A Silent Celebration of the Fifth Anniversary: For every breath we lost
July 9, 2016 is a day like no other for us, both young and old. The fifth anniversary of South Sudan's independence is with us. As the late Peter Tosh, the Jamaican reggae musician once said, “Peace is the diploma you get in the cemetery.” Although thousands of lives have been lost, life goes on. Still, many a South Sudanese citizen must be deeply troubled. On this most sacrosanct day in the nation's calendar, I am asking myself, "If the fifth anniversary of our independence is not a time to invest in the developing our country, does this not signal a possibility to place South Sudan under the Trusteeship of the Council?" This day has profound implications for the daughters and sons of South Sudan. On this fifth anniversary of our young nation's hard won independence, I believe that we all must stop to take a long and hard look in the mirror. There is a time for everything; while the past was for what may be deemed a necessary war, the future should be for nation building and democratic politics. Let us make this a day of introspection, when we acknowledge the fact that we have gone wrong, and when we decide to take concrete steps towards accountability and justice.
I am calling on the South Sudanese of my generation across the globe on this important day to reflect back and to monitor our thoughts with clarity. It is okay to celebrate our independence in silence with prayers. Let us reflect on the importance of peace and change in our land and the shift it can bring within us. However, many questions present themselves. What happened to equality and justice that our leaders fought for? What happened to love and comradeship that propelled us to fight for decades? What happened to self-determination and freedom of our people? What happened to the dignity that united us as South Sudanese, and enabled us to preserve our rich cultural heritage? I am hoping that we can be mindful of these questions because we have reached a stage that threatens to destroy our innocent people. After the World repeated so many times the famous adage of "Never Again" and after we vowed to be united against genocide and ethnic cleansing, we (South Sudanese) cannot accept to remain bystanders, with our beloved country becoming no more than a burial ground. We must at all costs raise awareness and continue to promote unity within ourselves.
We cannot understand the history of our long journey towards independence without considering how many movements were formed to take up arms against each other, including the wars against our brothers and sisters in Northern Sudan. Whenever we were in disunity, we clearly were never able to achieve our objectives. Our strength has always been in our unity. In 1987, I remember vividly what the reunification of our two movements, Anyanya II and SPLA, did when they merged. A rejuvenated SPLA strengthened by our unity liberated large swathes of South Sudan within a very short period of time. Why? Simply because our leaders were able to mobilize our grass roots towards the war effort and face our common enemy. Today, more than any other time I can recall, most of our people are exhibiting a deadly strain of tribalism; they have without their knowledge become extremists. As a result, our cemeteries are filling fast with the corpses of the innocent. Over 2.6 million South Sudanese are currently displaced, including 860,000 as refugees in neighboring countries. 70% of the refugees are children, and I believe the situation is similar among the internally displaced now living in squalor as if they did not have homes. And yes, countless South Sudanese people whose hopes and dreams soared five years ago, now lie in unmarked graves in refugee camps or inside our country, dead from war and treatable diseases.
My objective is to remind our youth and our leadership of the need to chart a new path toward unity among our people. It is okay to celebrate in silence, to honor every life we have lost. We cannot afford to put it off another day in our quest toward healing. That's why I am writing this message. It is not intended to draw attention to the political situation across South Sudan or brush it off. To say that we are moving backward on our liberation struggle vision and values would be an understatement. Our lofty slogans such as “forward ever, backward never” now sound very hollow. Let the 9th of July 2016 be a silent celebration with each of us reaching deep within our hearts to find the wisdom for transformation from the grassroots of our society to its highest echelons, and to our well-wishers globally. South Sudan is bleeding to death in front of the entire World. If we, the citizens of South Sudan are not able to step up to the plate, the idea of placing the nation under the Trusteeship of the Council will seem more and more palatable. Ger Duany