Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 23 December 2013

When the Nile reversed its course


By Athiaan Majak Malou

December 22, 2013 - The recent political crisis in the newest nation on earth, the Republic of South Sudan, is going to have repercussions throughout the region, if not contained early enough. Being a new country and the same endowed with natural resources such as oil, fresh water, arable land, forest, livestock, etc. it has attracted people looking for employment and business opportunities from all over Central and Eastern African Region and other parts of the World.

As the latest country to get independence, it is being regarded as a newly discovered land. In human history when Americas, Australia, New Zealand and other new lands were discovered, it attracted curiosity of many and people move to these places in mass, looking for better opportunities. This is the same with South Sudan.

If you see the recent movement of people and goods in the region to South and probably to other Nile basin countries, it is reminiscent of the movement of Nile waters. The Nile, which is the World’s longest river starts its course from Lake Victoria in East Africa and meanders its way northwards through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.

This analogy came to mind when on Saturday 21st December 2013 while at Nimule border crossing I saw massive exodus of people from South Sudan to Uganda. It was like the Nile has reversed it course to move to opposite direction-from north to south.

Scrambling for entry visa at Elegu border point in Uganda after the
recent crisis in Juba

The signing of Comprehensive peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 between the now two Sudanese nations brought peace, stability and hope in the region. Since then, people from Central and Eastern African countries moved into Juba and other towns to find employment opportunities or do all sorts of businesses. Anybody who might have ventured to Juba before this crisis could have easily noticed the presence of different foreign nationals from all over the world. Some of these foreigners have specialised in specific business. For examples Ethiopians and Eritreans are doing hotel and water supply business. The Somalis are running petrol stations and supply of building materials such as cement, timber, iron bars and nails. Kenyans supply electronics equipment among others. D. R. Congolese supply second hand reconditioned vehicles and the notorious Senke Motorcycles used as Bodabodas. Most Ugandans were engaged in Bodaboda (taxi motorcycle) business before they were banned by the minister of interior two months ago. Darfuris and other northern Sudanese are doing shopkeeping. The Maasai people from Kenya and Tanzania are providing herbal medicine in nomadic clinics. These in addition to other petty trading and some of the women from all over the region who are engaged in what they call live-business in brothels.

If anything unpleasant occurs to disrupt the business and lives of these people then it is going to impact negatively across the region. The people who are doing business are definitely the bread winners for their own families. They are paying school fees and medical bills to themselves and their dependents. They are paying taxes to the governments, contributing to economic wellbeing of the region. In general, they are contributing to food security and poverty reduction.

In addition, South Sudanese people who have been following (northwards like Nile waters) back home from refugee camps in East Africa may start following back to those countries again, if the current crisis escalates into a civil war.

Putting into consideration the interdependences of the people of this region as shown in South Sudan, it is incumbent on the governments of the region, especially IGAD countries and the friends of IGAD, African Union and the International Community to do whatever possible to prevent this conflict from escalating.

It is always good to learn from previous mistakes made by other people and/or yourself. As South Sudanese this political split which polarises our people on ethnic lines happened in 1991 and we had seen its bad effect on our people and our image among the civilised nations of the World. It is unfortunate that the same event was allowed to happen twice by the same generation.

I’m not blaming any person or group for what happened. That should be left for history and posterity to judge. But obstructing democratic processes and trying to take power by force are not within the norms of 21st century. Within our neighbourhood, we are witnessing everyday what have transpired from the so called “Arab Spring” uprisings, by which many regimes got changed through violence.

To end this piece of writing, I would like to encourage the people of South Sudan and our brothers and sisters within the region that we had shown the capacity to overcome difficult situations of similar magnitudes before. With conviction and resolve, this situation can still be put to rest once and forever. I’m trying to naively assume that conflicts will not occur once the current one has been dealt a blow. They will. We need to resolve them peacefully once they rear their ugly heads.

Another consolation comes from the Gospel according to Mathew 24:6 which reads: “You will hear of wars and reports of wars, see that you are not alarmed, for this things must happen, but it will not yet be the end…” We may fight among ourselves, but one thing should not escape our thinking-we are one people, one nation, one country. We should value our hard-won independence and prove wrong those who think that we are incapable of managing our own affairs. As South Sudanese we won the confidence and admiration of international community when transition after the death of Dr John Garang passed without wrangling. That trend should have been maintained.

The author has formerly served in the government of Lakes state as the county commissioner for Yirol East and state minister for education. He can be reached at: athiaanm@yahoo.com

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