Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I wished I were a poet!

By John A. Akec*

Achol Madut,
Daughter of Madut Ring
An SPLA martyr
A gentleman so brave
Like his countless comrades
Who gave up everything for freedom
By putting all at stake
She asked: uncle dear
Write me a poem!
To speak of war
And of sacrifices so great
And peace so near
Of culture that amazes
And land so beautiful
Of past very grave
And future so hopeful
Could you please?
Earnestly she pleads!
Sorry, replies uncle
I wish I were a poet!
I wish I have words
To tell the story so rich
That no words can simply reach
As it all lies beyond the clouds
For a man like me
Standing here beneath!
Achol, I wished I were a poet!
I would describe a people very tough
Freedom they love
In face of death they laugh
Dignity they worship
For its sake they perished
Not in hundreds
Not in thousands
But in their millions
In the dawn of third millennium
Achol, I wished I were a poet!
I would describe a land
Of hills and tall mountains
Of green forests
Of blue skies
Of grassy plains
Which rivers have spoilt
And gave it beauty
Hard to explain!
Given by Almighty
For us to enjoy
And at its sight
We wonder and recoil!
Achol, I wished I were a poet!
To describe a land with such promise
Of prosperity and bliss
Of abundance waiting
Which no one can afford to miss!
As the peace dawns
On the ghost cities
As the guns go silent
On the streets and bush
And development knocking the gates of New Kush!
Achol, I wish I were a poet
To describe all this
As the peace songs rise
And as the doves fly
In the skies of New Kush!
I wish I have words to describe all this!
To describe this bliss
That is waiting
And happiness not to be missed
Happiness not to be missed!

* Was written first posted on ssnet on 15 August 2005
London UK

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Salva Kiir Speaks to Al-Sahafa Newspaper

This is an anterview by First Vice President, President of GOSS to Al-Sahafa from Cairo (was first published by Al- Sahafa, on 14 Feb. 2008)

Interviewer: Asma Elhussani

Translation from Arabic by John A. Akec

Question (Q)
What is your assessment of the current political conditions in Sudan and how do you view the future in light of recent developments?

Salva Kiir (SK)
Priority is being given to the Naivasha peace agreement that helped stop the war in the South. The agreement aims to achieve unity while at the same time gives the South the right for self-determination.

Which of the two options is feasible, unity or separation?

Achieving unity will require greater efforts. And when we achieve unity we will agree on a new constitution that is markedly different from the current one. South Sudan will be a fundamental stakeholder in the new constitution. We will effect bilateral agreements with our neighbours on new basis.

What role do you see Egypt playing in Sudan?

Egypt has a very special place in the hearts of Sudanese people in general, and among South Sudanese in particular. And if South Sudan were to secede, the interests of Egypt will remain intact. In fact, the relationships with South Sudan could get better and more direct than what they are at present.

What about resumption of work on Jonglie canal?

The work stopped as a result of war. At the moment we are busy implementing the peace agreement, tackling burning issues, as well as dealing with the aftermath of a destructive conflict. We do not want the war to resume. Not implementing the peace agreement increases the likelihood of resumption of hostilities. And in principle we have no objection restarting the work on Jonglei project. But we need to deal with current priorities first.

Which parts of the peace agreement have been implemented so far, and what are the perceived obstacles to the implementation of the whole agreement?

So far, several clauses in the agreement have been implemented, and many have not. The most significant amongst unimplemented clauses is the Abyei protocol.

What are the obstacles hindering the implementation of Abyei protocol?

The main obstacle is our coalition partner, the National Congress party. We have asked the National Congress to honour the Abyei protocol which we agreed to in Naivasha and to abide by the recommendations of Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC). However, the National Congress has refused the ABC report, and is trying to look for alternative solution, something which we do not accept and we are sticking to this recommendation in its present form.

But is it not possible to get a middle ground to stop the current escalations of hostilities between SPLM and Masyeria?

We view all the hostile activities by Masyeria as happening on the behest of National Congress and hold the National Congress responsible for any renewal or resumption of war. It was this government that armed the Masyeria and promised to hand Abyei over to them. But the Arabs and the Dinka continued to peacefully coexist as they did throughout the centuries.

What are the opportunities for ensuring that the Dinka and Masyeria Arabs continue to live peacefully?

Abyei belongs to the Dinka, but Masyeria also have the right to use the land as pasture for their livestock. The two tribes have peacefully coexisted throughout centuries. The current threats by Masyeria to close roads and besiege Abyei is not their original idea or position. Some big politicians are pushing them from behind to fight the Dinka who are seen the main support of SPLA during the war.

Who are those big politicians?

