Taking-Towns-to-People versus Taking-People-to-Towns Policy: which formula for our Development?

Many empires in the distant history and many nations in the recent history have been built upon the foundation laid by their founding leaders. These foundations are not based on the works of complicated architecture, but on the works of dedicated orature. Or put it this way: Great works of architecture are founded on great words of literature. The statesmen make statements, and the technicians then design those words into works.

However, in South Sudan, just as in other similar African countries, it is as if the Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior died with his words and works:

The war-dilapidated dumuriya textile factory at Mongalla, South Sudan, visited by our referendum campaign team during the referendum vote monitoring. This plant is believed to be  revived together with such structures in the poor South in the succession of our secession. (Me standing in the middle of the Mongala rusty cloth-making factory). Reviving this factory means real taking towns to the people. Else, the rest would just talking the towns to the people.


Dr. John Garang de Mabior: “The first priority for the SPLM is to take the towns to the people”.

Deng Malok Aleng: “My late uncle, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, used to talk about the idea of taking the towns to the people. The only way of taking the towns to the people is reducing the sense of isolation that people feel in the rural areas because of the lack of information.”

A few weeks back, GOSS suggested to take the city to the people so that the people do not come to the city (from Juba to some centrally semi-no-man’s village in between the three greater regions of South Sudan. Upon setting up the committee to carry out an assessment and identify the site, the whole non-Bari population was so excited. Now, the lobby to keep Juba as the city is gaining momentum and a section of MPs, some of whom I guess are those already owning tall structures here (probably gained without pain from the interim period) that are trying to stagnate the ‘townization‘ of our villages.

The previous proposals of building our modern cities from the symbols of our states was very questionably welcome. Well, will it come to pass, with some donors already claiming that the project is too ambitious? We thought South Sudan is lucky because it is kicking of its development plans from ground zero; meaning we could start from the current world level without any obstruction. But where is the nationalism, which is the first requirement for nation building? Where is the deserved skill for doing the work when relatives have occupied key project areas.

What is happening with the mis/interpretation of the CPA’s (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) protocol on land use will make it impossible to move even a simple and single town to any village over there. And that has also happened with the previous excitement by the people and the Government of Southern Sudan, which announced late last year to have been given land by the local communities as in this Housing Undersecretary’s statement:

The rhino-shaped map of South Sudan’s dream city (Rhino City) likely to be transferred from Juba to another freer land due to community pressure on the potential investors and non-Bari natives around Juba, not necessarily to due the devolution policy.

Dr. Daniel Wani (Undersecretary, Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning, GOSS) in Juba: Juba, as an example, is a slum city. So our plan is to create a nuclear city outside Juba,” he said. “We have been given land 15 kilometers west of Juba by the state, and we met the community, they are excited to give us this land. We call it Rhino City. And equally also we have been given land in the other nine capitals.”

Where is that land and why change the idea now? We have learned a great lesson from other African countries which claimed decentralization and devolution method of development and governance but the idea is run down by politics. What I mean here can happen in our new future. Some politically and economically privileged communities, states or regions can claim to own the capital city either by rotation relocation excuses or by dictatorship of the will of the majority. This can only be averted by establishing the central city project as early as now. I mean John Garang’s City, Ramciel, before it is politicized.

Time may come when some political leaders, like Museveni did, will use division and promotion of administrative units (counties and payams) into higher levels in order to win political allegiance from certain communities at the expense of the less privileged ones. This method, let me call it divide and ruin policy, can result in regrettable disputes over land demarcation and resource allocation among the now peaceful communities.

In fact, the current rate of the rural urban migration (RUM) in 2011 is twice or thrice that of the Urban-Rural Migration (URM). We can be down! Because our politicians are busy talking the towns to the people instead of taking the towns to the villages. I repeat, take the capital next to the people, in the central (not Equatoria alone) place where no one will claim his/her ancestor was buried there in the spot where a school is being proposed. Again, take the services to the people even at the current status (10 states).

By taking towns (services) to the people, development will be twofold in the independent South Sudan: not politically and geographically but socially and economically. In the near future, don’t say I had not made my point. After independence, anything can happen, watch out lest you are washed out by independence and political euphoria!