Southerners should learn from history: the role of Diasporan community
The overall attitude across South Sudan toward Southerners in exile, in my opinion, is that of hatred and outright hostility. This view may seem somewhat generalizing and subjective, however, my three years long observation of South Sudanese affairs prompted me to conclude that southerners outside the country are largely perceived as those who ran away when it was blazing hot, acquired education in foreign lands and are now flocking back to take away jobs. This misplaced sentiment stems from long years of ill-conceived view that liberation struggle is only fought through a barrel of gun. This is a blatant disregard to other vital components necessary for spearheading a successful liberation struggle.
Sentiments, the likes of which is highlighted here, do not go down well with historical realities. If history was anything to go by, the tens of thousands of southerners who live outside the country would essentially amount to blessing to the nation of South Sudan than curse. Perhaps, it is worth noting that South Sudanese outside the country are precious assets whose skills and know-how represent the engine of the development of South Sudan.
Both informed and uninformed Southerners need to come to term with the fact that a South Sudan without modern skill and technical know-how is a nation headed for failure. Independence does not only entail political freedom but it also includes economic and cultural liberty of a people. However, without skilled labor force, South Sudan would not stand the onslaught of neighbouring economies of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and you name it. Furthermore, lack of skilled manpower in South Sudan will force it to relay on neighbours thereby paving way for cultural invasion. I may be sounding a little hypothetical here but the threat of history of failed States repeating itself in South Sudan is very real unless immediate and drastic measures are undertaken to address the question of skilled workforce.
Yes, the war veterans and ordinary yet supportive population who lived through it all when it was burning hot deserve our unreserved admiration; they fought for all of us including the unborn generation so we may walk our lands with dignity and pride. They will go into history books as people who changed Sudan from land of enslaved, incarcerated and dominated to the land of free and equal men and women. Their heroic sacrifices will forever be remembered and appreciated.
But, while they staged a successful war against Khartoum in battle fields, these veterans and ordinary citizens of South Sudan do not have tools necessary to fight the next phase of warfare: the war on reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-torn South Sudan. This is where Southerners who acquired various skills and technical know-how outside Sudan come into equation. South Sudan should open its arms wide open to welcome back Southerners who left the country as a result of war. Those who went to foreign lands to acquire useful skills have equally fought the war using other means: they acquired knowledge and necessary know-how so they are better able to counter the enemy in the field of development. In fact, SPLM/A leaders are on record as having repeatedly reminded Southerners that the war against Khartoum would not be only found in battle fields but also in classrooms. It therefore leaves one wondering as to why the same leaders who once preached the importance of concurrently fighting the war while acquiring knowledge seem reluctant to make use of the knowledge gained.
If seen from Pan-Africanists’ perspective; South Sudan has more reasons than otherwise to attract skilled citizens to come back home. The failure of Africa has a continent has its roots in the evolution of totalitarian regimes across the continent. Starting from 1960s when most States gained independence from European colonizers, the continent saw the emergence of such ruthless killers as Idi Amin of Uganda, Mabutu Seseko of Congo, Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic, Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopa, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, among many other killers who brought the continent down to its knees. Africa was reduced to continent of coups and counter-coups, the result of which was the merciless elimination, through assassination, exiling or otherwise, of the heroes and fathers of African nationalism who included and not limited to Patrick Lumumba of Congo, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Kwame Nkreme of Ghana. Consequently, Educated Africans who were often the prime targets of tyrants fled the continent in staggering numbers leading to brain drain on a scale never seen anywhere else.
Nearly half century long butchering of the continent by tyrants, who most of the times were puppets of some invisible hands, brought nothing good but misery and suffering to the people of Africa. But, as the old adage stipulates, nothing is permanent but change. Indeed, the era of dictators is fast coming to an end and a new beginning for the continent is on the horizon: Africa is finally retracing its route toward regaining her lost glory. In fact, keen observers of African affairs believe that the continent has started producing new breed of leaders of whom South Sudanese revolutionary leaders are a part and parcel. The present generation of leaders, or the “tiger generation” as it is currently being referred to, seem to have finally diagnosed continental problem as having to do with our wishful and unrealistic hopes that someone else would do it better for us instead of relaying on our own entities such as local born skilled workforce. The recent Europe-Africa summit in Portugal dubbed: the “Summit of Equals,” is a testimony to the fact that Africa is rediscovering its rightful place in the world, an effort long overdue.
But then, everything begins at home. In order to see Africa transformed so it is fully considered equal partner by others global powers such as Europe, places like South Sudan must succeed - a success only realizable if South Sudan does not become too dependent on foreign skill. To effectively address challenges presented by lack of skilled manpower, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) as well as those of ten States should put together a comprehensive programme design to attract skilled Southerners in the Diaspora. The launching of such programme is as vital as any other to the success of South Sudan as a nation.
Finally, Southerners should change their attitude toward their brothers and sisters outside the country so that they no longer perceive them as unwelcome rivals but as important partners in reconstruction effort.