THE YOUTH OF THE SOUTH: Used less, hence made useless
It should first be borne in mind of the unknowing youth that this day, July 20, is a World Youth Day. Of course, this has little use to the youth of South Sudan. It is not because they do not know it, it’s because they do not make use of it. Though the youth are youthful, they are not used in full in the development of our young nation. I do not want to mean that the youth are useless, but they are used less in the new nation’s supposedly participatory democracy. Therefore, I am going to write about youth and freedom in this piece of mine for our peace of mind.The International Youth Day was celebrated under the theme “Youth Migration: Moving South Sudan forward.” Focusing on youth migration and its impact on development, there is an irony in this theme. More youth are abstaining from returning home from the Diasporas due to the turn of events in Juba. In fact, more youth have fled the country in the first half of this year than in the last two years combined. See this: http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ctl/ArticleView/mid/519/articleId/12505/Jonglei-Pushes-International-Youth-Day-Celebrations-To-Saturday.aspx
I have this to say, and regret. The youth of South Sudan are caught in between their cultures, the Old Guards and their new world dawning with the world class order. And if they really know themselves, they would be driving this very youthful nation. They would not, for instance, be bamboozled and fooled by elders to the extent of saying ‘Yes’ to their day, this year’s International Youth Day, being postponed and mounted on an elders’ day. In Jonglei State, the Youth Day has been pushed to the second weekend of August, which intentionally coincided with the SOuth Sudan Veterans Day, August 18, 2013. The elders’ day is an annual commemoration of the 1955 Torit mutiny, which sparked off a series of liberation wars in the Sudan. As I boldly put in in my 2nd Independence Anniversary’s debate on Al Jazeera (July 9, 2013), South Sudan is a country under the rule of ‘Leadership by Eldership’.To illustrate that title a bit, this is a repeat of the similar piece I blogged in November, 2011.
“That aside, for that matter, the real subject matter as seen from the title means that there is no usefulness in our youthfulness if we begin to follow the examples of our uncles and brag around with the feathers of our fathers. If we leave our own potentials and cooperation as leaders of this country, both of today and tomorrow, and begin to dance to the tune and adapt to the tone of our elders, then we are turning our future from boom to doom. Well, before I forget, our current Constitution stipulates that for any person to qualify for a head of this state (president), one must be from 40 to 75 years by age! So if you are 39, do not disturb them, please.” Complete that independent post from this link: https://weakleak.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/the-youth-of-the-south-very-youthful-but-not-useful-to-the-nation-building/”>The Youth of the South: No Longer Youthful and Useful but Made Youthless and Useless in the rungs and the ranks of their Nation Building!
LET FREEDOM RING: Freedom is one of the ingredients that motivated South Sudanese people, some as young as 10 like me in 1990, to pick up arms and fight the Arab and Islamic colonialism in Khartoum. Unfortunately, like a proverbial dog that licks back its vomits, we are tied up with Khartoum as inseparable twins in media and civil rights suppression as evidenced in how South Sudan fell second to Sudan among the first five in the hierarchy of the 174 failed states of the world. This means, 170 countries are better than South Sudan, which is still shouting ‘Freedom Oyee’ after a successful liberation struggle.
Freedom is not free until it is expressed, but when it is suppressed as is the case with the nascent state of South Sudan, we find ourselves struggling for more space for our population to express themselves freely. In short, the postwar SPLM has made the people they liberated live in 1983 in 2013! This is so heart-breaking! The writer is a refugee just a year and half after our independence. Why? They wanted to express themselves as a free people in a free nation. Alas, somebody says it’s not yet freedom!
During one of my media interviews, I summed up the new twist in our liberation sigh as “Khartoum in Juba”! This is explained by one of my previous blog posts as follows:
” Of course, I would not proceed to seek asylum overseas if there were anybody who oversees my security as a citizen of South Sudan. However, having said that, I am not in position of directly applying for an asylum because of one shameful question: The Form! As most of us, former refugees, can still very vividly remember, there is a ‘life history form’ that you are required to fill in, especially the section that asks, ‘Why do you want to leave your country of origin?’. Those days, we used to boldly fill in: “I want to leave my country because Khartoum government or Arab soldiers attacked my village, killed my relatives and took away our means of livelihoods…”, or something of that kind.”
The two tale-tell signs or symptoms of oppression can best be pointed out in the media and civil society activism in South Sudan. The youth have politically, socially but economically been stratified into four blocs, viz: They all can be classified as ‘the haves’, but let me show you what they have. There are ‘the have-lots’, ‘the Have-nots’, ‘the have-rots’ and then the upcoming ‘the have-riots’. What are these?
