Exclusive Interview with Wani Michael, the Executive Director of Okay Africa Foundation

Posted: June 17, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Emmanuel Ariech Deng, Interviews, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Okay Africa Foundation Executive Director Believes Unity of Youth is paramount and can end the Political Conflict in the Country!

By Emmanuel Ariech Deng, Juba, South Sudan

Mr. Wani Michael in his Office in Juba

Mr. Wani Michael, the Executive Director of Okay Africa Foundation, in his Office in Juba, South Sudan

Sunday, June 17, 2018 (PW) — The Executive Director of the National Non-Governmental Organization – Okay Africa Foundation a youth oriented and empowerment think tank has genuinely expressed concerns over the imperativeness of youth unity to help bring lasting peace to the country devastated by political conflict since 2013. Speaking in the courtesy interview in his office to this analyst, the eloquent young character with the contemporary leadership skills and qualities, Mr. Wani Michael had this to say!

Question 1. Can you in a nutshell tell me about yourself and Okay Africa Foundation within the scope of what it does to the public in South Sudan?

Response 1. Thank you, my name is Wani Michael, I am the Executive Director of Okay Africa Foundation. Okay Africa Foundation is a National Non-Governmental Organization. we work with the young people, youth of South Sudan trying to empower them to participate in nation building, also trying to empower them to participate in some of the political processes that are on-going in the country to mention but few the peace process, the HLRF process to ensure that the voice of the youth is also heard and ensure that also the forum trying to fundamentally address some of the issues that the youth are facing, so our main focus currently is empowering the youth, also we are looking at how we can be able to influence policies that are youth related policies, for example, the South Sudanese development policy.

We are working with parliament to ensure that this policy is passed and we are also making some of the issues to ensure some of the issues that people feel need to be rectified or improved in the policies, should be taken care of. So, also we are engaged in a lot campaigns and also the health related stuff, education but we are not so much currently into those asthmatic areas but our main focus is on youth empowerment because we believe this is the component people have never invested on and we felt it is important to start investing in the youthful sector.

Question 2. It is explicitly imperative from the activities your organization had implemented in 2017 and partsof 2018 respectively, what do you find as the most deterring obstacles to your plans and activities as the Executive Director of Okay Africa Foundation? And if so, how optimistic are you in addressing the challenges you face especially those emanating from the government security agencies and fellow organizations operating concurrently towards your organization?

Response 2. Yes, there are number of challenges, there are challenges of course, coming out from different sectors and I think one of the things that we realized to be important for us is always we have to dialogue, even security organs that have issues with us, we always go to them and we dialogue with them, we make them understand that the kind of work we do is not against, we are not against any individual, we are not against anybody but we speak against the institutions, institution that does not empower youth, that does not look at the fundamental issues of the youth. So, there are number of challenges of course there ready to security, ready to even working with youth itself because you know we are a divided nation on ethnic lines, political lines, so it is not easy, is very difficult to bring the young people together given the fact that we try as much as possible to allied ourselves to individuals and tribes and regions.

So the disunity among the youth is what we strive to fight against, I know it is ambitious to unite the youth all over but again it is important for us to unite for a purpose,  and one of the challenges that we face working with young people is because there is no legal definition of youth, there is no legal instrument that empowers the youth of South Sudan, there is no constitutional definition of the youth,that youth policies did not pass by parliament, so still not an act of parliament. So it is difficult for one to refer to the policy as a legal instrument, so that is one of the big challenges. It is difficult for you to really work on youth issues because there are no policies, there are no legal basis that are put in place. The other challenges is that also the youth doesn’t understand that we are the majority, that why we just started a campaign yesterday that we are the seventy percent (72%).

We are trying to remind ourselves that we are the majority, we are 72% and we have all the positions, we have all the powers to even stop the conflict, we are the majority, we are the ones fighting, as the majority, we should be participating in the HLRF process which is not the case. You have been to Addis Emmanuel and you saw how the young people were very few, yeah they were desperate for really peace and we try to meet among ourselves in respecting view of our political colour to try to see what we can do as the youth to bring about peace and again also to see where if agreement is signed, where does the youth issues come out clearly because the only time you can remember that an issue of youth is tackled,is within the due declaration of principles that says the special consideration will be accorded to youthand people with disabilities, that is not enough!.

There are a lot of things even if you are talking whether you want to re-integrate the army, those ones who are going to be left, what is going to be done to them because those are young people, because life has been cut short, they should be going to school, they should be doing other things for themselves. So we believe there are really critical issues the HLRF processshould be able to tackle on youth issues, issues of governance the youth are very important because we are 72% and therefore, we should be in fact deciding who should take which percent not people deciding for us and even people deciding for could not decide for us. It seems nobody wants to think about us being in governance like saying youth cannot get positions in government, they are going there because of positions and I wonder whether everybody who goes there is not going kind of position or without the issue of position, because the women got their percentage, the 35% and nobody can tell me they did not go there because percentage, why did they demanded for 50% or 35%. So everybody is going there so that he/she is part and parcel of the decision making process. For us the as youth it is not about positions, it is about us participating in key decision making process. We should be part of the decision that the country will be making because at the end of the day we are the majority, so the challenges are huge especially in the environment where people do not want to talk about youth, people do not want to hear anything to do about youth because we are the majority and when we rise up and we start demanding, I think that will be the time where the conflict will really come to an end because at the end of the day there is a say that we are the majority.

