A Cry of the Youth of the South: Save us from Inverted Investors!
This is an Open Appeal to General Assembly and General Public of the Republic of South Sudan.
By inverter investor here, I do not intend in any way or by any means to aggress our noble development partners in all sectors of our virgin economy, and in all factors of our maiden autonomy, with which they are helping our ‘baby nation’ to stand on its feet. I am breaking my long silence in media commentaries this time in response to the affairs affecting our poverty-daunted public in the war-haunted republic. Otherwise, another title of this piece could be ‘To Whom It May Concern’. And if it is you, be it you, then.
The ‘you’ I mean here should not be owned anyhow. Take it or leave it this way. If you are one of the ‘investors’ who come without money and go with our money, or if you come along with your office sweepers, drivers, cooks, cashiers, secretaries and the like, there you are. For instance, the one that dragged me into this open gossip came alone from Khartoum or early from South Korea through places of that kind. Seeing the many potholes and loopholes in our legal defence system, he then imported a former pyramid tourists guide from Egypt whom he trained, and then forged for him a driving licence in Juba overnight, only to be squarely placed on us as a driver, an accountant, an administrator, and so on to manage over 10 South Sudanese youth in a vast media business that we later lost to his boss who kept on telling us, “I like this boy because he ‘foolishly follows’ my orders.” Whatever that means.
I am writing angrily to ‘fake foreign investors’, or those who are doing the opposite of investment, because I have been repeatedly subjected to embarrassment, harassment, cheating, beating,…and other abuses still counting in my experiences with foreigners both inside and outside South Sudan. Let note not be taken here for granted. So take it in a way that if I say ‘I’ or ‘me’, I mean we and us. Who? South Sudanese youth. Why only the youth? I am telling you right now how. Like an inverted market where futures (later date stocks) tend to have lower prices than in the current market, our ‘inverted investors’, inmmy own terms, are those hit-and-run miracle profit hunters. They do not give a damn about the future of our country. By the future, I mean the youth.
In order not to hurt every innocent reader, leader, worker or investor of foreign origin in South Sudan, let me narrow this huge concern down to a case study of which I am a victim. I am reacting to my former partner, the publisher of the South Sudan Business Review magazine, Mr. Kim Kee Choon and company unlimited. By using a title ‘publisher’, he chose for himself, my readers should not imagine a huge publishing house or printing company in Juba. This is the man who ventured into ‘publishing’ beginning with one desktop printer, an HP Deskjet 2050 series, which, together with all our business ideas, remained with him after twisting our laws to our disadvantage.
You know, if you keep on poking someone or something every time, even if it is a dead chicken, your stick will turn it round one time. That, exactly, is what Mr. Kim has done to me and my former colleagues of the said magazine. However, my interest in writing this response to his series of editorial and dictatorial articles in the previous issues of the magazine, some of them web-based while others rumour-based, some not published while others are yet to be published, is his unprofessional campaign against my nation, not necessarily against my person.
Mr. Kim’s intention to belittle a South Sudanese as an individual and South Sudan as a nation in an invention that is now threadbare bears threat in the following instances. In the August/September issue (2011) of the magazine, he wrote an editorial message that does not only insinuate weakness on me as one of the first few South Sudanese journalists with about 10 years of media experience, but also on South Sudan as an independent entity on the ladder of building its international membership and diplomatic image. Since the retired general-in-South-Korea-turned-journalist-in-South-Sudan took the defamation to the public arena, so do I here in an attempt to correct my peoples’ image in general and my image in particular.
Firstly, it is a fact well known that in our South Sudanese (as in other African) societies; it is not only a national abomination but also a natural taboo to talk ill of the dead people, even if they were your enemies. Therefore, I am provoked by the misplaced history published in the July and maiden edition of the South Sudan Business Review (Pages 8 – 14) distorting our noble cause of liberation struggle and retorting to the contribution of our gallant heroes. I respond in such a way upon Mr. Publisher’s attempt to play around with the grave error that deserves a serious apology, if not a series of apologies. Calling the following deliberate blunder ‘a few spelling mistakes’ makes the insincere apology even null and void and a mere public relations gimmick to hide his greed for profits through the sale of a crude material such as this, which, according to real journalistic ethics or laws, could have resulted in the withdrawal of the printed paper from public consumption; that is when it misses punitive measures.
