In a series of well received social media posts, Professor Alfred Sebit Lokuji articulated what he believes to be the most urgent considerations needed to get South Sudan back on a forward looking and progressive path. These posts were presented as 12 dreams, and are captured here in four volumes – Mindset, Connections, Motion and Measures – which will be published serially over the coming days.
Dream #4: Connecting All Regions of the Nation
Leadership, human talent, entrepreneurship in things mundane and complex can and ought to take place everywhere – not just under the bright lights of dense population centres such as Juba. But how can we ensure that the boy in Marial Bai, the young girl in Boma, the polio victim in Fanjak, the old cat in Kajokeji, and the retired King in Duk Padiet can all, like citizens of a beehive, be inclusively engaged? The answer is our fourth dream, which we can immediately begin to realize simultaneously with preceding dreams: connect them physically or otherwise by roads, by river, by air, by all means – on donkey, dug-out canoe and if need be, through a quasi-OLS connection.
Eleven years, and only Juba and Juba-Nimule road to show for it! That is throwing the fortune of oil back in god’s face – no wonder She shows her irritation constantly, surely in 2013 and 2016 – reminded of the arrogance of our original parents in that glorious garden of plenty. In “developed” societies, the city is abandoned to the “wretched of the earth” while the green suburbs and country-side become the ideal dwelling place of pro golfers, tennis stars and company executives and their mega-agric corporations. What is wrong with South Sudan?
It is cursed through a leadership that has no vision, but monumental egos! I wish to live in my hut in Morsak, and commute from there to work in Juba – instead, it takes a whole Top Man to wonder: “a Lokuji adi nye sida in jur ber kanyit kilu in jur?” [“Lokuji likes to live in the village, do his ‘colleagues’ live there?”] Damn my colleagues! (Sorry if you are one)! South Sudanese should be liberated from the suffocating negative psychology that success is measured by one’s ability to make a dramatic by-all-means-necessary permanent escape from one’s rural birthplace.
If we initiate, plan, implement, and evaluate the way the Chinese do, within the next ten years (less than the 11 wasted), native sons and daughters, entrepreneurs, officials, diplomats and tourists should be able to connect directly between Juba and Pariang, Boma and Ezo/Raga via Rumbek, Kapoeta and Kajokeji via Nimule, Maiwut and Sakure via Bor, Renk and Magwi via Ayod and Lirya, Turalei and Kapoeta via Leer, Yei and Renk via Bentiu – and all other destinations in the ten (10) States of South Sudan. This will not happen simultaneously with V8s, years in hotels at government expense, nephews and grandmothers on payroll, headache treatment abroad, or through illicit transfers of foreign currency to buy homes in Australia, USA, Canada, London, or Kampala and Nairobi! Industrializing and urbanizing South Sudan through infrastructural networks will take focused and resolute intent, not magic numbers such as 28!
Dream #5: Along the Roads – Power Lines
Travel along the old US railroads and you see two other things running parallel: motorways and power-lines, which followed in that order. It is clear that the different agents of these developmental undertakings recognized that getting to every destination is incomplete without electric power. You can see the same replicated along both the railway from Mombasa to Gulu as well as along the motorways that have recently been constructed. The extension of the Kampala-Gulu highway to Nimule is clearly accompanied by a power lines – and you can see “development” booming as a result.
Turn to the appalling situation in the Republic of South Sudan: an unexplained reluctance to tap the god-given power at Fula Falls; the generator becoming a status symbol rather than a necessity! The use of power generators in Juba alone can only be compared to a family of 50 living in one house, but each cooking his/her own meal – completely oblivious to the idea of “economies of scale”! Now, replicate Juba 28 times, if it excites your imagination, and you begin to see live Lilliputians at work, to the great amusement of Gulliver!
Yes – power is convenient for charging your phone, enable you to watch your Nigerian films, and listen to your favourite music. We easily forget that “power tools” facilitate and speed up otherwise tedious tasks such as changing tires and driving screws. Out there, where our national roads lead us – power is needed to provide light to lighten the burden of darkness; to connect our world with the other worlds in virtual time; to draw clean potable water from deep underground; to grind the millet for one month’s supply of asida, and save that poor wretched woman from a task assigned to her and her alone on the grind-stone! Power brings excitement to schools and drives up their quest for knowledge. Power enables all institutions to utilize computers and other power tools to work more efficiently. Power would enable us to get our abundant fish fresh from the fishing grounds deep in the marshes of Upper Nile to world markets – fresh! Investors would follow “Power” wherever power goes, bringing jobs, goods and services – rendering “the Capital City” less relevant to the majority of citizens. and Power – be it thermal, hydro, solar, nuclear, or wind – is the engine of progress!
The policy-maker who does not recognize both the trigger role and multiplier effect of power lives in the stone-age and ought to be banned from a society that is in a big hurry to move on and play catch-up with others in the neighbourhood of nations. Please do not remind me that Rome was not built in a day – it was prioritized and getting built, not just talked about!
Dream #6: Let these Roads Bring Education to All Regions
Now that roads and power lead to and from all pockets of the nation – politicians have ample opportunities to abandon their old election lies – lies that have been told time and again without blinking an eye. Roads and Power will have compelled them to build and live within the constituency (a generous assumption based on the belief that they are decent people, not crooks), fellow local residents will be able to tell whether the politicians’ children are attending the local school or not! A credibility issue!
Teachers, books, education officers, school inspectors – the entire education community, having been enabled to register their presence in each and every community of the nation, will be able to translate educational policies into reality – and not wait for UNICEF aid on expensive flights.
Schools can now engage in County, State or regional competitions in both academic and extracurricular activities. Nassir will travel by road for regional competitions in Boma. Rumbek will come to Juba for Debating championships, Bangasu and Loa will be able to contest the National Girls’ Volleyball Championships in Rumbek! The Primary Teachers association will have their national annual conference in Bentiu. Education, in all its totality will come alive – the usual SSTV headline news will be found boring by a better-informed citizenry.
In five years or less, no one will remember that teachers were missing in schools because they were following their arrears in the capital city! Headmasters will collectively handle their problems at their annual conference at Maridi Teachers’ Institute. No one will remember that examination papers were not conducted the same day because the exams had not reached some locations, or that a lorry carrying the papers got stuck on the Bor road – while Messenger and WhatsApp will have taken the exam questions ahead! There will be no justification for government to seek to be the sole provider in education – as world actors and role models in education will willingly participate just because it is easy to get there and pleasant to visit or stay there.
An indirect benefit from schools on home turf: the millions of dollars being sent abroad to support the lucky few, will be used locally to enrich school libraries (books and video), and support school educational trips! The sky becomes the limit!
Now read: Dreams Volume #3 – Motion.