‘THE HAVE-LOTS’: This group is loaded. They are super rich, filthy rich! Unlike the Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or a Kenya M-Pesa’s young millionaire, our South Sudanese youth tycoons are ‘miracle millionaires, even billionaires in less than five years! And they blame their depraved colleague for not being successful likewise, as if I had an uncle issuing the ‘Sorghum Contracts’ in 2009. One of them, for example, sarcastically introduced me to a group of clique of drinking colleagues in Star Hotel in 2011. “This guy is a genius,” he caught my head and examined it the doctor’s way. “But he has done one thing I hate him for. He has thrown himself (in Dinka: Ee rot lek piny…) from the top to the bottom of the nation. In 2005, I used to see him in Nairobi and wondered what he will become in our new nation. Now, look at him today walking in dusty streets of Juba…” What really disturbed me that night after the introduction was not the wording but the history between him and me. He used to beg me at Wimpy for ‘transport’ to Kawangware everytime I tried to catch my evening transport from The Sudan Mirror’s office. Another disturbing comment is how I hit the ground all the way from the apex of the nation. Wasn’t me. I know who did it…!
In other words, the ‘Have-lots’ is a class in my series of ‘The Youth of the South’, which is dominated by urban socialites, ‘securocrats’, suppliers, etc. rich in money, poor in literacy. This youth are affiliated to uncles, aunties and other relatives in the government. They are what gives the Government of South Sudan a corrupt tag of nepotism. Funnily enough, I asked one of the GoSS directors why they changed from our very unique acronym of GOSS to GRSS (Government of South/ern Sudan to Government of the Republic of South Sudan) after the independence but he replied, “Because you boys corrupted the nice name from that to ‘Government of Self-Service”! Ok, so it was ‘We Boys’ who are embezzling millions of petrodollars and Pounds (SSP) for self aggrandizement, and leak it to the world media?
‘THE HAVE-NOTS’: This class has nothing today, but will have something after today. They, like their relatives, have fallen victim of the system that has dumped the bush war promises and is riding on a new bourgeoisie horse. Unlike the ‘Have-lots’ who live by luck, the ‘Have-nots’ subsist by lack: lack of relatives in the public sector or knowledge in the private sector to give them access to success.
The third are ‘THE HAVE-ROTS’. This comprises war residue dumped for lack of competency or connections. They represent the rots in our society. This category is populated by peasants, war orphans, widows, the wounded heroes, etc. They are busy in whatever deal to put the food on their tables. This includes cattle rustling, robbery, stealing, or at better, the idle dependants on relatives in towns and well off centres. It is therefore possible for the have-rots to turn into the have-riots.‘THE HAVE-RIOTS’: This class is not very visible but is relegated to media and civil society, who talk and shout much ado about nothing for nothing. This un/fortunately is my group! Most of them are online, some of whom are my fellow internet writers and rioters in the name of a blogathon: AFTABOSS Internet-ional (See the link: http://aftaboss.wordpress.com/ or Facebook Group:AFTABOSS Internet’ional). This fourth stratum of the youth of my country is an amalgam of the three categories. Even some members of ‘the have-lots’ are also found among ‘the have-riots’ class. They are the true citizens who judge by truth, not by chance. The problem stumps not from material poverty of our people, but also intellectual poverty. They are change agents. They still want that country we envisioned during the bushes of the Sudan. They want to speak out their minds, regardless of their social and economic statuses. The Have-riots are the epitome of the future South Sudan, the hope and only light at the end of the tunnel of disappointment.
As seen in the Arab world, a revolution is a spontaneous freeing of one’s self from the bondage of any kind of suppression. There is no repression more unbearable on the people than the act of silencing the citizens from expressing their feelings on anything going on or not going on (well) in their country. Unlike an ear, a mouth is not a one-way system organ. It is used for taking in and taking out. So who is that who denies us both? As they sit there taking in the niceties of our economy, they must allow us sit here taking (talking) out the nonentities of our autonomy. About talking while eating, my mother forbade that long ago, when I was 5. So who is this 50-or-so-year old boy walking, talking, eating and beating me at the same time so that I do neither? The rule of the game is simple, if you are swallowing, I am spitting (verbally). None must do both simultaneous. Now that I am not eating, can I do the talking?
I asked this question because recently, I got very scathing and scaring messages through Facebook, e-mail, phone calls and verbal conversation from fellow South Sudanese youth, including those who volunteer to pronounce a sort of ‘fatwa’ on my life just for a comment one has found against his ‘Uncle Sam’ in the Juba Administration. Their reaction was sped up by my action, including that debate on the Al Jazeera’s ‘The Stream’ program, in which I participated together with Mading Ngor, Amna Essam and Dr. Akec Khoc, RSS ambassador to USA on July 9, 2013.
Before I burst open with what had almost blown up my chest, I had put something on my Facebook wall to warn those naïve ones who would be frozen to eternal envy by my appearance on the world’s leading TV such as the Al Jazeera. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y15CpNtuMic
Below is part of the message, a poem from my other poetry collection (AssAssiNation!) that I had posted about my freedom of speech:
Abroad but Aboard
Since the damn season I took an away-home barge,
Severally abounds the reason keeping me at large.
I know I am being stalked,
Just because I have talked.
And I’ll talk still because I am broad –
Not that I am abroad – I am aboard.
