By: Justin Ambago Ramba
September 4, 2013 (SSNA) — The last few weeks have seen a mounting tension between people of South Sudan and their Ugandan neughbours. This is a serious turn in events. For what has historically been seen as the most amicable relationship between neighbouring people in the whole region of East Africa, is once more under threat.
Uganda had served as the second home to many South Sudanese refugees during the liberation war against the Muslim Arabs of North Sudan. Equally so, many Ugandans had had also the taste of their Sudanese neighbour’s hospitality during the years when it was caught in political instability.
To stress the point even further, South Sudan’s Pan Africanist and charismatic leader late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, fate had him killed after paying a pilgrimage to his colleague and brother in arms Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Hence for good or for bad, late Garang’s name will always remain linked to Uganda because of that sad historical incident.
However in real life not everything is meant to please everybody, and thus came these new measures taken by the government of South Sudan banning foreigners from driving motorcycle taxis commonly known as boda-boda. Unfortunately it left about 1,600 Ugandans, who were operating in Juba and other parts of the country, jobless.
As many of those expelled Ugandans made their ways back to Uganda fears of retaliatory attacks on South Sudanese living in Uganda became louder and louder.
“We got security intelligence; we heard some people saying that since their children have been chased from South Sudan, the South Sudanese in Uganda should also be chased”, Patrick Onyango, the deputy spokesperson of the Ugandan police, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
“As a result of that we [the police] have come up with security measures to protect our brothers and sisters from South Sudan living in Uganda. We have communicated to all our units in the country to offer extra security to South Sudanese and their property in the country”, he added.
How much faith do the South Sudanese have in the ability and the dedication of our brothers and sisters in the Ugandan Police to protect them and their properties is a judgment for those South Sudanese currently residing in Uganda to make. However I must stress that these kinds of problems are likely to strain the brotherly ties between the two countries.
It is no more secret that citizens from all across the East African countries continue to suffer in the hands of criminals in whichever country they reside including in their own. People from Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea and even the South Sudan itself have died brutally and unaccounted for in nearly all of these countries and justices have never been served.
When it comes to talking about relationship between neighbouring countries, East Africa provides a very unique example. Ethiopia. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, D R Congo, and South Sudan have long history of human movements between one place and the other since time immemorial.
With many ethnic groups divided by the colonial boarders that have come to represent the boarders of these modern states, it is not uncommon to see people with the same features claiming citizenships all across this vast region.
However we cannot be in denial of the new status quo that today defines the present day realities in this vast piece of land which our ancestors had once roomed freely in search of pasture and safety. Today we are Kenyans, Ugandans, Ethiopians, Congolese, South Sudanese, etc. With these new structures came new set of laws and regulations, some are international others are national or regional.
Notwithstanding the continental call for a unified Africa as started by our forefathers the founders of the Pan African Movement, like Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, all of whom worked to establish the Organisation of African Unity [OAU] now the African Union [AU], we know that our leaders together with the people have hardly made any success towards the continental union.
It is true that those who divided Africa in the first place are also not in any way fans of this continent’s unity. The African people too, and especially their policy makers have unfortunately tackled the issue of unity with mixed approaches, often giving in to internal pressures dictated by electorates’ demands.
Having said this, one must also genuinely acknowledge that, the importance of the African unity in its philosophical context remains largely a hot topic for the African Diaspora, while the African people on the ground maintain a different view about it. Unity like any commodity comes at a price and the African people and their leaders alike are not ready yet to pay that price!
In the diaspora, African unity is owned by the masses and not state officials. It was and remains a project hatched, nurtured and promoted by Africans from all across the continent and those of the Americas and the Caribbean.
And while outside the African continent, the search and zeal for African-ness and unity amongst its people tops the list of those involved in it, back home in Africa all seems to be taken for granted.
With the exception of isolated islands of projects and programs here and there, the continent in the large part is consumed in its own internal power politics and wrangling over leadership position that have now a days come to replace the old chieftaincy.
Xenophobia is one such phenomenon that has followed the human race wherever they step their feet. And if xenophobia is any word to go by in Africa, we must understand that it is the politics of distraction dictated by the gross failures into which whole countries have plunged by their so-called nationalist leaderships.