Question 3. In relation to that, the state of affairs in South Sudan is going gloomy, is going in a way that is not satisfactory to the youth and the most enlightened youth, the educated ones are not satisfied with that. Do you think, Michael Wani and Okay Africa Foundation as an Organization, as peace institute, do you think you are part of those voices advocating for change?

Response 3. Yes, we are part of the voices that are advocating for constructive change and positive change. In a non-violence, in a peaceful manner and one of the things you can engage in bringing about change is engaging with different stakeholders, stakeholders of course include government, include other stakeholders that are non-governmental access.

I agree with you that out of the conflict, we have prominent energetic young men who can be able to build this country, unfortunately some of them are not in the country because of the conflict, some of them fear for their dear lives and I believe that once an opportunity is realized for us to have to have peace, they will be able to come back and I think that will be time that we would be able to rebuild and reconstruct our country.

However, at this critical momentis still difficult for some them really to really come back because of the conflict. That is why we are saying that we have to stop the war so that the refugees return back home and those in the diaspora, they return back home, it should be a collective responsibility not necessarily few individuals that are there into this process. So, it is not only us who are supposed to do this work but I believe it is a collective responsibility to everybody because at the end of the day the country is for all of us so, we should be able to own it ourselves and we should be able to think about how we can collectively bring about peace.

Question 4. Ok, what message would you like to pass to the public in placing them to understand the activities, the plans to both public and your partners, so that theycan understandit clearly your contributionsto them?

Response 4. Thank you, for me my message is that, I think it is time that the world need to start thinking about how to have a non-violence world or peaceful world. Emmanuel you may recall that if you look at Syria, they are tackling the issues of conflict, arms conflict, if you look at America, the United States of America, they are tackling issues of terrorism and the rest but nobody wants to interrogate why the world is in conflict and if you try to interrogate why the world is in conflict, is because the young people are not empowered and when they are not empowered politically, economically and socially, it is very easy to manipulate them.

And that is why they are used as terrorists, that is why they are used by politician for the political gains, they are used to fight themselves, it is very unfortunate that the youth are killing themselves because for me either sides, whether you are in this side of government, you are in the opposition side, you are all youth and there is no life that need to be lost in this country because every life in this country matters, so my message out there is that it is time for us to start thinking about our own future as youth, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as youth, what kind of a country do you want to have, what kind of family do I want to have, a family where you are here in Juba and your family in Uganda or Kenya, you visit them once in a year or you want have a country where your family is here you can be able to visit your family as much as you can.

The conversation should change from peace process to a conversation of how do we construct or how do we build schools, how do we ensure people have access to clean water, how do we ensure that women don’t die when giving birth, how do we have the site where women are not raped out of the conflict, how do have a situation where young people understand what they are supposed to do, owning their rights, women and children have access to free education, that is the conversation that we should be able to have, having the conversation on how do we tarmac the road from here to Bor, to Malakal, to Bentiu, to Raja.

This is the conversation that we should be able to have, how do we build our economy, there is supposed to be us going to Addis Ababa, going to Nairobi to, going to where,to talk about peace, I think this should be the last time we are talking about peace outside, we should be able to come back home and we reconcile ourselves and then start thinking about what kind of a country do we have because we are left with few years, I think by 2021 we will be 10 years old as a country, we are no longer young, a ten-year country, so if we are doing evaluation in 2022 what have we achieved as a country, we will say we have achieved how to murder ourselves or how to do what, so I think it is time we are to start thinking about, yes we still blaming ourselves, no, this blame game should come to an end, we should be able take responsibility ourselves and reclaim our country and my challenge is that in 2022 we are making 10 years as a country, So we need to start evaluating ourselves, in 2022 what have we achieved as a country? What achievement do we have? Not necessary as a leadership but as a country, so is the time to start to think really what do we want as a country not as individual, not as tribe but what do we want as country? And how do we move forward? For me this talks of peace, peace talks, peace talks should really come to an end, we need to start having a different conversation of development, how do we reunite ourselves because we are more divided, you know, we start that kind of conversation and that is our message and we have to wake from asleep as youth, we need to reclaim our country because we have been hold hostage for quite a very long time, you know, almost going to 10 years been hold hostages, so we cannot allow people to hold us hostages because we are the majority, we are the 72%, so it is time we rise up and we reclaim our country back.

Question 5.Ok, thank you Mr. Wani, this is going to be the last question and it is in regard to the collapsedpeace talks in Addis Ababa, the HLRF. What can you tell me, do you believe that the IGAD lead Revitalization process, do you think they are capable or they are incapable in bringing last, just and genuine peace to the country?

