South Sudan: Returning Home and Challenges Ahead
March 1, 2008 — If you live in North America, Australia, Europe, East Africa or elsewhere outside the Sudan, you may contemplate of going back home. Question? How about the challenges ahead of you once you’re in your beloved home country?
We know that following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, members of South Sudanese Diaspora, who fled persecution, physical and emotional tortures, economic and political degradation, and denial of one’s self-direction and destiny, have now decided to move back home in large numbers. The recent exodus of educated and businessmen, who left and migrated out from the Sudan and resettled in various countries, notably, East Africa, Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and some from Asia and the Middle East, shows their love for the land they never thought of leaving behind.
In every hour, day or week, Juba International Airport is daily swamped with a number of desperate South Sudanese intellectuals, priests, bussinessmen, and ordinary citizens who longed for years to visit their motherland that had almost disappeared in their minds and hearts. It’s, however, the CPA that has rejuvenated their spirits to go back. At least what is called home and the joy of feeling it is what matters for them. They are being “homesick!” In other words, as it’s said, “West or East, home is the best,” this is the very notion that prompts South Sudanese Diaspora to go back and to rebuild their country (note, of course, there wasn’t anything built to be rebuilt!). Everything is started from scratch, but the land calls its people to build it anyway. It doesn’t matter whether one will live in a house where air-conditioning is nowhere to be found and felt, or to not enjoy the luxurious lifestyle that’s pretty accessible and affordable in his/her host country.
Indeed, for the past 22 years going out of the Sudan was not a voluntary adventure for South Sudanese to seek better life and opportunities but involuntary—a forced migration which was a matter of life and death scenario for one to save one’s skin. In fact, they got necessary opportunities that were once denied to them in their respective host countries. But no matter how desparate South Sudanese Diaspora are, going back home where basic necessities of life are almost absent, it isn’t an easy decision for one to make. In contrast, social, economic and political insecuity, rampant corruption, nepotism and tribalism at home (South Sudan), on one hand and abundance and enjoyment of all basic opportunities such as education, accessible and affordable health benefits, secure jobs, and family, on the other, are very challenging and difficult choices for some people to make and choose from.
In South Sudan, they say, if you know nobody—a tribesman, uncle, or brother, for example—in top government ministeries, then you are nobody and, worse still, what you know is nothing or call that useless, if you like. Your merits—academic qualifications, skills, and work experiences—don’t matter. Then what next? If you’re patriotic in heart and in spirit and choose to endure the unbearable situations in Juba for example—be it emotional, psychological, political and/or financial—it’s highly likely that you might find yourself unknowingly a professional-turned a panhandler, who is in every sunrise waiting for a lucky employed buddy in juba or a blood-related new arrival from the West to invite you for lunch. Where to spend your nights is another story. All your accumulated savings you once had have dried up. Worst still, if you have a family left behind in the UK, US, Canada or Australia, this adds another psychological burden because before you left, you promised them some kind of assistance you will possibly offer once you arrive in Juba—knowing that you’re the sole bread winner; nonetheless, obviously the reverse is (will be) true and ugly.
Let’s take this another example. Ironically, though, consider that you’re just a recent college graduate (and without a thorough self-brainstorming) decided to go home by forgoing your post-secondary studies that might have been one of the many of your career goals; or already a skilled person with a whole chunk of academic titles, who quit a good paying job from private/public sector or respected academic institution (in case you’re a lecturer). But in Juba, now you find yourself and all you have—skills, experiences, everything—become valueless. You may feel betrayed by your very nation. These are few facts and experiences of the first-goers.
So if you’re now contemplating of going to South Sudan, in an effort of contributing whatever skills and experiences you acquired abroad for the reconstruction and development of your beloved country, you should think twice before aboarding a plane enroutes to Juba.
However, the negative outcomes of your premature ( not carefully planned) rush to our dear homeland, which I forementioned, should not discourage or dissuade you from returning home. But I think these only serve as precautionary tips that would make us (you and me) think twice. Here are some tips that any aspiring person who is thinking of going to southern Sudan would bear in mind and take into account:
- Plan Ahead: This means, make all necessary arrangements and preparations such as saving enough money that will make you self-reliant and independent, at least financially, to withstand the heat of unforseeable situation
- If you’re a family man/woman, let your family knows the costs and benefits of your mission
- If you’re employed or student, don’t quit your job or school because of false belief (or wrong information recieved) that South is rich and every educated person gets rich quick. Be aware of “Thokduelism”—that’s nepotism, tribalism!
- Go home for a short term visit. In case all things being equal or promising, go first to south for a visit and observe carefully how things work. If you feel OK and the environment is conducive for you, then stay there…if not come back.
- Finally, if you think Rome wasn’t built in a day and building a nation, like ours, requires sacrifices—be it physical, economical or political—then you’re the man for such an unpredictable mission. I salute you for having that “will” and determination to sacrifice anything for the well-being of your nation. Basically, it’s a duty bound mission for each and every one of us to make a difference from within, not from without.
The author lives in Calgary, Canada. He holds a BA (Honours) in Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan and now pursues his Master’s degree at the University of Calgary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.