Mr. Publisher, I wonder if you do honestly mean to play down those seven picturesque pages of military uniform and military hardware dotting a volume of hard words as typo or a spelling error that begins with an attention-catching statement. “There is something of a cult surrounding Garang here.” And on the following page as on any other of the seven pages, the writer, who had promised in the first paragraph to ‘add some flavor to the story’, continues accusing the hero and his people like
this. “The SPLA was mainly an army to defend Dinka and Nuer interests, the largest tribes here in South Sudan. Garang was a god for many of his followers, but was a ‘little’ authoritarian with his own people: this caused a faction of the SPLA to rebel against their leader. The Nuers, guided by Gen. Riek, formed their SPLA-United group, and massacred 2,000 Dinkas in the town of Bor, while displacing 100,000 people. Riek made a deal with the Sudanese government, receiving lots of money and arms…” I guess the general referred to therein is Dr. Riek Machar whose name is also misspelled as Machal on the cover page and whose rank of a general was non-existent by the year 1991 AD. Similarly, I thought the SPLM-United group was under Dr. Lam Akol as an offshoot from the Nasir Faction.
Whereas it was not ethical for a business review to turn into a history review, it was equally not called for to write about such things and distribute them to our guests during the independence celebration as if to change their opinion about us as an independence nation. In addition, the figures and facts given have not been attributed to any source, hence misleading and inciting at a time of our nation healing and nation building. Having reacted to the history review in the Independence Issue of the business review, I have more problems with the negative campaign by Mr. Kim on the current August/September issue, especially in his editorial message, is carrying out thus.
“However, I would like to ask of my South Sudanese friends. Are we foreigner-friendly?” Before we say yes or no, Mr. ‘Publisher’ concluded for the readers: “Surprisingly, many foreign friends whether they are here for humanitarian support activities or for tapping the possibility to invest, do not agree South Sudanese in general are foreigner-friendly or investment-friendly although the government promises to make this country as an investment destination of choice.”
With the level of language and journalism I know, I believe some foreign youth christened ‘editor’ wrote this for him, and I bet the young man will still be disappointed by his boss sooner than later. One factor Mr. Kim has to know through his ghostwriter is that he is misdirecting the foreigners here and victimizing the Southerners who are said to be “…in general…not foreigner-friendly and investment-friendly”. The ‘publisher’ who is not, according to media norms, supposed to write an editorial did not carry out a survey to convince us of his sources of information. Like in the above historical assumptions, no reference to a survey or concrete evidence indicating that we are generally not friendly to our own investment or investors, nor our foreign friends generally not agreeing with our hospitability to accommodate foreigners. I thought Mr. Kim should mind his business of winning more contracts and big friends and leave us to criticize our own government if need be.
Another factor this ‘media investor’ and his crew should know is that we still have fresh memories of how we, their former foreigners now their hosts, were treated in their own countries (Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, etc.). For instance, our senior Sudanese staff of The Sudan Mirror newspaper were arrested and
harassed in Nairobi in 2004, while we, juniors were doing the daily round with the police. One of the prisoners I am talking about, Gwado Joseph Ador, is now a director of research in the Ministry of Information. Reasons? Working in Kenya without work permits, regardless of the fact that we were producing the paper of, for, and by South Sudanese, which was mainly not sold there but sent back to Sudan wholesale.
When we shifted to Kampala as a result of such persecutions, a similar but more dangerous ordeal was the kidnapping in 2006, and stabbing with a knife in 2007, of a South Sudanese newspaper editor in Kampala. Who was that? This very writer! And I believe, by that time, our current substitutes were still in their institutes or secondary schools in their home countries; with no dream whatsoever to come and replace some ‘uneducated’ South Sudanese one day. The solution to the media control battle we fought in East Africa can now be seen in the ownership and staffing of the two papers: The Sudan Mirror and The Southern Eye, now seemingly Kenyan and Ugandan properties, respectively, in South Sudan. Here, I leave more spaces for testimonies from Khartoum, Cairo, as well as Seoul, if at all we have any South Sudanese investor there. As Mr. Publisher keeps on comparing South Korea with South Sudan, I bet, the only feature in common is the geographical adjective, ‘South’. So who is more foreigner-friendly now, South Sudan or those countries whose media laws would either close down or nationalize a foreign-run media house? And it should be noted that Mr. Kim is running this business under his sole foreign proprietorship and foreign employment, and at his comfort of writing such statements against our search for a complete independence.
