Friday, January 05, 2007

Cairo Massacre - 370 Days On…

370 Days On…

Remember, on cold
Very sad morn
Three thousands and more
Sudanese children, women, and men
Encamped on a pavement
By UNHCR in Cairo
‘Find us a new home in a new country’
They cried
‘Here we count next to nothing’
Three whole months
They persisted
And insisted
And on that cold
Very sad morn
Exactly five days
After Christmas
Its sparkling lights
Hardly off memory and sight
On thirtieth day
Two thousand
And five
In the year of our Lord
Unknown to them
They were encircled
By cruel rite police
Armed to teeth
With tear gas,
Guns and sticks
Breathlessly they charged
Gunfire was heard
There was thick smoke
There was beating
There were screams
There was cry for help!
But none came!
All the same
Curses instead
And beatings and kicks
In vain they fought back
With bar hands and bricks
But they were no match
To well armed and well fed
Egyptian rite police
200 Sudanese and so fell dead
Hardly anyone unhurt fled
Trains full of bleeding bodies
And trucks of human flesh
Drove off before the sun rise
Into trackless wilderness
With the dead,
The wounded
Humans with broken skull and ribs
To be sorted where no human eye can peek
Leaving behind pavements and streets
Full of blood
And tears
And broken dreams
And hopes…
They escaped Ghost Houses
Only for an end in inferno’s jaws
Let us remember those
Who met their fate,
That cold December morn
The dead, the broken ribs and skull
The echo of their cries for help
Where only curses came
What they endured
And those who did the cruel acts

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Opinion: The “Shadowy SPLM/AVeterans" are Riding the Wave of Discontent

By John A. Akec

All of us are entitled to voice any discontent. But we must do so and sign our names. It has been a practice of certain sections of our population to wait until they sense a public discontent and then ride on the wave of public discontent. They do so with masks in their faces (see the press release posted below).

It appears there is a power struggle going on somewhere. There is also a tendency to pick out certain individuals and mix in additional names (control groups) in order to create confusion and thereby make it hard to identify the fingerprints of the group behind the memo. Anonymous memo is now a cheap tool of political power struggle.
Some of fatal inconsistencies committed by the “SPLM/A Veterans” have given away their true colours (as political impostors), especially in attacking whom they call “Garang Boys” and the Secretary General. When we know full well that most of “Garang Boys” are themselves marginalized in the GOSS (who actually has power in GOSS? - that is a big question)!

In particular when we know that if there is any one left carrying the banner of SPLM/A ideology, it is the secretary General, Pagan Amum.

What is more, when 700 SPLA soldiers went on rampage in Juba on 14 December 2006, who went to negotiate with them but the poor widow of John Garang. Where were the shadowy “SPLM/A Veterans”?

There are many outstanding issues: implementation of Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) recommendation, the disarming of GOS militia, and the tendency by NCP to abrogate the CPA at all fronts. Where do the shadowy “SPLM/A Veterans” stand? Why don’t they speak up about these issues. Why are the only obsessed with “money, money, and money”?

I have no problem whatsoever with any one expressing their opinion about the affair of our nation. What I find horrible is doing it while hiding behind fancy labels. Those whose names they use at whims are human beings. And if they have a case, the “SPLM/A Veterans” should the press release using their names.

It is now clear that the voices of the people are mixed with voices of the wolves. The phenomenon of anonymous memos undermines the very democracy the “SPLM/A Veterans” are claiming to exercise.

To put it plainly: “SPLM/A Veterans” who are afraid to write their names are nothing but bunch of opportunistic politicians trying to exploit very genuine public concerns in the most dishonest methods. This will only make matters worst. Furthermore, it is most unfair to those of us who openly express our concerns irrespective of the consequences.

Establishing democracy can only be achieved by coming out of the shadows into public light and be ready to defend their position openly.
John A. Akec

Incompetence and corruption are the hallmarks of GOSS
Wednesday 3 January 2007 02:30
SPLM/A Veterans against Corruption and Nepotism
Press Release
Wednesday 3 January 2007 02:30 It is nearly two years now since the establishment of the institutions of governance in South Sudan and nothing has happened. Individual GOSS ministers tried in vain to do something and make us belief they were active but this only increase the wrath and disappointment of the southern public. Two interesting examples are the fencing of government houses by Dr. Riek mẳ car with bamboos with a staggering bill amounting to millions of dollars. Another desperate minister, Mrs. Rebecca tried in vain to maintain Juba roads using unconventional methods by plastering the roads with cement and when Juba rains fell they were washed away leaving huge potholes that endanger the lives of Juba motorists. Again millions of dollars from the public funds were wasted and Juba roads have remained the most dangerous in the world. There is absolutely nothing happening in the other sectors, instead there is a marked deterioration particularly in the security and health sectors.