The whole thing is no more just about Africans from another country. If you look at it slowly, you will see that there exists an underlying local disharmony even between the groups that go on to call for xenophobia.
Some people rightly or not have even segregated against their own countrymen in matters of everyday life. I am not surprised that these same fellows will go an extra length to mobilise and organise a mob opinion against other fellow Africans.
What I have failed to understand is that while those who fought the liberation war in South Sudan are now the very people in the top helm of power in the new country, why are their families still residing in those neighbouring countries?
It is as if they want to tell us that they have liberated the land, but in another way they are unable to govern and develop it into a place where they can live in peace with their families, but also be capable of providing quality education and quality health services to their children and the rest of the citizens within the country.
There are now two classes of South Sudanese who still reside outside the new country even after the country was declared an independent sovereignty on July 9, 2011. There are those who have naturalized as nationals of their second homes, and these I have no issues with them.
However my concern is with the second group who continue to reside outside South Sudan without getting the citizenship of those host countries [Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, etc].
People in this second category will undoubtedly have to put up with a lot of problems as they are not official citizens of their host countries and their stay there is not the same like that one of the nationals.
But since South Sudan is now an independent state, no South Sudanese should allow themselves to suffer in any foreign lands. You will need to relocate home whenever the host becomes unwelcoming.
My sincere advice is either you officially naturalize where you now reside since you prefer to continue living there or you return to South Sudan to avoid any unnecessary problems. As Africans it should be easy for fellow Africans to naturalize wherever they reside within the continent. If the laws are in place, then you just follow it.
What you must not do is to continue living in foreign lands for reasons of education, security or health services, without seeking naturalization.
If it is that you are banned by the laws of the country to naturalize or do not want to do it, then you are better off in your South Sudan where all you need to do is to a sustained pressure on the authorities to make these missing services available.
Unless you are there to pressurize the politicians into doing something be it improved education, health or security, they are never going to be there for you in a million years.
You can still have a quality education within South Sudan using this same money that you spend abroad. Believe me, for only a half of the money you pay them in Kenya, Uganda or Ethiopia, you can have these same teachers come all the way and teach your children in every village in South Sudan, run your health centres or even run your security services for you if you want.
Truly the Saudis, the Kuwaiti and the all Gulf States did it when they first discovered their Oil wealth.
They stopped seeking education in the other countries and made sure that they hired every brain in the region to come over and educate their children, run their health facilities, clean their streets, even man their security services.
And when they became qualified and confident enough to take over these jobs, they quietly did it without raising hell on earth.
You are now the leaders in your own country and when you continue to keep your families outside the country in the name of insecurity or acquisition of better education, what that clearly says is that you have admitted incompetence.
Even your calls for foreign investors seem to have only attracted the criminals of East Africa first, then Europe and America. This is something to worry about.
On the other hand there are already mountains of evidence to show that billions of dollars continue to leave this poor country of South Sudan to finance huge sectors in education, health, housing and tourism worldwide, but especially so in Kampala and Nairobi.
Here it is for you to see my compatriots. Have you ever asked yourselves how many dollars do these East African brothers and sisters carry on them when they enter the boarders of South Sudan? Now compare that to the briefcases full of dollars and other hard currencies that are taken out by you the South Sudanese and your friends who help you in the deadly game of milking our country dry.
These East Africans you are now sending back to their countries of origins are largely people with terrible criminal records. Their countries must have enjoyed some peace when these people moved into South Sudan; however it now time that they have their goods back.
On the other hand we must never underestimate the possibility that South Sudanese are likely to become vulnerable people all across East Africa as they are known to have the money, otherwise they wouldn’t be in those places in the first place.
Secondly most South Sudanese are easily betrayed by their physical features, and thus are readily distinguishable from the other communities and nationalities. No way can they be mistaken for other nationalities.
My advice to all of you the South Sudanese, is not to underestimate the threats being declared against you by your brothers and sisters all across East Africa. Please listen and move out when there is still enough chance and time to relocate in one piece.
Once you are back in South Sudan with all your money and properties, you are likely to make it ten folds in your own home towns than in some unsafe remote countries. You can still build those schools and health facilities that you admire in Uganda or Kenya right next to your cattle camps or farms or in your own home towns, villages and state capitals.
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org