South Sudan: The Haunting Memories of Martyrs

By Stephen Par Kuol

The month of July is historically significant in South Sudan for both tragic and festive events. For one thing, it is a month of the year in which we mark our Independence Day (9th of July) and for another thing, it is a month in which we commemorate the Martyrs’ Day (30th of July). The prior is festive but the later is tragic in the sense that it is the day we lost our great leader and martyr, Dr John Garang De Mabior leaving the nation in this long ordeal of political orphanage. The lingering question in so many heads is: do we have more to celebrate or mourn in this historical month? My dear conscience keeps telling me that we have more to mourn and less to celebrate as things stand today in this great nation of martyrs. It haunts consciences to see that there is nothing to show for their ultimate sacrifices but death and destruction. Mournful of all is the tragic truth that the historical party of martyrs (SPLM) has lost ideological direction and miserably failed both at governance and political organization. Subsequently, Dr John’s Garang’s rural development vision of investing the petrodollar in the agricultural economy, connecting South Sudan with road and taking the towns to the people has vanished through the thin air of the prevailing institutionalised kleptocracy and leadership crisis.

In his Peace Through Development Thesis, Dr John emphasised that” the only way to attain lasting peace in South Sudan is to make citizenry stakeholders in peacebuilding through wealth creation. He further articulated that “we the SPLM as the government must provide salt for the people or the people will drive us to the sea”. This has come to past now where the SPLM Government is driven out of the countryside and confined only to garrison towns in parts of the country and Juba amidst raging civil war and collapsing economy. Being a landlocked nation without access to the seas, those slummed garrison towns and that impoverished city-state called Juba could be the sea Dr John meant in my own prophetic interpretations.

Having failed at political organization and nation-building, the vanguard movement that led the nation to independence has splintered into warring factions fighting a war of self- destruction. Among other things, the most haunting tragedy is that the children of martyrs who should rather be used to build the independent state achieved through the blood and sweat of their parents are the one being used now as a fuel for this war of shame. It leaves no doubt in my mind that the martyrs whose blood cemented the foundation of the this Republic of South Sudan turn so many times in their graves each year we celebrate the Independence and commemorate this Martyrs’ Day in their lasting memory. That is haunting and it will continue to haunt the leaders of this political generation until we bring peace to their children and unite the country they founded with their dear soul, blood, tears and sweat. In my humble opinion, this haunting memory calls for rethinking the peace process for the parties to negotiate in good and sign an agreement that will bring lasting peace to this great country of millions of martyrs.

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