Speaking, writing, singing, and any other form of expression are part of talents. But if this means of communication is suppressed, how will the Youth of South Sudan compete with counterparts in this world of ICT science? Then what I wrote elsewhere in one of my essays of my say will come to pass. The following is an extract form the project that was disrupted when I received threatening messages to leave South Sudan. And I did, alas, leave before implementing that project, Part I of which was done on the 12-12-12-Event in Juba, little knowing that my colleagues and I would be on the run.
AN EXEGESIS OF THE GENESIS OF WHY TALENT IS ABUNDANT BUT REDUNDANT IN SOUTH SUDAN
(A sample ‘Text Corrector’s’ Editorial Analysis in our Inauguration Edition of ‘The Text Collector Digest’, a South Sudanese writers’ journal ‘for Reviewing and Previewing’ our Literature and Culture, a project that did not take off last year due to interruption by security situation on the group:www.ustassgroup.wordpress.com). Also published on The Text Collector Digest: http://thetextcollector.wordpress.com/
We are organizing the first South Sudanese Book and Talent Festival because we know the fact that there is little knowledge enhancement and talent development in South Sudan today, even among the youth, whose greater population is still in schools. Talent is neither being discovered nor is knowledge being recovered in the aftermath of the war. According to our experience as a talent spotting and supporting organization (USTASS: United Scribes, Teachers and Artists on Sustainable Skills), talent is neither being efficiently invested in nor being sufficiently harvested in South Sudan due to a number of factors and actors, one of which is diverse policies leading to lack of funding support and the other being an adverse historical legacy leading to lack of will to participate, or use of poor methods to harness the agilities and abilities in our youths, as detailed in a short story, entitled ‘The Youth of the South’, by this author.
This has historical background. It lies, we have realized, in the fact that the marginalized peoples of South Sudan have just discovered that they are ranking high among the richest in the world in mineral deposits in their land; but there are even more potential riches not yet explored and exploited—the talent deposits in their hand, especially among the youth and children. Fossilized over centuries of multi-national colonial succession, wars and ignorance, the varieties of talents in the South Sudanese youths are now ripe but not fully prepared for tapping. Why not, and how not?
Following the independence in 2011, there is an urgent need but no heed to excavate the hibernating wealth in the surviving postwar generation of South Sudan. This must be done through education, now that the said war has provided enough raw materials for writing as a business. That is why USTASS has been agitating for those who are less ‘uncled’ in the position of free oil money to join hands not in an opposition for money but in a creative hunt for an alternative run for one’s survival during these times of the austere economy in South Sudan. And the best way out is not to riot but to write; to write pretty petty things for a living, the best way to access that money from any austerity authority in South Sudan.
However, there is need to fight that colonial legacy, which is still instilled in our minds. Of course, in the pre-colonial and colonial era of error, the Sudanese children and youths used to invest their talents in traditional recreational activities as passed on by their older generations. Popular native talents such as wrestling, mock fighting, hunting, chanting, dancing, etc. were solely communal and non-commercial. These experiences later translated into civil wars in the wake of slave trade trailed by foreign domination and exploitation from the Turks, the Egyptians, the British and the Arabs in that historical order.
Again, upon the declaration of the Southern Independence in 2011, which saw the south separate from the north of the Sudan, there is a talent rush to excavate the hibernating wealth in the surviving young generation of South Sudan. The tools for exploiting this are the youth themselves through their own efforts to search and research their historical backgrounds and literary foreground, but should not be without technical supports from their talent scouting organizations such as USTASS.
However, the problems facing talent programs in South Sudan remain lack of access to funding, especially at a small scale and grassroots levels. Well, there are funds, but they do not reach the roots of the grass down there. Given sufficient support from the government, donors through NGOs, multinational companies and national businesses in South Sudan, then the talent promotion individuals and organizations – in this case, USTASS – will easily achieve their goals of spotting and supporting talents in South Sudan through their Yearn-Learn-Earn method and ‘Fun for Fund’ or’ Pun for Fun’ programs. This would only work if opportunities were availed on natural abilities and national capabilities.Going by the current statistics of literacy rate, idleness and laziness in our ‘baby nation’, there is no money in writing, singing or sporting in South Sudan today. Both able-bodied and able-minded youth have been accustomed to the belief for relief that, after all, there is no need for taxing one’s brain when they can just do the taxiing on the flakes of fertile soil underneath their feet and the texting about the lakes of versatile oil beneath their field: all these for minting cash on! However, the oil being thousands of kilometers deep in the heart of the earth and the soil being the skin thereof, how do we extract cash out of them now, right now? We need knowledge. We must yearn and learn in order to earn.
Nevertheless, we know this country, for the last six years of the Interim Period, which has indeed been an extreme period, of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), that is still a compressive peace argument, is now independent but predominantly dependent on a cash cow that grazes in the south but is still milked in the north. Therefore, we want to promote technical know-how, not tactical know-who. We want to enhance talent, which is latent. We want to ignite this latent talent into gallant talent in order to develop our youngsters into young stars. To achieve this, we need to collect, correct and connect every individual energy into a very invaluable synergy. In this way, talent will no longer be abandoned or redundant, but will be abundant or redone dent. In short, we need you as badly as you need us in the process of our nation building.