By Lucy Ayak Malek
I salute all of you the gallant and brave people of South Sudan all over the world. I call us brave because over the decades we have faced all sorts of unimaginable challenges, lost so much in life and property, sacrificed more than we possibly could, but we have not allowed our spirits to be broken down. Despite all that we have gone through as a nation before and after independence, we remain a strong spirited people, and for that I couldn’t be more proud to call myself a South Sudanese. And so I once again, salute our strong resolve and pray that the spirit of resilience continues to endure among us.
We have fought many wars, some of them forced on us (the SAF-SPLA wars of 1856-1972 and 1983-2005), and some of them self-afflicted (December 2013-todate). Many foreign actors have jumped into our wars, all for their respective reasons and interests and sometimes (quite correctly I must add), we have blamed them for everything we have had to go through as a country. But I want to believe that we, the people of South Sudan, still have the choice to either continue to perpetuate war or to make peace, I believe we still possess the power to decide our destiny.
We do have many brave warriors who have fought gallantly whenever there has been a call to arms, but I also believe a warrior’s worth is not only determined by his abilities at war, but also by his capacity to make peace. As the bible says, “there is time for everything …..a time to sow and a time to harvest, …..a time to be born and a time to die, ……a time to wage war and a time to make peace”. And so it’s my humble call as we go through the festive season and towards the end of year, that let this be the time for us to make peace.
We have fought in all these wars, with varied levels of success and failure depending on who you ask, and most certainly at a huge human cost to our people, many of whom cannot even have access to their homes, many of whom have lost everything, many of whom have lost too many lives to count. We have exhibited extreme capacity to inflict all sorts of pain and suffering upon ourselves, but like I said earlier, bravery is not only exhibited at war, but at peace. I call upon all those that have excelled so much at war, to please challenge themselves, challenge ourselves at making peace, at building a reconciliation that can be the cornerstone for rebuilding our fractured nation.
As it stands now, we cannot judge bravery by how many raids one can command or how much territory one can conquer, we are already doing that to ourselves, we judge bravery by one’s capacity to deviate from the norm, to curve out a new path which may bring uncertain challenges. We have directed our bravery towards war and we all know where it has taken us through. Now we have yet another chance to try and take a different path in the coming year, a chance for us to reinvent ourselves into warriors of peace. It will certainly not be easy, but like I said, we are a resilient people, and over the years we have demonstrated that we can overcome awful odds. We fought a war that the entire world believed was unwinnable, and yet we emerged victorious in 2005 when peace was declared and in 2011 when independence was declared.
My point is whatever the odds are, if we put our minds to it, we can certainly achieve peace in our nation. It’s upon our leaders and all of us to ask ourselves how much is enough: ….how many deaths and rapes are enough, how much destruction is enough, how much pain and suffering is enough. And it’s upon us all to declare as this year ends, that we shall set a new course. Rather than shoot at each other, let us shake hands, rather than plotting against each other, let us plan together, rather than dividing ourselves along tribal or ethnic lines, let us strengthen the bond that held us together when we were fighting against a common enemy. Let us resurrect that gallantry and direct it towards reconciliation, towards healing and renewal.
Our people are yearning for peace wherever they are. Despite the struggles they go through on a daily basis, they wake up each day with optimism, with hope for a new day. Whenever there is an announcement about the possibility of peace, our currency (the Pound) gains value overnight because of the hope that the economy will improve, prices of commodities come down because of the hope that more produce will be brought to the markets, more people enroll their children in school with the hope that they will not be shot at on their way to school, and more people in refugee camps in neighboring countries cross the borders back home with the hope that they can finally start rebuilding their homes.
Let us all as a nation, give ourselves something to smile about this festive season and as a year ends. Let the last five years become a distant memory and let the New Year 2019 be the year that springs South Sudan to new heights. In recent months more and more internationally reputed companies are coming in to invest in our country, and this we could use as an opportunity to put our affairs in order as we prepare our people to benefit from the foreign investment. Let us allow our youth to read books and excel in school rather than on the shooting range, let us spend our resources on developing social infrastructures (roads, schools and hospitals) rather than purchasing weapons to kill ourselves with, let us spend our time cultivating our fields rather than dropping bombs on them. Let us stand together in Peace.
There is an African proverb that says “blood-brothers are like gourds…. they may knock against each other but they never break”. Yes, we have fought each other, yes we have hurt each other quite extensively, but at the end of it all, we remain South Sudanese, united by blood, and like the proverbial gourds, however much we fight and knock against each other, we cannot extinguish the blood brotherhood that binds us. Let us give peace a chance, let us allow our young to gain an education, let us allow our fields to spring with crops again, let us allow our ears to hear the birds sing. Let the old quarrels go with the yesteryears and let the New Year signal a new beginning for our country.
For a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan
The writer is a student of Government and Leadership at the University of Nairobi