I do not want to mention any names. The NCP knows who they are. It is not difficult for us to arm the Dinka but we do not want escalation of hostilities. We have been talking to the NCP and we expressed to them that this is not in the interest of Masyeria nor in the interest of the country. They the NCP deny our charges. However, the question is: where do the Masyeria get their heavy arms? This is more than armed tribal conflict. Some of those killed in December and January battles were army officers and we have their ID cards. Is this not a shadow of the past which is supposed to be replaced by a new reality? We are not hostages to the sad past because the peace agreement means for us healing and forgiving the past wrongs. We expect the NCP to cooperate with us so that we could find a solution by talking to Masyeria to stop these activities that are damaging to peace.

The NCP in their negotiation with you have expressed their intention to resort to third parties or constitutional court?

We need to implement what we have agreed on. If we revise this part of the agreement we may not resist the urge to revise and renegotiate the whole agreement, and would mean returning to square one.

What about Darfur…some of the Dafurr leaders returning from Juba meetings which your Movement organised in bid to unite the Darfuri factions say that you intend to unite them under leadership of Ahmed Abdalshafae. They also maintain that the initiative lacks vision for resolving the crisis?

We in the SPLM do not favour any particular person or faction. It is up to Darfur movements to choose their leader. I believe those who object to our initiative may have their own good reasons for doing so.

What is SPLM’s vision for ending this conflict?

The Darfur movements began as two movements: Sudan Liberation Movement and Justice and Equality Movement. The latter has similar agenda as other Sudanese parties that favour the implementation of Islamic Sharia. The other movements do not favour this direction and we are trying our best to unite them. We have been urging them to stop fighting one another and come up with a unified vision. We have disagreed with National Congress regarding their approach to ending Darfur conflict including the recourse to military solution, which has been previously tried in South Sudan and failed.

How do you view the recent incidents in Chad and the accusations by the Chadian government that Sudan is supports the rebellion against them?

Both the government of Sudan and Chad have been trading accusations all along. Each side accuses the other of supporting rebellion against their respective rule. Each side also claims they have evidence. We in the SPLM call for self-control and non-interference in the affairs of others.

Have you managed to overcome your differences in the SPLM? And what are the implications of the return of commander Abdalaziz Hillu and his appointment as deputy SPLM secretary general?

There are no differences in the SPLM to talk about. Abdalaziz Hillu left the country in quest for medical treatment and study in the US. He has never left SPLM and he has now returned to assume the position of deputy secretary general. There are no differences. The man has simply returned to his position.

How far have you succeeded in your fight against corruption in South Sudan?

We are doing everything we could to fight corruption, for nothing is so challenging as fighting an invisible enemy. Corruption is like cancer. It is difficult to locate. Corruption is found in every country, but with varying degree from one country to another. When we reduce the level of corruption to less than 10% or 20 % in our institutions, we would have achieved something. Our fight against corruption is ongoing on daily basis. We may not succeed to completely uproot corruption in the South but we are determined to reduce it to minimum so that no one can openly boast of amassing illegal riches that belongs to the public.

Where do oil revenues go while South Sudanese still face hardship and are unable to get even the basic of needs?

The cause of hardship is not corruption. The South depends solely on oil revenue and we have no other sources. Hence the revenue from oil is spent mostly to pay government employees in the 10 Southern states and providing very basic services, leaving too little to spend on development projects.

When will the citizens of South Sudan enjoy peace dividend and feel the difference brought about by petro-wealth?

These resources will continue to be insufficient unless we get help assistance from third parties. In fact, we had high hopes that we were going to achieve more when we first took over the affairs of the South. However, those in Southern Co-ordination Council from whom we inherited the government were paying people who were not delivering any real service. We found many pay lists containing imaginary names and the names of their wives and children. These are the very people who are now turning around and accusing us of corruption. Other forms of corruption include contracts awarded to companies. And since we have known about it we are going to fight it beginning with presidency and down to ministries and state levels. By the time we reach local government level we would have uprooted corruption in South Sudan.

What progress has been achieved regarding the investigation on death of the late leade,r John Garang?

After his death we formed an investigation committee made up of distinguished Sudanese personalities that included justice Abel Alier as well as others from Uganda and the United States. The committee’s reports concluded that pilot error was the cause of the crash and had found no evidence of foul play. This report was given to his wife to express an opinion on it. We had made it clear we will have to reinvestigate the causes of his crash if his family rejects the report’s finding. However, no objection was expressed by the members of his family. Nevertheless, recently a former government minister has expressed doubts about the report’s finding and his statement almost caused diplomatic problems between the government of Uganda and the government of Southern Sudan. It is also apparent to us that similar doubts are quite prevalent amongst a large sector of South Sudanese as well as amongst cabinet ministers and hence we have no intention to close this investigation yet but would like to keep it open while we invite anyone with information or useful evidence regarding the death of John Garang to come forward. This better than throwing the accusations in the air just in order to implicate the government of South Sudan or Sudan government.

Can you tell us something about the coming elections? Will they take place on time and with whom are you going to forge alliances?

