By Philip Thon Aleu
July 8, 2011 (BOR) – As South Sudanese celebrate Independence from North Sudan on 9 July, Jonglei state governor Kuol Manyang Juuk says “liberation from backwardness, ignorance and poverty” should start without sparing a minute.
- Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk
In exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune, just few hours to South Sudan Independence Declaration Day, governor Kuol says the people of South Sudan should challenge North Sudan on seeking independence through “an effective government.”
“The liberation itself is a very vast terminology; there is liberation from the domination of the people who had ruled the Sudan since independence. Then we are moving now to a different level of liberation – that is to liberate our people from backwardness, from ignorance, from illiteracy, from poverty, from diseases and all these need an effective government,” said governor Kuol on Friday in Bor, the birth place of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) that spear headed the two decades North-South civil war from 1983—2005.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 allowed the South to secede through a referendum in January in which over 98 percent voted for independence.
Governor Kuol added that achieving the expectations of the people of South Sudan needs collective work “without exception” but noted that he is “disturbed” by resistance of local people to accept peaceful co-existence irrespective of tribal backgrounds.
Asked to comment on the current situation in South Kordofan where members of the SPLA who fought along the southern rebels are fighting with Sudan Armed forces, governor Kuol says the CPA protocols should be implemented “in good manner” and that the government of the republic of South Sudan will help in achieving peace at the border regions.
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ST: South Sudan Independence Day declaration is just few hours away, what are your thoughts today?
KUOL: Thanks for this interview. Well, the people of South Sudan especially those who joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army or the SPLM/SPLA and fought the period of 21 years or anybody that joined the war after that, they joined for the liberation of our people from the oppression from Khartoum. The CPA was reached, negotiated of course, by late Dr. John Garang de Mabior with his comrades and reached an agreement known as the CPA that ended the war. And under President Salva Kiir, the CPA was being implemented and I think now it has reached the last stage with the declaration of the independence South Sudan [on 9 July] tomorrow and we would have achieved what our people, our grand fathers, fathers has struggled for. We will be independence just like any other nation. The liberation itself is a very vast terminology; there is liberation from the domination of the people who had ruled the Sudan since independence. Then we are moving now to different level of liberation – that is to liberate our people from backwardness, from ignorance, from illiteracy, from poverty, from diseases and all these need an effective government. An effective government is that one that has to mobilize the people behind it. I believe all of us need peace in this country. What is disturbing is why do we continue killing ourselves after our war with the north has come to an end? While I’m celebrating and happy that at least we coming to entity our own, I am still disturbed how do we end this lawlessness? We have tried our level best, sensitizing our people to stop killing each other, that they hand over guns to the police, but we have failed. I have also involved the government of southern Sudan to use the army in the disarmament of the population but the army also did not succeed in some areas. This is because people hide the gun and the SPLA has nothing to do with somebody who claims to have no gun. So, insecurity still prevails in Jonglei state as well as in other parts of south Sudan. It is a big challenge.
We have started the celebration today, the 8th of July and we will continue to the 9th and the 10th, this history in marking. We will coach ourselves on the way forward because liberation is not only the stopping of fighting but also to liberating ourselves from the challenges facing us. That needs us to think of the best way we can develop our country and that is the backbone and the centre of why we took up the guns; to develop ourselves. I congratulate the entire population of south Sudan for the independence. I hope joy will continue forever.
ST: You had more than 20 years of fighting in the bush a rebel commander, what was the driving force that kept you fighting without giving up?
KUOL: We felt that there was no justice in the country. The forces of domination and marginalisation that ruled the Sudan since Independence where not fit to continue ruling the Sudan. So, we took up the arms so that we bring about the change of affairs in the country. Establish government where everybody will get involved. Establish democracy in the country, human rights and development. Of course war is war, and when we decided to take the guns and fight, we had prepared for the worse. And as such, many of our colleagues died, the martyrs, others were wounded and they are not regretting because that was expected could happen. For us who survived up to this moment, is by luck and by chance. We had given up our lives; either we liberate our people or die, one of the two. And therefore we endured the difficulties; sleeping in the cool, in rain, moving in the forest where there was no food, no water, walking on foot for miles and miles. This is what liberation meant. We are happy at that at least we had brought the freedom of our people. We have liberated our country and now is the time for all of us, the people of South Sudan without exception, to join hands and develop our country.
ST: The SPLM was joined by people from South Kordofan, Blue Nile and people from other parts of the country who are not from South Sudan. How do you think about those people who are not part of south Sudan’s freedom today? And what is the way out?
KUOL: SPLM was fighting for the change of affairs in the country. It was fighting for the rights of all the people of Sudan. But during the negotiation; because we did not win the war entirely in battle field, with involvement of the third parties, it was thought that the South could be given the right to determine their own destiny because the government of Khartoum, under the NCP, were ready to let the South go rather than changing their Islamic ideology.
So, it was decided that the people of the South be given the right to self determination and the people of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan be given right of popular consultation on what type of government and powers they will have from the central government. People of Abyei were to have referendum on whether to remain in South Kordofan or become part of the south; that is Warrap state. It was agreed and we were satisfied with that.
Now we hear of fighting in southern Kordofan because the government of Khartoum did not want to implement the CPA in the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Therefore, the SPLA group, which belongs to Southern Kordofan, felt they were being again marginalised. This [marginalisation] started when the census was being made. Some tricks were made to reduce the number of the people who are the Nuba and the numbers of people who call themselves ‘Arabs’ were inflated. In elections, faults were made. There was a lot of cheating for seats going to parliament and the election of governor. Adal-aziz Adam Al-Hilu, who was the candidate of the SPLM, had won election, but again a play was made by NCP. This is what brought about the [current] war [in south Kordofan state]. Some bad tricks appeared to be showing the intention of the government of Khartoum to continue oppressing them.