In the same editorial, the publisher contradicted himself again by adding, “The Government says we welcome visitors even if they do not have visas.” He also added fuel to fire by asking our immigration department to issue visas by faxing or e-mailing them to visitors in their respective countries before they book their flights to South Sudan, since we do not have embassies there. You see! Which country in this world could open its borders to visitors even without visas and vend or send its visas out there to whom it may concern? And this investor is right, given the fact that if you call any of the street idlers, hawkers, boda-boda riders (I call them border-to-border raiders), matatu drivers, waitresses, managers and the like, to produce a visa or travel document, not to mention a work permit, you will fill up all your prisons with inmates of the same crime.
And should you do that, you will face huge demonstrations from such drivers as seen with Ugandans on our roads a few weeks ago, which demonstrations if we, the robbed youths of the land, try, will be labeled gangsters or hooligans as Mr. Publisher reported to his big friends during our feuds. The only survival trait for such rights-grabbers is that our law enforcers (the big ones) have swallowed our laws, and then in turn are swallowed by such investors wholesale. If I seem to exaggerate this, then just touch one of the petrol station Somalis and you will see a police siren at a breakneck speed to the scene. Ask my colleague, Maal Maker, in case of any doubt.
By the way, does Mr. Publisher of the South Sudan Business Review know that a native can hang in Asia for just stealing large amount of money, leave alone a foreign investor taking with him a money-minting machine for investing in Korea or China? Has he ever heard of the 10 Ugandans sentenced to death for dealing in something that looks like in drugs in China? I would rather there was enough reason to hang those West and East African criminals who have been caught red-handed with raw materials, including mobile mints, for manufacturing our new currency and dollars. I think what Mr. Kim is doing to us is not fair and also not far from what a certain company just did in Europe: declaring South Sudan No. 5 on the index of the terrorist-friendly countries of the world, despite the fact that no single bomb has ever exploded in Juba, where Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda, LRA, name them, could just enter ‘even without visas’!
In fact, if the government, whichever department, has really announced such an open-door or no-visa policy to the whole world in a bid to make us foreigner-friendly, then I ask that our government of the Republic of South Sudan be taken for a refresher course on diplomacy in the Republic of South Korea. But with the publisher’s absurdity as seen in his self-given title, ‘Voluntary Advisor to South Sudan Government’ as he addresses himself, (see July Issue, page 49 of the magazine: Letter to the President), there is enough room for doubting the authenticity of the three sources, namely: the quote, the quoter and the quoted, which applies throughout the entire magazine’s production.
If anyone seems to dispute that this man is not a prophet of doom to the young nation, then here is another editorial message, which failed to reach our streets, thanks to our court threats by the time he wrote this. “Now, we understand that it is not easy to overcome these tribal and provincial conflicts in South Sudan. If we do not know how to concede for the benefits of others, then now one will sacrifice for own benefits. If everyone insists on their interests without taking care of others, every tribe and state, then there will be no guarantee for mutual progress and development.”
And Mr. Voluntary Advisor continued prophesying,”If we are to spend other years overcoming this internal crisis after a long time of struggling with the North, we shall be hopeless. If we, the Southern Sudanese do not overcome the problems of tribalism and provincialism in the shortest time, then we would go back to the bush again as in the decades before.” This time, he is positive towards South Sudanese in his doomsaying, except that he has called the SPLA a tribal movement earlier, and has already assumed citizenship by using the pronoun ‘we’ for reasons best known to him.
Maybe one simple reason to make us accept the next apology from Mr. Publisher (I would rather he were Mr. Editor), who wrote the recent editorial as an apology for the first issue, is sympathy on condition of his lacking media knowledge, the only reason most of our media companies are getting away with crimes here in South Sudan. God, let there be media law! Is it possible for a retired army general in South Sudan to become a media general (general publisher, general editor, general journalist, general advisor, general investor, etc.) in South Korea? This is what Mr. Kim is all about, no wonder he writes’ such statements.
With the media freedom he acquainted and journalism knowledge he updated himself with in Khartoum where he spent his last 15 years doing business, and where the marketing manager of his magazine (see his editorial team) sits directing issues of Juba by remote control from Khartoum like an SPLM-DC chairman. You can imagine how many apologies Mr. Voluntary Advisor is yet to offer South Sudanese as long as he continues clinging on the sumptuous title of ‘The Publisher’ or something of that kind in this country where titles have made people lame in the names. My modest call to Mr. Kim here is if he does not want such reactions against him in the next issue(s) of the ‘Business Review’, then let him leave the work to the editor, if at all the current editor will still be enjoying his job in the few months to come.
