By Deng Machol
Juba – On Martyrs Day, South Sudan President Salva Kiir has called on South Sudanese to embrace peaceful coexistence as a way of supporting the implementation of the fragile revitalized peace agreement.
Martyrs Day was proclaimed in 2011 by the government to commorated the death of the SPLM/A, Dr. John Garang De Mabior, who died in a helicopter – crash on his way from Uganda on July 30th, 2005, and also to remember and honor those who dedicated and sacrificed their ultimate lives for the two decades of civil war in Sudan, which claimed over million lives.
South Sudanese took up arms against subsequent Sudanese regimes in 1955 and 1983 to protest years of marginalization, injustices, resources mismanagement, and lack of development in the South region.
However, this year’s commemorations comes at a time when South Sudan is still implementing the peace deal and battling with the global coronavirus pandemic.
President Kiir used the occasion to encourage South Sudanese to embrace peace in their interaction and by “promoting tolerance and harmonious co-existence among our communities in all that you do and exercise tolerance towards one another and end unwarranted conflicts.
Kiir said a fitting tribute to those who died during the civil war would be to enhance peace and harmony among communities in South Sudan.
“I urge you to use this year’s Martyrs Day to reflect individually and collectively as a society about our nation’s future,” said Kiir. “I am equally calling upon all of you to support us your leaders, in our efforts to consolidate peace and reconciliation, we would like you to cheer us,” remarked President Salva Kiir in his Martyrs Day speech on Thursday, July 30, 2020.
“As we work tirelessly to over challenges associated with peace implementation, we would like like you to cheer us on by embracing peace in your interactions and by promoting tolerance and harmonious co-existence among our communities in all that you can do,” said President Kiir. If we all embarks on this path, we will realizes our aspirations for permanent peace and stability more quickly and demonstrate to skeptics that we can overcome our problems.”
Those who spokes to this media criticized the leaders for prioritizing selfish political interests over public security, agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, among others.They said the government has abundant the widows, orphans and war veterans.
“We are just here without help or support from the government,” said Adau Gabriel, a widow in Juba. After independence, I thought our situation would improve, but nothing has changed. We are still suffering, and the government must do something about it.”
The wives and children of some of the martyrs have decried what they call years of neglect by the government and as the current leaders have failed to live up the promises of the liberation struggle.
“It is very unfortunate that the widows and their children are still suffering even though their loved ones lost their lives for this country,” said Chol Atem, a student activist.
In honor of the martyrs, the Transitional Constitution mandates the government to support orphans, widows, disabled war veterans and care for the dependents of deceased war heroes and heroines.
The observers said that the leaders have used the last 15 years of self-governance in South Sudan to enrich themselves.
In his remarks to the world in Nairobi, Kenya on January 9, 2005, Dr. John Garang pledged that the SPLM would implement a social, political and economic development strategy and programmes that include using oil money to strengthen agriculture as the engine of growth.
Dr. Garang’s aspiration emphasized on developing health, education, and water sector
Besides, the SPLM document on transformation from War to Peace also created a blueprint for building physical infrastructure – roads, rail and river transport and telecommunications by involving the state and local communities in the infrastructure building.
“There is no meaning of revolution unless it makes our people happy. Unless the masses of our people -as a result of the revolution become prosperous, they advance, and they get food, shelter, clean drinking water, education and they get health services, then our people will prefer the government of the NIF [the then ruling National Islamic Front in Sudan] that provides salt to the government of the SPLM that does not provide salt,” stressed Dr. John Garang in one of his speeches.
President Kiir appealed for patience saying with efforts to restore peace in the country.
“However, what our situation doesn’t need now is this widespread culture of using made up stories with the hope of gaining some leverage in the political discourse. Lies doesn’t bring people together nor do they conflicting views – my advice to those not take them or the country – what we all need to do instead is to desist from using undesirable propaganda and focus on working together irrespective of our political differences to restore peace and transition the country to the phase where its people will determine its leadership,” said Kiir.
Peace, stability and developments had been bogged and blighted down by renewed conflicts since 2013. These conflicts have been attributed to power wrangles among the country’s elites, claimed nearly 380,00 people and uprooted four million people from their homes, before it had ruined the country’s economy.
Dr. Garang’s goal was to restore the dignity of the people.