Response 5. Thank you, I will answer this question in two ways, 1. I have been to so many forums and what I hear is people blaming IGAD, everybody is blaming IGAD but we failed to ask ourselves, where is the problem? Is IGAD the problem or the problem is us? And I always ask people who started the fighting in Juba, is it IGAD? No, it is not IGAD who started the fighting, it is us who started the fighting and if you borrow this proverb that says African problems require African solutions, also South Sudanese problems require South Sudanese solutions.

  1. For me instead of us throwing the whole sum of blames on IGAD, why must we not blame ourselves because it is us who started the fighting, it is us who lack the political will, it is us who lack the will to compromise on the positions, everybody wants to protect their own cake, everybody wants to protect his own position or her own position, so as much as IGAD take the blame, but again also we have to blame our leaders because they failed to agree among themselves.

The church lead process was a South Sudan lead process, there was no any other foreigner but we disagree, we disagreed in that platform but it was only us talking among ourselves, so as much as blame IGAD, for me we take the biggest blame and we must blame our leaders who have failed to agree among themselves and this is the time to tell them that look you have to agree among yourselves. Somebody said “if they agree, they come back to us, if they disagree, they kill us! You get the point! Yes, so it is time that if they disagree, they should not kill us, but we also want, if they disagree, they should be able to kill themselves, if they want to because in this conflict none of the politicians not many of them died out of this conflict, not their children died out of the conflict, it is the children of the poor and the sufferings who dying in this conflict. So it is time that we start to think, you know, otherwise, it is our responsibility as citizens to bring about peace not IGAD, IGAD is just facilitating a process, a paper, a process on   the paper but the whole work, the home work, the 99% work is us, it lies within us, it is us to start to reach out to every community.

If I am from a Bari, I should be able to reach out to the Dinka community. If I am from Nuer, I should able to reach out to the Dinka community. If I am from Dinka community I should be able to reach out other communities. It is time that we start to think about that we are brothers and sisters from the same mother.It is not supposed to be on our tribal lines. So if somebody believes peace should come from IGAD, he/she is lying to him/herself. If somebody thinks peace should come from AU, he/she is lying to him/herself. If people think that peace should come from UN, they are lying to themselves. Peace will come from within ourselves. Unless we start to really realize that we have a critical role to play and think we start to accept that the only option for us to build this country is peace.

IGAD, AU, whatever the highest body they will be doing, they will be wasting time except that we have to accept ourselves that we have to leave in peace because at the end of the day, IGAD, AU, UN are facilitating, they just facilitating a process but the implementation will not be done in Addis, it will be done in South Sudan. So if we don’t have the political will to implement the agreement, if we don’t have the political will, do you also expect IGAD to come and implement the agreement down here? No, they can come to Juba and implement, also explain the agreement. It is us, so what we agree on, we should be able to adhere to it, so for me I believed in South Sudanese solution.

And what IGAD should do is to facilitate a platform that South Sudanese are able to talk among themselves. Lastly Emmanuel, since we got our independence in 2011 we did not have time as a country to talk ourselves. And I think that it is the time the leadership of the country take it very seriously. If we signed the agreement, if we come back home, if we build the trust because what is lacking now is trust building among themselves. They don’t trust themselves! Are you referring to the National Dialogue? Yeah, for me I am into the National Dialogue but I think there are challenges in the National Dialogue process that need to be restructured possibly, so there should be another conversation, so for, I have seen this worked out very, very constructively and meaningfully in countries like Zimbabwe, I have seen also this worked out in South Africa, I have seen this worked out in Kenya. You remember in 2007, there was a deadly conflict in Kenya but because of the National Dialogue process, but if you do the case study of those National Dialogue process, they are led by the church. So for me my challenge is that, you do not have the National Dialogue process led by politicians because they are part of the problem. So you should have a process led by a neutral body and a neutral body is always regarded to be the church and possibly the civil society, so for me, I am into as having a national conversation as a country where we are able to talk not in Addis Ababa but in South Sudan.

The author, Emmanuel Ariech Deng, is a graduate of Kampala International University-Uganda with Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (Bcs-IT). He is also Windle Trust Trained Teacher in Kakuma Teachers’ Training College and a long time freelance and opinion writer with the then Khartoum Monitor, now Juba Monitor. He is currently a co-editor and extensive contributor with Paanluel Wel Media Ltd. The author can be reached via his email: ariechemmanuel2015@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 Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website 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.


  1. South Sudan First says:

    It is a nice interview full of facts and solutions to our current situation in South Sudan but will the leaders listen to it! I doubt! Anyway engaging the youth for the better!


  2. Angok MD says:

    Nonsense, these are the NNGOs who sold our country with dollars to satisfy the western interests


  3. Peter Mading says:

    @Angok MD, take your frustration somewhere else. I see the interview as visionary and transformative. Egoless can not make us progress in this country.


  4. Kenyi Alfred says:

    It is lengthy but a kind solution providing interview and if embarked up on could help the country out the current mess and protracted war.


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