By Kuach Loch Garang Deng, Calgary, Canada
February 2, 2017 (SSB) —- “If we do not get our rights in this thick smoke, we will never get anything said an old man. “Similarly, if former Aweil counties do not get their own state while the president is distributing states generously, we will never get our rights. H.E Gen. President Salva Kiir Mayardit has recently crossed his redline to decree more states and former Aweil counties were left out. Therefore, Why Aweil North and Aweil West should not get their overdue separate State?
As South Sudan’s Transitional government of National Unity is implementing peace and addressing South Sudan political problems to bring inclusive peace that is and should be a great time for our leaders to act now. Leaders and elders and traditional chiefs of Aweil North and Aweil West communities should bring their concerns forward and ask the President of the Republic of South to decree their own state of Aweil West with the capital city in Nyamlel if Juba cannot solve political problems of Raja communities.
In the last year’s Republican decree no 36 which divided South Sudan into 28 states, Aweil North and Aweil West counties were amalgamated to Raja to form the current unrest Lol state. With the new state formation, it means former NGB communities and people of Raja were given a new state. Since then, Lol State was run by the executive branch of the government without legislative assembly and judiciary until recently because of some unknown political unrest.
Indeed, Lol state was one of the best states which was carved out on historical and geographical map, but not based on the ethnic line like other states. That was the hope and upbeat for peace loving citizens of former Aweil counties since living in a diverse society was nothing new to them, but Juba made it too difficult by marginalizing South Sudanese citizens in decision making and ignoring their petitions especially in case of Raja residents.
What brought the problem is the fact current Lol State citizens of both Raja and former Aweil communities were not consulted, but that did not happen only in Lol State. It was the entire nation which was caught off guard when the president decreed the order no 36 in October of 2015. However, many citizens forgave Juba and waited for the government to implement the service delivery promise. Some members of Raja, however did not let go their demands. They wrote many protest letters in which they clearly rejected the formation of Lol State with Dinka Malual and Luo communities.
Members of Raja communities do not want to share a state with former NBG communities because they claimed they do not share cultural identities with them. They do not want the fact that the state is named Lol which is not their language. Therefore, they rejected the state based on these assumptions, but they were proven right when no one challenges them and educate them that these communities are peaceful and friendly unlike their opinions.
When the presidential order no 36/decree was issued, many people went on the streets with jubilant as they welcome the creation of 28 states. Some people were happy because they were separated from their opponents whom they do not get along politically. As a result, the state division was viewed by others as an opportunity.Others were happy because they were given their tribal, state as one tribe or majority in that state to have a political monopoly over minority tribes which is one of the most dangerous tribal politics in South Sudan if not in the whole Africa continent.
In fact, the most exciting harp was concealed in taking a town to village. The government made 28 states and it did not explain to the public, but it has used a slogan of service delivery or taking town closer to people. In other states, it was viewed as bringing death closer to village because many people were laid off after states were separated. Many clashes occurred and many deaths were recorded after the decree. The government thought her policy was popular and it ignored some unsatisfied communities Raja includes.
Two most important hidden secrets the government allures people to accept 28 states were more employment opportunities and better and faster development. Therefore, most of South Sudanese were overwhelmed with the vision. It was a hope of many innocent people that it would solve their economic problems but that has never and would never materialize as long as Juba is shying away from hatching the vision to action.
Worst of all, many people have pled the country to take refuge in neighboring countries few months after they have a celebrated creation of their states. Many people are leaving as I am writing this letter and others will follow them as the bleak economic challenges continue without any near future improvement. Most people are fleeing their States and I think Lol State is in the lead among former Bhar El Gazhal states.
Unemployment among young people is very high, many junior employees from former Aweil counties were unable to work in a volatile political environment in Raja. Therefore, most of them are now jobless. There is a lack of health services and good schools are still in wish list of most South Sudanese in rural areas Lol State is in the worst shape.
If the Juba government truly wants services to reach people, then Aweil North and Aweil West must be part and partial of the development opportunity by giving them an opportunity to have their peaceful state. If not, then, the central government in Juba must engage Raja communities peacefully to abandon their political rights through the arms struggle. Leaving peace loving citizens of Aweil North and Aweil West in limbo is nothing but a form of collective punishment.
People of Aweil West and Aweil North are diehard SPLM supporters as recorded in the history of struggle and so their silent does not means they are not in pain. Again, Aweil North and Aweil West did not refuse Juba decree, but residents of Raja vowed to never be in one state with them. Therefore, Juba must intervene to solve their concerns so they could live in harmony with them, but former NBG communities cannot be put in danger and stagnant political situation while states are planning their future.
The Author of this piece is pro-diversity, but he does not condone any system use stick as a policy. Some Raja communities are angry and protesting and their political demands cannot be ignored, cannot be quelled and they cannot be left to terrorize innocent citizens who do not have a political role in the decision making which they think has affected their lives or would affect them.
After All this rejection of Lol State by some people in Raja, Juba Government continued with its appeasement style by appointing their son, Brig. Gen. Rizik Zachariah Hassan as a Governor of Lol State with hope it would be a quick fix. However, that was received with more rejection by some of his people in Raja and most of you are aware of the last summer Raja deadly attack and recent assassination attempt on Governor Rizik Zachariah’s life. Whether these attacks are related result of Raja citizens’ protests or not, it cannot be ignored.
Appointment of Gov.Rizik should have changed something but as a son and politician from Raja, no one knows what he did as a political solution after he was appointed? Why some residents of Raja communities rebelled and became hostile and angry with him? What Gov.Rizik Zachariah Hassan and Raja politicians on the government side have on the table to President Mayardit as a political solution for this deadlock?
What the position the of former Aweil North and Aweil West politicians on this non-stop conflict? Is there any ongoing political debate to rescue the situation in Lol State? If not, then what?
As a result, the separation of Lol state is a solution. Even thought I do not think more state division is a solution, I do see a bleak future of Lol State as long as Raja communities are not convinced and their right is not thoroughly addressed. Therefore, Juba needs to grant Aweil North and Aweil West counties their own state, with headquarters in Nyamlel. Aweil North and Aweil West should not be forced to share Lol State with Raja communities who clearly rejected them.
In the end unity is a shared responsibility and cannot be forced.As Juba needs to take Raja back to Wau where they share cultural identity with other communities and let Aweil North and Aweil West go to live in quiet and peaceful as they always do.
Mading Aweil lived in peace and harmony with itself and her neighboring states before 28 states was decreed. With 28-now 32 states, Aweil North and Aweil West communities are put in a risky political environment they had never experienced.
Therefore, there would be no peace and any development in an insecure environment of the Lol State while residents of Raja have taken arms to fight for their rights. Therefore, Juba needs former Aweil counties a change and that will not knock our doors while we are yearning for peace. We must join hands ask for our rights in peaceful and constructive.
In conclusion, my dear fellow Aweil North and Aweil West patriot citizens, we can either accept to stay in this inevitable Political quarrel between Juba and Raja communities which hurt us the most or we have an alternative to separate ways with Raja peace? I think we have a clear political option, ambition for peace and reserve a respectful boundary with Raja communities’ in the future! Anything less than the separation of Lol State is a collective punishment of our innocent citizens who deserve to live in peace like other South Sudanese.
Author is a concern South Sudanese citizen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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