It is too early to talk of political alliances at the time when the election laws have not been passed. We will make alliances according to our interests. However, we have not as yet made alliances with anyone.

But are you confident about your party’s standing in the coming elections?

Yes we are very confident of our good standing and we know exactly what we are going to do in order to secure victory in the coming elections.
Will that still turn out as you expect despite the allegation that your party has now secured its full control of the South and that you are not giving any opportunity to any other party?
We do not hinder any party or anybody to exercise politics in the South. What the National Congress say about us hindering their members in the South has no basis. What has happened is that the members of NCP left the party to join SPLM ever since they felt they are now free to choose the party they want. They joined our party without any job promises and they have refused to stay in the NCP.

What caused the branches of Islamic Banks in Southern Sudan to close down?

We have not expelled them. It is the agreement that says that there should be no Islamic Banks in South Sudan that now operates traditional secular banking system. The banks would have been allowed to stay had they agreed to switch to traditional banking system. And of course, we have no problem with Islam.

What about LRA problem?

We have made a lot of progress and we have stopped all the ugly atrocities and they have returned to negotiating table recently in Juba and renewed ceasefire with the government of Ugandan until the end of this month. We expect them to reach a final settlement in the near future.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Let Me Be Me*

By John A. Akec

It is my nature
To say I love you
When I feel so
And it is equally true
When there is anything I hate
I let you know!
My question:
Would you object
To my simple request
That you let me be me
And you be you
And us be friends?
For it is my habit
To call a spade by its name
And when I see a tree
I called it the same
And when I cry
I cry aloud
And when I laugh
I do it from my heart
With me what you see
Is what you get!
For I cannot be
What I am not
Like all humans
Half is body
And the other half my self-expression!
And if you have no objection
Then let me be me
And you be you
And us be friends

*With my apologies to Jimmy Cliff for his inspirational song: "Let Yes Be Yes, and the No be No…"

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wanted more "Changsonisation" of GOSS

"Catch them doing good", or "positive correction", which are references to a behaviour modification philosophy that is popular with secondary school teachers for motivating students to adopt more positive behaviour and attitude. Forget secondary schools, these are simply microcosm of real world. The same applies to politicians. Catch them doing good and give them credit, and you are likely to get more good.

Gabriel Changson, currently the Minister for Information in the autonomous Government of South Sudan (GOSS), symbolises transparency in the real sense of the word. During a short stint as the acting Finance Minister of GOSS, Gabriel Changson, made the public aware for the first time of challenges facing the Finance Ministry and possible cures to the big hole in GOSS public expenditure. It was not particularly pleasing news for public to learn that more than half of Southern government oil revenue goes towards payment of salaries; that in order to be able to fund developmental projects, the Southern government might be obliged to reduce employment in the public sector and borrow from third parties; and that more than half a billion dollar of Southern money was expended by his predecessor without consulting the Southern Legislative Assembly. Nevertheless, it was invaluable to tell the public of what was actually happening with the government finances, regardless of whether it was good or bad.

Most recently, while paying a private visit to Cairo, Mr. Changson disclosed to the media the details of various initiatives and plans being undertaken by his ministry in order to increase public access to sources of news and media information in Southern Sudan. These initiatives and plans included an agreement with the Egyptian Ministry of Information that makes it possible for Juba Television to broadcast via Egyptian satellite (Nilesat) in approximately eight weeks time, with technical backup from South Africa to launch the initiative; an agreement to train South Sudanese media personnels in Egypt; plans to establish GOSS news agency with branches in major Southern cities; the plans to set up publishing houses for newspapers and magazines; and government subsidies to publishers to keep down the prizes of newspapers and magazines.

To inform the public about what is going on in their government so that it can understand why things happen the way they do is at the very heart of the advocated "good governance and transparency" paradigm, regarded as a gateway to prosperity for the developing world. It is worth pointing out that it would be naiveté of me to conclude that talking to the media alone will be sufficient to achieve transparency and good governance, nor am I advocating that our ministers sell us white elephants. It is simply a step towards transparency. This is because acomplete blackout about what is going on in a government does not certainly bring us any closer to the goal of good and transparent governance.

It should be noted that the main feature characterising news about Southern Sudan in the years following the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement is dearth of information on on-going GOSS initiatives and developmental projects in the newspapers pages and media headlines. This has been happening either because many GOSS ministers have been too shy to speak to the media about their achievements and their on going initiatives or future plans; or the media has failed to capture positive progress, or simply many had nothing worthy to report. Either way, the current Information Minister has shown us that it is an important strategy to building public trust in the government by keeping the public informed about government current initiatives and future plans.

Hence, more and more GOSS ministers and officials are encouraged to follow the example of Mr Gabriel Changson. That is, to keep the public informed, at all times, even if it means sustaining their hopes for a brighter future.

Let us call this process "Changsonisation" of GOSS.

John A. Akec