Thirdly, in this same apology, he writes thus against me (and my colleagues), “Throughout five months of preparation time of the first edition, we experienced various disgraceful setbacks; of conflicts, and even legal litigation because of the misgivings and misunderstanding in ways of thinking, living and working between myself with 60 years of multi-national background and my South Sudanese wanted-to-be partner at that time. On this occasion of the holy atmosphere of the independence, I would like to suggest to all my South Sudanese comrades, friends, and would-be-partners to try to understand and learn the ways of thinking and working from many foreign friends, visitors, and investors who will be flowing into the new republic.”
From this long quote, I warn Kim’s editor or ghostwriter to mind his sensitively insinuating, if not insulting, words such as ‘wanted-to-be partner, ways of thinking, ways of living,’ etc. Mindless
of the fact that it is the foreigners who are supposed to learn the ways of the locals, I wonder if Mr. Kim, with all his 60-year background as a multi-national broker in Korea, America, Saudia Arabia, Khartoum and now Juba, can still remember the day and the way, in that ill-fated February of our first meeting, he came hunting for me while I was working on my magazine in Juba Grand Hotel. With positive references made to me when he searched for a partner, he came and humbly requested me to help him ghostwrite a book on South Sudan history, then later shifted to joining me as a partner in the magazines. I mean The Younique Generation magazine, which was entering a local partnership with South Sudan Business Week of Mr. Deng Ayok, the first victim of Mr. Kim from whose idea of the magazine’s name was plagiarized thereafter.
After I had spent three intensive months researching and developing the market strategies and editorial policies of our media business in the proposed name of Business Information Bureau of South Sudan (BIBOSS), into which we intended to enter a public-private partnership with our government, he illegally locked out 10 South Sudanese nationals who are still with the company ID cards to date. These include me, the then local partner and Managing Editor, my deputy, Maal Maker Thiong, and many others. “Whoever supports John Penn should now go with him,” the old general declared by the time we were opening our new centre funded by him. So all the South Sudanese who were employed through me got expelled, except only one blackleg who had begged me for a job and whom the racial boss previously showered with praises for possessing by coincidence a semblance of South Korean name and North American background. This ‘lost boy’ is still assigned to report on our daily plans by stealth, and there is likelihood that he would earn himself a permanent bed in the old man’s abode soon, if not already in by now. Lest I forget, somebody please, tell Mr. Publisher to tell his ‘Administrator’ to clear the staff accommodation bills from the previous hotel that he deserted without farewell or telling his next destination.
On seeing the sample copy of the first paper, Mr. Kim secretly took it, hired a local guide to the Ministries of Information and Legal Affairs of the time, and registered it on sole proprietorship, claiming to have incorporated it under his company that came with him from Khartoum or China. He threatened us with one ‘big man’ in the Ministry of Interior (Police) whom he claimed to be his partner, and who later denied to be a beneficiary of the magazine. What beats our mis/understanding is how he succeeded in convincing our law to register the magazine alone without a local partner in the field of media, and especially when the same department of Registrar of Companies had just postponed our move to register this company, on an excuse that the registration exercise was suspended from the month of May till after the independence declaration. By a well un/known miracle that he might have performed, Mr. Kim managed to undo our laws and registered himself into the magazine in a matter of hours, just as he has been doing with other mega and sensitive contracts such as the passports deal (now an ordeal) and police uniform supplies he ‘won’ before! Don’t ask me but him, Kim, how he protects our such classified information from being seen in or by Khartoum, where his business general manager sits and operates.
What also pains us to let me react hereby is the incessant cries of the South Sudanese young men and women he cheated, whom he is now still teasing in public, and who are still jobless and hunting for their rights robbed using the name of our big people who have nothing to do with this business and nothing to offer us in compensation. As if that is not enough, another humiliation is the replacement of all South Sudanese journalists with 100-percent foreigners, now listed as editorial team (see the magazine), but whose real qualifications are nothing short of drivers, some of whom we trained here in Juba, designers, watchmen and the like, of the Egyptian, Ugandan and Kenyan origins.
These friends of ours do acknowledge the fact and shed us crocodile tears for the broad daylight robbery, but are forced by money and conditions to ‘Google’ for South Sudanese their news and history and ghostwrite editorials for the South Korean in that manager. To add salt to our wounds, our readers
and leaders pay their hard-earned pounds to fund an insult by buying but keeping it in their drawers intact, as if to fulfill the old colonial adage on African illiteracy: “If you want to hide a treasure (an abuse this time) from an African, keep it in a book.”
