, great Col. John Garang were brought to fruition. Like Martin Luther King Jr he didn’t get to the Promised Land, but he climbed to the mountain peak and gazed upon the green fields of freedom and self-determination. The blood, sweat and tears that the SPLM/A shed since the war of independence begun almost 30 years ago have been rewarded with the grand prize of a new flag, anthem and government.
But that is the easy part. We, Africans, know that independence is the first step. Our experience since the 1960’s has shown that just because you unshackle yourself from one oppressor doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will go as planned. To build a properly functioning state, Salva Kiir will need to tap into all the things that made his nation’s independence possible. A resilient people who refuse to accept the cards they are dealt, a strong and educated Diaspora that has always remembered where they were from and international goodwill. He has a great trump card that can make this state possible; hundreds of millions of dollars of natural resources under his very feet.
I don’t want to sound like a harbinger of doom, but the hardest part is about to begin. Back here in 1994, we were all drunk off the feeling of ‘intsinzi’ (victory), which we had every right to having defeated a genocidal regime, but to get where we are now demanded sacrifice. I remember talking to a relative of mine who joined the civil service right after the war was won; he had a great degree from a western university, and could have made thousands almost anywhere in the world. He instead chose to come home and make one hundred dollars a month. All while trying to cater for a family. When I asked him why he did it he said “that’s the price we had to pay to build our home. You couldn’t put yourself first”. Thousands of Rwandans did exactly that and now we are reaping what they sowed. A country that’s growing exponentially in every single way.
So, I expect a huge amount of teething pains for awhile but if the people of Southern Sudan pull in the same direction refuse to let outsiders dictate to them and, let’s be honest here, have savvy relations with northern Sudan then they will be alright.
This brings me to my next point. Southern Sudan and the East African Community (EAC). I have heard that the nation might become the sixth member of the EAC very soon and I can understand the temptation to fast track the process. It’s a largely untapped market with indefinite potential. There is a lot of money to be made and its oil wealth might be the catalyst that the EAC needs to fulfill its own potential.
However, the issues that I know see in the European Union should serve as a warning to our leaders. The monetary issues that are besieging Greece, Ireland and Portugal have the potential to sink the European dream. Luckily, Germany is an economic powerhouse and it might be able to able, working with the International Monetary Fund, to stave off the collapse of the Euro. But what I’m taking from the European malaise is that proper due diligence needs to be done in a clear-headed manner.
That’s why I feel that East Africans have to employ a wait-and-see approach to Southern Sudan. While I hope that things turn out great, there are too many answered questions that only time will answer. And we cannot be saddled with a nation that might end up imploding. Fingers crossed that will not happen.