If there is one clear message that can be derived from this turbulent way things are moving in Southern Sudan, it is that the public is frustrated and deeply concerned with how the GOSS works - or more aptly put, doesn’t work. If a public opinion poll were to be conducted today it would be revealed that nearly four fourths of Southern Sudanese are dissatisfied with the GOSS, the SPLM and the way they do business. GOSS is a government that is far from home, politically and financially corrupt and insolvent. Equally, the SPLM has become gridlock politically and has lost direction. The young, corrupt and inexperienced so-called secretary general sits comfortably in Juba absolutely doing nothing to transform the party into a viable political platform which can champion the aspirations of the people of southern Sudan.

The SPLM has remained an irrelevant political mouthpiece for only very few opportunists who continue to spend SPLM funds for their own personal use. SPLM organs at the grass root have not been formed and only few elements from the old guards make decisions that are not disseminated to any levels of the party. The SPLM has left its supporters surly and disgusted and unable to connect to their party and their stated objectives.

What is needed urgently is to reinvent both the party and the government in the South. But to do this we need to put in place certain fundamental principles and goals that promote good governance and political correctness. Mr. Mayardit has to liberate himself from the webs and snares of the so-called ’Garang’ boys’ and the ’Gogrial-Aweil kitchen cabinet’ and behave like the president of GOSS. His belated attempts to distance himself from corruption by complaining to the public about it can not absolve him. He has to sack and punish those involved unless he fears opening the ’Pandora box’. The suspension of five senior finance officials was lauded as a positive step towards the start of the war against corruption. However, it is now six months since forming an investigation committee and nothing has been heard of. People wonder whether his move was not meant to kill the issue of corruption. Remember the old adage, ’if you want to kill an issue, form a committee’. We have now learnt that Dr. Pauline’s investigation committee has stalled, blocked by the lords of GOSS corruption, Arthur Akuen and Dr. Justin Yac.

Corruption in the South is not confined to finance, there is also political corruption. If you look at the list of GOSS ministers you will discover that the occupants of the most senior and ’sovereign’ ministries are from one particular tribe except for the lone and ineffectual portfolio of the Vice presidency. This is unacceptable and does not augur with the SPLM stated principles of inclusiveness and fairness. More dangerously, this state of affairs threatens the harmonious and cohesiveness of the Southern communities. This has to be corrected immediately because in the first place the people of the South took up arms against the very act of being excluded and marginalized by northerners in the political administration of the country.

The most annoying thing is that it is now two years since the institution of the governments in the South and nothing have happened in terms of development. There can be no excuse for this incompetence and inaction. The GOSS continues to receive millions of dollars from oil revenues from GONU, where does this money go to? Even the World Bank has acknowledged the availability of money in the GOSS bank accounts. A statement in Juba by a representative of the Bank confirmed that GOSS has more money than any neighboring countries and that this money should go to development. No GOSS minister belied this statement. Possibly the World Bank representative was right. While the capital Juba is still dressed in the pre-war racked clothes, the states are worse. There is no electricity, no medical facilities and barely any running water. The GOSS continues to deprive the states from the oil revenues and only occasionally dishes out to the states small fractions that can hardly fund development. States must be full-fledged partners and should no longer be treated simply like administrative units. States must be provided with adequate funds to develop policy and implement development projects. It is only through a more balanced power and wealth sharing between GOSS and the states that our people can realized the benefits of decentralization.

In conclusion, it is about time the GOSS reexamines the way it administers the south. The southern people are demanding greater efficiency, accountability and transparency in the use of their resources. Equally important is that the president of GOSS, Mr. Mayardit continues to ensure that equity, fairness and inclusiveness are maintained in his appointment of ministers at the GOSS, GONU and state levels so that there are no hard feelings against any particular tribe and so that harmony and peaceful co-existence is maintained among our people.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

No longer Should We Tolerate Forced Labour Anywhere in Southern Sudan

By John A. Akec

The world media has written much about slave trade as well as use of child soldier in North -South conflict that ended in 2005. Substantial resources and effort have gone into stamping out those practices.

However, nothing has been mentioned about forced labour despite the fact that it has been utilised throughout the war from 1983 to 2005, and is still going on unimpeded in rural areas under the newly formed government of South Sudan such as forcing of men to work in roads construction and maintenance without being paid. And since over 90% of Southern population live in the countryside, this practice is affecting the lives of a significant proportion of the population of South Sudan.

During the war, it was quite understandable that Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) often asked for voluntary services in form of a helping hand from local population in their constant movements from one location to another. Young and fit men were asked to volunteer to move ammunition and any other heavy equipment from one village to another. Those who refused were often forced at gunpoint to carry heavy load. To their credit, once they camp in the next village, the volunteers were released and new volunteers are drafted in.