For this and other reasons, I am obliged not only to react in defence of our dignity but also to call upon members of the public, lawmakers, law enforcers and law-breakers — Mr. Publisher included — to effect a change in our legal system of co-existence with our foreign friends, especially the ones who come with nothing but leave with something. Your Excellencies, let there be a difference between investors and traders. For instance, we are the traders, foreigners are the investors, who will in turn partner with us or supply us with lacking goods and services from their countries. This is worth doing speedily if we wanted to stop the youths of South Sudan from repeating the South Africa’s embarrassing situation of xenophobia.
Xenophobia, a resultant fear or hatred developed against foreigners on economic, racial, social and colonial classism, is due to the experience we are getting from our own police and courts of law which are arm-twisted by foreign dealers. For instance, when we reported the case to the police, it took them two weeks to summon the accused, only for our complaints to end up in a Malakia Police mock court, “Your case is dismissed!” declared somebody in the name of a lawyer or judge introduced to us as ‘something-nihaba’! The case died when one big man (or two), whose names and powers Mr. Publisher is wielding here and there to penetrate both private and public walls in Juba, was invoked. Your Excellency, please take note here. You threatened me not to discourage our investors but forgot that when they are allowed to embed themselves into our system parasitically, you will not be there when we ask them to give us room later. And, sir, for your reminder: should Your Excellency or your other colleagues interfere with my appeal case again at the civil court, I will expose all that I know between this Mr. Broker (aka Investor) and some dealer leaders in this country!
From the journalistic point of view, I am also advising Mr. General Advisor to be careful with whoever he is gathering his stories with and from, keeping in mind that not even a single foreign prophet in the name of a journalist, an editor or a publisher can claim to tell us better our own history. It is impossible for self-ordained clique of expats and experts in the field of local information, especially non-researchers, to come and tell the history makers (us), how we made our own history last time in 1991 or 2005. He should also get guided that jumping here and there in search of a local partner among the daughters and sons of the big people of this country, as I am told of late, is no solution, yet, to replace me. In our times, things will never be the same again. The fact that these children have money deposited for them in bank accounts does not mean that they have every knowledge installed in their brain accounts.
As for my media friends, who come from other countries, or resort to media after jumping here and there and failing this and that in South Sudan, journalism as a career or editing as a task is not just a matter of knowing English language fluently or a design program influentially. It is knowing much more than just gathering bookish knowledge or ‘Googling’ internet politics, history, civics, geography, language, and everything of these people. Just as you update your computer anti-virus daily, please, update your anti-litigation if you want to sell to us our own history, politics, economics, and the aforementioned topics, which had for decades been distorted by our outgoing colonial masters.
And as for all investors in South Sudan, we understand an investor as somebody who comes with his money with the aim of increasing it using our local resources. The resources, being both human and natural in this country, any ‘investor’ who does not want to develop the human resource first, which is the tools for them to use in exploiting our gold, soil and oil, is that ‘inverted investor’. They are quick but quack investors, the ones for whom I am calling upon our General Assembly and general public to save us from.
To cut the unending story short, ‘to save us from’ means from their economic, political, social, psychological and physical abuses, one of the reasons that kept me quarantined in Juba here. It is a long story again but in one sentence. When we developed loggerheads with our East African hosts (governments and communities), there was apparently a legal attempt to get rid of foreigners trying to work there, by all means, including kidnapping and stabbing, both of which I suffered twice between The Sudan Mirror (in Kenya) and The Southern Eye (in Uganda). Now that I have run to my country for the very refuge that I had gone to look for in East Africa but was denied me, I do not want to hear again that some suspiciously looking persons had come to ask for my room number or phone number like the ones I was told during the said legal suit two months ago. Otherwise, it is worth repeating here that after the ambiguous results of the police ‘mock court’, I had promised my partner to use my citizenship logic against his money magic.
And I wish I were an investor in South Sudan to put in my notebook this: quoting myself, “To avoid the description of an inverted investor; in other words, to save for the future here is to make more friends with the youth, the leaders of tomorrow, than with the elders, the leaders of today. Otherwise, what is the meaning of establishing a media investment while you make enemies with the ministers and directors of information of the year 2020, 2030 or 2050?”
The writer is the deposed Managing Editor of South Sudan Business Review magazine, The Younique Magazine (his current magazine), a poet, an essayist, a blogger at www.weakleak.wordpress.com and an online columnist under the title ‘Thinking Anti-clockwise’ at www.newsudanvision.com. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NB: All the views expressed in the article therein are in line not with the publishing website or paper but with the interests of the unfairly dismissed South Sudanese workers of South Sudan Business Review, and similar individuals or groups among the largely jobless youths of the Republic of South Sudan.