A Repost: As the chaos and violence in South Sudan escalates to depressing levels, I couldn’t help but think about this letter I wrote for the newly independent nation two and half years ago.
Dear South Sudan,
First of all, congratulation to you on this very festive and happy occasion of your birth into the international diplomatic scene. You have always been a nation, you’re just now being recognized on paper. It is an exciting and anxious period for you. You have a litany of unresolved issues with your former countrymen and neighbor to the north. But, that is for another day. Today is about looking to the future, not about the past. There is an enormous expectation placed upon you – by your people and the international community. As one of the least developed nations in the world, these expectations are unfair; nonetheless, you would have to deal with them. If I had the opportunity to give you an advice, I would have told you to wait five more years under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement framework as it would’ve allowed you to create a plan to repatriate and resettle all the people arriving from the North and elsewhere. This period would’ve also allowed you to build schools, medical facilities, roads, airports, etc to be able to absorb the millions of people moving back.
Now that you’re a nation officially, you would just have to deal with these issues as you go along. More importantly, now you have 54 case studies on how to avoid crisis and pitfalls as a new nation. Rest assured, you will have a lot of problems and internal conflicts, which if you have done your homework from these case studies you could avoid or at least minimize the impact to you. Since I can give you an advice for the future, let me do just that. One, avoid any kind of conflict with your neighbor states – especially and importantly, with the Republic of Sudan. Two, be inclusive, fair and equitable to all those people living in your domain – avoid the unity above all approach as this will surely sow a seed of hate and conflict for the future within your borders. Three, avoid starting proxy wars vis-à-vis Republic of Sudan or other neighbors. And finally, welcome any and all criticism from your people as it is a sign of a healthy, vibrant and democratic nation. Indeed, you will be tempted to label any kind of criticism as a planted strife by your neighbor to the north or other nations. Resist this and you will reap the rewards decades and centuries to come.
You have not yet reached the promised land – your hard work is just now beginning. Use your natural resources – oil and minerals – to develop your country. Make agriculture and education your focus for the next twenty to thirty years. And dont allow, under any circumstances, the cancerous tumor that is corruption to grow. Heed the lessons of history that is all around you because you face an extraordinary level of hardship and temptations to simply fall prey to conflicts, wars, dictatorial rule, and corruption.
Good luck to you and may you be the first independent African nation to succeed as an example of democracy and prosperity.