Hence, any rational person reflecting on this kind of practice could easily realise that the SPLA combatants were themselves volunteers who risked their lives for the cause of all the population. Even so, some local SPLA commanders did not exercise that right with sensitivity and wisdom it deserved but in many occasions some of them treated the members of civil population severely or worst than the northern occupation army. Hence, it was not uncommon that the rural population sometimes felt under heavy load of oppression by their own citizens who claimed were fighting for their freedom. Understandably there is always that bad egg expected in anything involving more than one pair if hands.

Another practice that had flourished unchallenged alongside forced labour is the practice of charging taxes on travellers at military checkpoints manned by the SPLA. No one is sure how the funds collected from taxes was used within SPLA, nor has anything been used to pay for service provision such as education, health, and roads. These taxes are still collected. No service is rendered in return.

But what one must find hard to swallow is that two years into the signing of comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), which led to the birth of the government of South Sudan (GOSS), little has changed in lives of populations in rural areas in the way of provision of basic services. Instead of carrying load of ammunition and artilleries as they did during the war, many are now being forced against their will to carry out unpaid work on road maintenance and building. The unpaid workers are asked to use their own means to support themselves while at the work site and away from home. The working conditions are often poor and with no health services. Many are taken ill and die without any sort of medical attention. And this has and is going on unquestioned.

Most of the population in the countryside are illiterates and do not know their legal rights. And since the colonial era, the roads connecting main towns and countryside have been constructed and maintained through forced labour. In the past, it was the local chiefs who would organise who would attend and who would not. Now, it is the SPLA forces that go about rounding up anyone in their sight. This was the same method used by the Pharaohs to build pyramid thousands of years ago - forced and slave labour.

And with advent of United Nations and the Declaration of Universal Human Rights, all types of forced labour together with slavery have been deemed illegal. All civilised nations have been encouraged to abandon slave and forced labour and to ensure that the principles are enshrined in their constitution.

In fact Article 17 (2) of South Sudan Interim Constitution (2005) states:

“No person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour except as a penalty upon conviction by a competent court of law.”

And Article 29 (2):

“Formation and registration of political parties, associations and trade unions shall be regulated by law as is necessary in a democratic society”

All this is much in line with widely agreed International Labour Standards that among other things endorse: Freedom of association, right to organise and bargain, freedom from forced labour, minimum age for employment, and provision of fair working conditions at minimum wage, a cap on maximum working hours any employee can do per day that applies to all, and ensuring health and safety at workplace.

Yet and as I write, there are many people in South Sudan countryside who are forced to work for free. This is at the time when 99 percent of their children have no access to primary education, when the government provides zero health services. Still they are randomly taxed whenever they sell a goat, a cow, or chicken. If they travel to large towns and are coming back home carrying whatever they have purchased, they are taxed.

All this is happening under the watchful eyes of Legislative Assemblies in Juba and the 10 Southern states. And while there is much complaint that the implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement is facing obstacles from the central government, we still find the GOSS to be unable to live by up to its own constitution.

Poor rainy season last year resulted in poor harvest. Adding to it the inter-clan fights in many places in Southern Sudan, which made it impossible for a significant number of people to cultivate their farms or harvest them. Forced labour is the last straw. They could have done without it. What these people need are paid jobs. That we need to build roads and more of them should have been opportunity to improve the lots of the deprived poor in the countryside, not threat to their freedom. States should have come up with budgets for road building. The GOSS should have approve those budgets. Anyone ready to work and earn should be doing so to earn a living. This could have been be an opportunity for our population in the countryside to get their share of national wealth. Yet this is not the case.

At the moment, we are much richer than we ever have been. Two fiscal years have gone. And yet we hear of hospitals going without medical supplies, acute shortage of beds nurses and doctors, even in the capital of South Sudan, Juba. Schools running without equipment and teachers. Roads going without maintenance in the heart of Juba. Annd as to roads in many Southern States, we still do as Pharaohs did thousands of years ago as just explained.

Forced labour is cruel, is inhuman, and is illegal according to our own constitution and according to all acceptable international labour standards. It is on the same league as slavery. Two years have gone since we have been in charge of our own affairs and yet, such practices have been used as the substitute for provision of basic services and basic jobs. Now many former combatants are paid as regular soldiers. So why should our people continue to work for free in the countryside?

The continuation of forced labour is foremost a failure by the SPLM as a movement that once prided itself in taking up arms in order to bring development to the marginlaised in the countryside to live to its ideals. It is the failure by the supervisory branch of the government (Legislative Assembly) to hold the executive branch (the GOSS) to account. It is also the failure of the civil society (NGOs) to be the voice for the people. All of us we should be ashamed for failing to live up to expectation of our people.

Forced labour must stop and stop soon.