The 7th anniversary of the Referendum Vote: A Forgotten Historical Milestone

Posted: January 11, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël in Ariik Atekdit, Columnists, Commentary, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Ariik Atekdit Mawien, Juba, South Sudan

Ariik Atekdit @ the Referendum polling station in Malakal 2011.jpg

January 11, 2018 (SSB) — It is now seven solid years since the people of South Sudan voted for the independence referendum that was organized to take place from 9 to 15 Jan 2011. This national plebiscite exactly took place on the Day the historical Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005 between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). Out of the 3,851,994 eligible voters who turned out to choose between the choices of separation and Unity of the Sudan about 3,792,518 casted their votes including the writer of this article to choose the separation, leading to the creation of the new country and the declaration of South Sudan independence on 9 July 2011 only six months later.

When we voted for the country of our own a lot of campaign was done across the Sudan and many other out-side-country-voting centres in the rest of the world where the South Sudanese population was believed to be dense. South Sudanese were made to get convinced that they must vote for a country of their own and therefore 98.83% won the independence of South Sudan, creating a country that was left to be led by South Sudan’s long struggle military general and a successor of Dr John Garang, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba, a city just situated near to the Uganda border.

Bearing the pains we had experienced from North we really wanted to show to the Khartoum administration that we were indeed tired and frustrated over the way they treated us with various definitions of referring South Sudanese as slaves (abid) and/or pagan (khufar) and the reality that we were treated as second-class citizens in the country that really remembered the only history which indeed reflects our own deeds and which falls in the map of Africa and so we voted against unity.

But though we voted for separation there were still a lot of fears in our faces that maybe the independent vote that had invited all of us to create the country of our own could be easily robbed out of citizens because of Juba reluctant to strongly fight against corruption or press for any rapid development that was actually lacking in South Sudan. The fear that was hanging in our faces became real shortly when the nation was born on 9 Jan 2011.

The independence of South Sudan was in following years reduced to celebrations that act like birthday celebration in most of our urban centres. Though President Kiir’s speech was really strong and promising on 9 Jan 2011; nothing giant has so far materialized out of it as long as the SPLM became more divided more than the communities they claim to bring together.

Our resources were left to go unaccountable! Our hopes and dreams never come true year after year. And year after year many of us die because of lack of government protection. We left Khartoum administration because we were promised of better protection but later we were left to die only in the hands of gunmen that the governments publicly announce to be unknown. Most of the unknown gunmen always registered in peace forums on Addis Ababa high tables and they end up being given big positions to protect them and turn to be known government officials.

It is seven years of referendum, 13 years of CPA but yet the country we live in has not reflected the type-of-country we voted for. Elites who campaigned with us with promises of freedom sooner were seen in bushes of our neighbourhoods as renegades and gunshots were heard and indeed aimed at us to kill. Shooting, looting, and lawlessness became the order of the day. The SPLM promise to establish the democratic system in a country they are dominance was soon scorned within their comradeship.

The country that the SPLM always tries to claim to have produced sooner got bankrupt into the hands of the liberators.  The disunity that was claimed by SPLM to be a business of Khartoum Regimes soon began to have a stronger branch office within the SPLM house and fingers were pointed at us with tribal intention. What has gone wrong? Why have we so soon forgotten the yesterday’s pains and experience in the bush or in Khartoum?

Indeed we have created no country if we continue with the same style. The beginning was wrong and South Sudan would have not any meaningful recognition in the world had it not started with a democratic exercise of the referendum that involved almost every citizen. The international community indeed recognizes South Sudan at the referendum point-of-view. Otherwise, our leaders in Juba and in states forgot the pains of the past 21 years. If they had not forgotten the pains they should have not created a country that makes us the refugees for life. A country which a refugee displaced to Uganda, Sudan and Kenya cannot dream to return because of fear based on the everyday rebellion that takes place in South Sudan and maybe should they return they would be victimized base on their ethnicity.

The country we are proud of today is a South Sudan in which the market businesses are controlled by the very jallaba we parted in the referendum vote. It is the South Sudan in which all the hotels and hospitality centres are being controlled by Ethiopians and Eritreans, while all the petrol stations are under Somalians’ supervisions as Nile water is being sold to us expensively by Eritreans and Ethiopians at Juba suburbs. The country of South Sudan today only waits to hear breaking news of town captured, villages burnt down and maybe the declaration of new rebellions or disowning individuals that had served us in the past.

It is enough the mistakes we have done and peace must be allowed to prevail in South Sudan at least for 2018. Agreements we try to import from Addis Ababa will not indeed solve our problems unless we stand-up on our own to realize the promises we have made in the previous years of our struggle. Otherwise, Juba wants to convince us that nothing is possible without Dr Garang. Why had be very difficult for us to read the SPLM documents claim to have all the vision South Sudanese want?

Who is to be held accountable for all the mistakes and lack of responsibilities that have been undergoing since the establishment of the country? Should we blame the administration in Juba or shall we finger-point at the rebel gunshots near our villages and bushes? What is our role as common citizens to make a better change in the country?

The ruling party should try to bring peace to the country and make the citizens realize the dreams and hopes that they have been lost for many years now.

Ariik Atekdit holds a bachelor degree of education in bio/chemistry from Upper Nile University. He has published many articles on South Sudan politics.  He has formerly served as a journalist and a freelancer. He can be reached @ ariqdudic@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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