ONE YEAR AND COUNTING FROM EUPHORIA TO SURVIVAL MODE
A year ago the friends and supporters of South Sudan from around the world gathered in Juba to celebrate the South Sudanese flag being hoisted for the first time, when the ambitions for statehood by the Southern people finally became reality and a new country was born. Witnessed by arch foe and ICC war crimes suspect Bashir, under whos watch the South gained independence when he could not subdue his erstwhile slaves on the battlefield, a week of celebration followed the ceremony which was transmitted around the globe by all key networks.
What followed was great enthusiasm, willingness to build a new nation and pull together to achieve the lifelong aspirations for self determination, a goal for which the new country shed its blood and sacrificed its youth who gave their lives so that others after them could determine their own future destiny.
Reports filed here on a regular basis spoke of new roads being constructed to connect the country suffering not just from a huge deficit but the almost complete absence of key infrastructure, neglected by the former masters in Khartoum which siphoned the riches of the South out for their own ends and left the region undeveloped.
Bridges were built and opened, talks commenced with Kenya to enter into a joint venture for the opening of the Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia transport corridor including a new pipeline, the remaining territories nominally still in the North but belonging to the South were hopeful that Khartoum would respect and implement their own referenda or consultations and aid poured into the South, projects took off and business delegations jammed the hotels in Juba and the state capitals to explore joint ventures and significant new investments.
But the bruised egos in Khartoum and their greed and envy would have none of this.
Bashir and his goons soon embarked on their old tactics again to fuel conflict by using proxy militias as done before in the south and still happening in Darfur, and soon a deliberate effort unfolded to ethnically cleanse Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, driving the Southern population into exile and stuffing it with regime friendly supporters so that when a vote would finally be forced by world opinion, the outcome could be tilted in favour of the north.
That not enough, Khartoum began to systematically obstruct border demarcation exercises, stalled negotiations on a range of post independence issues like asset and liabilities resolution, water rights and more, before becoming common thieves when stealing the oil belonging to the South Sudan out of the pipeline in ever increasing quantities.
And when that all did not yield the wanted results, open aggression and aerial bombings resumed, resulting in a short exchange of open hostilities when their noses got bloodied and Abyei was temporarily liberated by the Southern army, before misguided pressure by UN supremo Moon and his merry men at the UN prevailed to have the South withdraw, to hand a victory of sorts to Khartoum. Bashirs troops swiftly moved back into the void and are extracting resources once more at record pace.
When South Sudans government decided to halt pumping and exporting all oil from its territory, in the face of extortion and blackmail over fees for the pipeline to Port Sudan, the reality of it all finally dawned on the Southern population, that they were for all purposes being subjected to an economic war besides a real one, as border skirmishes persist up to today with northern militias and regular troops provoking incident after incident.
The decision to halt oil production cost the South dearly as 95 or more percent of the government budget came from oil sources and no matter what austerity measures are now being imposed, the value of the currency was swiftly falling to record lows, inflation rose deep into the double digit figures and a year after gaining independence life in the South for ordinary citizens is as hard as it ever was.
The euphoria of a year ago has given way to a new sense of reality, knowing full well that it is the enemies in Khartoum which are overwhelmingly responsible for it all, but with Bashirs own survival in the balance he will not give up his imperialistic expansionism and try to steal back what he lost by a free and fair vote when 99.8 percent in the South voted to escape his slavist rule and opted for independence.
Today will be marked by subdued celebrations in Juba of the first anniversary of independence but today will also be used to take stock and consider the way forward as citizens continue to struggle to make ends meet. While the still oil based economy continues to stutter alternatives like agriculture, ranching and mining, besides the rich tourism assets ( http://atcnews.org/2012/07/08/bahr-el-jebel-safaris-open-up-south-sudans-amazing-wildlife-to-the-world ) have not yet stepped forward sufficiently enough to live up to those sectors full potential. It is also a fact that more needs to be done on the legislative and regulatory front to entice investors to come in on a big scale and help kickstart South Sudans economy and to start fulfilling its rich potential. At least one major step has taken place, granting Visa on arrival in Juba and no longer making trips to the Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions necessary, helping to sustain air connections from Entebbe, Nairobi and Addis Ababa from where a host of daily flights now connect the South to the rest of the world.
Still challenges galore as South Sudan today celebrates one year of statehood and independence.
My best wishes on this occasion and at least one day of joyful celebrations before reality once again overshadows the enthusiasm of a year ago.