July 9, 2012 (WAU) - Senior government officials from South Sudan’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Western Bahr el Ghazal State, including Governor Rizik Hassan Zachariah, on Monday said that the young nation was capable of defending its tense and disputed border with Sudan.
- SPLA soldier holds up a South Sudan flag as he salutes arriving officers and State W. Bahr el Ghazal Governor at Independence Celebrations in Wau, 9 July 2012 (ST)
Speaking to a huge crowd at an event to celebrate the first anniversary of the South Sudan’s independence Governor Rizik Hassan Zachariah praised citizens of the state for keeping peace and accepting the government’s call to till the land as alternative to addressing the food deficit created by unreliable rainfall in 2011.
He pledged that his government will try to implement many development projects to improve the delivery of the basic services in the state.
“Despite economic challenges facing the country, we shall continue to work hard to ensure our people get basic services. We are actually working very hard to ensure that the issue of insecurity is addressed so that our people are able to cultivate without fear of being attacked."
South Sudan’s army the "SPLA is full in control. We are also working hard to ensure that education, health, food production and good governance remains on the top of our agenda."
The governor used the event to criticise government of neigbouring Sudan, from which the world’s youngest nation seceded. Both sides claims many areas along the new international border.
Zachariah said that South Sudan would not allow “an inch” of its territory to be “invaded come what may”. The countries fought a brief border war in April over the Heglig/Panthou region and the status another key oil area, Abyei is yet to be resolved.
South Sudan voted to secede in a referendum last year. Despite a six year peace deal, many issues remain outstanding.
“Before we could become an independent state, especially before and during referendum, there were voices in Khartoum claiming that this nation would be a failed state. We told them no. This will not happen and of course we proved them 100% wrong by these peaceful celebrations”, Zachariah told a cheering crowd predominantly former war combats.
The governor lashed out at the “bad wishes” the Sudanese government in Khartoum had for South South.
Zachariah pointed out that it was Sudan which was facing uprising in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Juba denies supporting any of the groups fighting Khartoum. Sudan also denies South Sudan’s allegation that it supports South Sudanese rebels.
Reacting the recent protests in Khartoum and other towns in Sudan Governor Zachariah said the Sudanese people are "tired of the National Congress Party government. They need change themselves by all means."
Songs of South Sudan’s civil war were played during the event, recognising the role the SPLA played in fighting from 1983 until the 2005 peace agreement allowed South Sudan to secede.
Since 2005 South Sudan has been governed by the SPLM, the political wing of the former rebels.
Major General Andrea Dominic, commander of fifth division of South Sudan’s Army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) said in his address to the citizens at the gathering, that the army was ready to defend territorial integrity of the new nation to protect the properties of its citizens.
- Major General Andrea Dominic speaks at South Sudan’s first independence celebration at Wau Stadium, Western Bahr el Ghazal State, 9 July 2012(ST)
“As your army, the SPLA is fully aware of our duty and constitutional obligation to defend the territory of this nation. We have sacrificed a lot of lives during 21 years of armed struggle to bring this independence and we are ready to do even more. We know that borders are never drawn peacefully. So we will try our best to ensure that no an inch of our territory is taken by force by anybody”, General Dominic told the jubilant crowd, which chanted "SPLA Oyee, SPLA Kiir Oyee".
The senior military officer of the former rebel movement turned national army thanked South Sudan’s young man for responding to the government’s call to join military training camps to be part of the national army.
“I thank our youth for coming out voluntarily to register. This is a heroic decision at the right time. A man must all show responsibility and care to attend to national duty”, he said.
Both nations have launched mass mobilisation and recruitment campaigns in a response to the conflict over Heglig/Panthou in April.
Mayar Acho, Speaker of the State Legislative criticised the Sudanese government for what he described as heinous human rights atrocities and also called on youth to join the army.
“I say SPLA Oyee first as part of the opening speech of my address because I know the importance of the SPLA. This day would not have been celebrated it were not the sacrificed made by these people”, Speaker Acho said.
He assured the state’s executive that they would receive legislative support in providing support to the national army to help them defend the country external from threats.
“Instead of you becoming drug dealers and idlers why not join the national army. A man must go where men lives and responds to what is required of them to do. This is the time you must join the army to defend this land. Our mission, those of us who abandoned studies and went to bush at early years of our youth hood in order to bring you this independence celebration is accomplished. It is now your time and turn to pick up from where it is today. Liberation struggle has not finished”, Acho said.
The event was attending by prominent political leaders and academics most of whom emphasised on need to improve South Sudan’s education system and the importance of returning to what many described as fertile but abandoned land.
The most prominent of the political leaders attending the celebrations in Wau was Moses Machar, a former Vice President of Sudan before the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.