South Sudan became independent in 2011 from Sudan after waging two wars (1956 to 1972& 1983 to 2005) with referendum done under the supervision of the United Nations. To begin with there were 10 states and by December 2015 there are 28 states in South Sudan. It is larger in geographical area as compared to Sudan with an estimated population of 11 million. States are subdivided in to County and Payam and Boma.
Traditional justice is the order of the day in most of the areas as modern government machinery is unheard of in rural areas.
The internal conflict of Dec 2013 was a big blow to the good governs of the country as it was more of ethnic nature resulting in the fleeing or killing of thousands of the citizens. Thus the clock of development was put backward and many of the development interventions were put in the back burner decelerating the economic growth potential. Many units of production were shut down for good or shifted to safer countries resulting in job losses.
There are many tribes. The most dominant are Dinkas and Nour. But majority are Dinkas. Other tribes are many spread all over the country. One important feature of the tribes is that most of them are mostly polygamists with as many as seven to 10 wives.
The average life expectancy in the rural areas is said to be 70 plus despite poor medical facilities and rampancy of poverty and illiteracy. Infrastructure facilities if something to mention are only confined to Juba the national capital of South Sudan. Main roads are tarred only in Juba and that too some extent only not exceeding 20km. UN establishment s are fully secured and all diplomatic missions too.
Hospitals are a kind of apology for health services. There are a few universities. But schools and colleges are coming with new avenues of empowerment offering new hope to the lost millions due to long waged wars.
Air port is a kind of touchdown place for air crafts. After alighting from air craft, one is required to walk in the rain and sun for five to ten minutes to reach immigration where one is harassed for bribes despite having visa etc. Here begins the rude shock of the country with poor roads and crazy traffic. It seems the independent country was trying to build a national capital air port without much success. Now it is said that with Chinese help air port may become a dream realised within five years if further internal upheavals do not hamper it. It is a very volatile place and can have any kind skirmishes at any time. Even the creation of 28 states in December 2015 from the existing 10 is a matter of political troubles. Peace negation teams from neighbouring countries are in and out to settle many a dispute.
Security threat map shows the capital city is in level IV needing night curfew dusk to dawn. The rich oil drilling area is situated in the northern region and its pipe lines pass through Sudan and they charge their fees as agreed up on in the peace agreement. As world oil prices are declining, the oil revenue earnings of South Sudan is affected badly too. 98 per cent of the GDP is accounted by oil alone.
Other sectors which contribute to national economy are agriculture. Here food crops and cattle constitute a major portion. It is a landlocked country. Only lakes and River Nile make good source of fishing. Juba is on the bank of the Nile and it is a very fertile land for cultivation to make quick money for this starving country. Much of the vegetables and other food items come to the country from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The dry weather is good for growing all kinds of exotic food crops and vegetables. People are to be trained and motivated by the ministry of Agriculture and FAO to make them sustainable as per the SDGs of the UN.
There are many Ugandans here seeking work, running small businesses like Ethiopians ,Eritreans, Kenyans and Indians. Some are good entrepreneurs. They provide employment to many locals and augment the process of development.
Crime rate is increasing may be due to illiteracy and unemployment. Bribery is very much everywhere. It is an accepted way of life. Government staff are paid very poor. There is difference in the salary scales of centre and state government employees. A state government employee is paid USD equal of 30 it is just enough for him to buy a bag of cooking charcoal. Price of day to day items are sky rocketing .With average family size of 8 to 10 people how would they manage to survive and send children to schools is the biggest challenge. The answer is simple beg, borrow, or steal or take bribe for everything.
Inflation is on its way up. Recently the currency was devalued. The currency is known as South Sudan Pound (SSP). In July 2011 one USD was equal to 2.00SSP. Over a period of time it was officially at 2.96 and unofficially 19.20. But by this devaluation in Dec 2015 it is equal to 18.5 pounds with provisions of floating mechanism in place. Inflation has made life miserable for the locals in terms of purchasing power.
A cursory look in the market shows the real picture as alarming. One kg of rice costs pound 25; sugar 20; tomato 30; potato 20; carrot 40 ;corn flour 80; cassava 25; sweet potato 25; fish tilapia 75; chicken 80; beef 110; one hair cut 20; lemon one kg 40; minimum bus fare 5; petrol 22a litter; one ripened banana 5 ,cucumber 30,Cauli flower 25, pineapple 30, green pepper 70, spring onion 30, garlic 150,French beans 40, cabbage 25 per number.
Two major health hazards are malaria and typhoid. It is very rampant during the rainy season. It really makes people suffer much in an otherwise poverty stricken country.
The Way Forward:
- Political will is the first prerequisite for this country to move forward. They must get united above ethnic lines and narrow and parochial considerations with national pride as it is being successfully done in Rwanda, again another east African nation under its dynamic leadership with indomitable political
- For nation building reconciliation based on truth and sagacity coupled with love for fellow human beings must be the North Star and the creed for all leaders. Leaders must learn from the famous Gettysburg speech of Abraham Lincoln. Kennedy said do not ask what the nation has done for you but ask what you can do for the nation building.
- Inclusive growth strategy must be in place with a vision 2030 for South Sudan. Bottom up and top down planning process must be initiated without loss of time.
- People’s participation must be assured in any development efforts as they are the final stakeholders.
- One must bid farewell to the trickledown theory of economic development and embrace a culture of include and prosper while realising the paradigm development practised erstwhile namely amass and amass that Moses and prophets as observed by Carl Max.
- Corruption is a national curse and cancer which will ultimately kill the progress of the nation and bring about untold misery to millions of its population.
- With the help of international community and UN agencies translate the MDGs and now SDGs of the UN realistically for South Sudan with forward and backward linkages to usher in prosperity to its millions by 2030.
- Education is the starting point. During the wars many generations lost the gift to be empowered. But posterity must not be stolen of this right to educate and empower.
- As 98 per cent of the national revenue is accounted by oil, efforts are needed to think of value addition like oil refining within the country with distributive justice.
- Agriculture must be accorded top priority in plan outlays and in training framers with new methods of farming with value addition. A fully revamped agriculture sector is the need and challenge of this country. The fertile Nile delta to be profitably made use of. Millions of pound going to other countries for importing food items can be saved for other priorities of nation building.
- National pride must come in the form of good infrastructure including all weather roads, health facilities even in rural areas, a flag ship type air port, drinking water ,etc. One should look at Rwanda as a possible model to be followed here too. In fact basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing must be considered non negotiable rights of the citizens.
- In soviet Russia Joseph Stalin said to begin with,”Soviets plus electricity means economic development”. “ Soviets plus roads means development” “Soviets plus irrigation and modern agriculture mean economic well being for its ” We need to learn many things from others to move faster to deliver as per SDGs of the UN by 2030. Why to waste time to reinvent the wheel?
(Dr KM George; Email firstname.lastname@example.org)