Well, we are doing our level best to calm the situation and argue the government of the North [Sudan] to work for peace rather than war. We will continue definitely as an independent South Sudan to persuade the government of north Sudan to work for peace in those areas of Nuba; southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The war in those areas will definitely affect the stability of the South. We need peace along out borders. We will appeal to the government of North Sudan to implement what is meant of the CPA in a just manner. We are still working for the people of Abyei to get their right. We know all of them want to have a referendum that will bring them to the South [Sudan]. Again, we will be working with the North. We will take this to the region and the even the UN for the people of Abyei to get their right.
ST: Can you briefly describe how you adapt to changing from military commander to civilian administrator after the war?
KUOL: It wasn’t difficult. There was nothing difficult about it. It was the management of the war that was more challenging because managing people who do not have salary, who do not have hospital. There was nothing at all; only the gun. It was not easy. And during the war, we were managing both the soldiers’ and civil population’s affairs and fighting the war at the same time. It was a government in its own right.
The different between that time and now is only the money. We are [now] being paid money, working with people being paid and at that time, there was nothing. So, there is nothing new. What is challenging after we have ended the war is to develop our people. Government is to facilitate development that will have to improve the living conditions of the people. It is challenging now because we don’t have funds. Our people had expectations that things will change after the war but it is not changing. We need roads, schools, hospitals and food for our people. The people are still using elementary tools for farming. The people shouldn’t be living at mercy of the nature where there are rains or no rains. We should be using modern technology for farming. Definitely, change will come later on but is not easy. It is difficult.
It wasn’t my choice to become a governor but was an assignment given to me by the party, by the movement [SPLM], so that we continue with the struggle to liberate our people from other difficulties facing them. I was elected again by the people on the ticket of the SPLM and I will continue doing the work until time comes when others will take it up. So, is not easy, I cannot say I have achieved a lot but there is little and there is a lot to be achieved.
ST: How do you intend to move forward in achieving at least some peace and progressive development in Jonglei state in a new nation of South Sudan?
KUOL: The recent encounter between Murle and Lou Nuer was disturbing. We do not know up to now how many people were killed from both sides and the level of destruction that might had occurred. We assume there are loses of lives. I am planning to hold an all-Jonglei peace conference that will be held within four weeks from now that will bring on board all the people of Jonglei so that we discuss this issue of peace. How do we bring peace? Maybe there is somebody with good idea in this mind who may come up with a solution on how we can bring on about peace in our state. I know little of why there is this lawlessness; the difficulty of livelihoods.
Me myself, I use to treat this as an economy driven action. This started with cattle theft, then cattle robbery or cattle raiding and the in the course of stealing or raiding, lives are lost. Unfortunately, it has gone to the killing of people who do not have the cows; women, children being abducted. This is where it is abide disturbing. I will start with what comes out of the conference and then eventually [followed by] development by building roads to make movement of police easy to provide protection to the people. There are no roads now for police to move easily. Our police are ill-equipped and we hope with coming of this independence, we can get loads from friendly countries so that we equip our police. Police in such a situation will even need helicopters to air lift them to where criminals are spotted. These are some of the things we will do in order to promote peace in the state. Food production is another programme we are investing in today so that people produce food for themselves.
ST: When you came as governor of Jonglei state in December 2007, you started by cleaning payrolls of ghosts name. How do you intend to continue fighting corruption in Jonglei state as a reflection of how south Sudan as a new nation will fight this practice if it exists?
KUOL: Corruption is a bad disease and takes many forms. One of them, for example, is misuse or stealing of government funds in a clever way. We had the ghost names in the pay lists. We have done a lot, still, we need to do more. We have now computerised the payroll. Everybody’s data will be entered including photo, finger print and names. If somebody has two names, it will be discovered using the photo and finger print. There is corruption even in the field of appointment where somebody without qualification is highly promoted. In some places, unskilled workers were appointed to position of directors at the ministries. That was top corruption. Nowhere [in the world] can you make a worker to become a director, it cannot happen anywhere [in the world] but only in South Sudan here.
These are some of the things we are now correcting. Those who were removed are now campaigning outside ‘we were removed wrongly.’ But of course they are not going through. They are not winning. We are going ahead with fighting corruption and the money we save is being put back to development. We are now building a hospital; we are building headquarters of the ministry of health [and is at] advanced stage. We had done a lot with the money we recovered from people who we receiving double pay. It is a war that cannot be won overnight but we are determined to bring it to an end.
ST: Any message to the people of the new nation of the Republic the South Sudan?
KUOL: I pay my tribute to late leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior, who led us during the war, negotiated the peace – the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). I also congratulate the SPLA soldiers who fought the war until we got our right. I congratulate President Salva Kiir for having led us through the implementation of the CPA for the last six years. My appeal to my people is that we should work for peace. Let us use our independence to develop our country. Development will come through hard work. Use every minute to account for the development of our country.
Development will not only be said with the [word of] mouth, it has to be realized. We need to spare no time. And use every available fund for development. We should be proud of what we have done; the liberation we have done ourselves. Therefore, we should continue with that pride so that we develop our nation and tomorrow we will be able to challenge, tell the north: ‘look this is why we have being fighting. We have the change in our country. We are happy people’.
We want to see our children growing very healthy, eating good food, going to schools and play happily. This is all we need in our country. It will not come by itself. We need our people to go to the land, farm and produce food for themselves and for the market so that to get money for other needs. The movement of people to the towns should be discouraged. We want to join hands and develop our rural areas. Let us celebrate for our independence but after celebrations, let us go back, we start development of our country. Thank you.