Contributor's Opinion

Ideally the SPLA Should Be Engaged In Agricultural Activities

By Samuel Reech Mayen,

A woman and children in her farm in South Sudan(Photo: file)
A woman and children in her farm in South Sudan(Photo: file)

Oct 29, 2015(Nyamilepedia) —- Instead of grooming individuals to fight for unworthy causes, it’s rational to nurture human resource to fight reasonable wars. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) since its inception has been doing a single role of waging war against the enemies. This was commendable when the SPLA fought against the oppression perpetuated by the series of Khartoum regimes. However, with the independence of South Sudan, the issues of poverty, tribalism, diseases and corruption would have been the next to resolve but no attempt has been made to address these imminent challenges.

In the last two years, though war did not extend much to Bhar El Ghazal region, famine struck this region because the youth who are at the forefront in production have been in the battle fields. All those who should have been tilling the land have been busy delivering military services leaving the fertile land virgin. Likewise to the youth of Greater Upper Nile and Equatorial Region, from agricultural perspective, less has been achieved as many youth are being actively engaged in the wars.

As of now, the Ministry of Defence is the sole institution with the huge numbers of capable and potentially productive individuals. As the Compromised Peace Agreement (CPA II) has just been signed, it is a plain truth that the SPLA numbers will increase sharply because of the integration of the SPLA in Government with the SPLA in Opposition. With thousands of fresh recruits of the former white army (Jec Mabör) and Mathiang Anyoor (Mathiaŋ Anyɔ̈ɔ̈r), it’s apparent that all the youth of the young nation are going to be combined into one mighty and massive SPLA.

This put prudent minds at wonder of what these colossal forces will be doing in the next couple of years. Since it has been a practice in the SPLA that soldiers sit idly in the barracks waiting to defend, the effect has been in the expenses of farming. The national productive individuals are quarantined from economic contribution in the name of military service.

Since peace and tranquility have been reclaimed, it is now time to define new developmental roles for the SPLA. This doesn’t mean that their prime role of defending the nation should be swapped but rather a proposal to utilize the capabilities of youth in the army. It is said that an “idle mind is a workshop of devil”. In most cases, the soldiers indulge in alcoholism simply because they are left to over relax and consequently frustrated by redundancy. Some of them even commit crimes as seen in the alleged deserters who recently killed innocent civilians and raided a cattle camp in Bor County in Jonglei State.

It is only through engaging the army in the economic activities that can make them live active and meaningful lives. This requires the coordination of different Ministries specifically the Ministry of Agriculture with the Ministry of Defence to work together in ensuring that agriculture is adopted as a mean of fighting poverty. If the SPLA fought all those liberation wars, why can’t it win the battle against poverty?

The fight against poverty through accepting agriculture plans can be achieved by establishing a Department for Agriculture and Production in the SPLA structures. Through such Directorate, the officers in charge can receive agricultural trainings. The department should be formed with a clear chain of command linking the Headquarters down to all Divisions with extension to the battalions. This Directorate for Agriculture at the Battalions levels can be equipped with agricultural tools for cultivations.

The government can fund such crucial scheme to ensure that every Battalion embraces the agriculture plans and identify the suitable location within their areas of deployment that can be their plantation. All the soldiers with in a specific battalion can be encouraged to take part in the cultivation knowing that what they are doing is for their own benefit.

The SPLA is a traditionally self motivated and committed army. What they just need are clear strategies in dealing with issues. If these plans are sponsored by the government, many positive impacts will be realized. Hence, embracing the SPLA as a central finger in the agricultural development will enhance food production. The results elucidated below and many more will be appreciated.

First, the agriculture production will be boosted and the nation will not depend on food import as it has been the case for the last ten years or more. With the local production, the nation will be food secured, the miseries caused by poverty will be reduced and the nation will be once again proud of her active citizens.

Secondly, since the SPLA is composed of very energetic young men and women at the junior levels, their capabilities can be channeled toward realizing their abilities. It is not a good idea to keep the young blood idle waiting to take part only in anticipated violence. This sort of anticipation develops tender minds to think as mere tools for destruction rather than potential brains for innovation. The cultivation practice can also keep them busy and fit health wise.

Thirdly, the agriculture scheme can also help our soldiers to increase their incomes. Looking at the payment of the army, the constables (privates) are paid a monthly salary of about 600 SSP which is roughly equivalent to 30 USD in black markets. This is too low for the youth who have many plans ahead. It put their future plans at stake. It’s therefore important that the agriculture is introduced not only for the national benefits but as an extra way of ensuring that the soldiers’ abilities is used for their own benefits. It is two ways advantage. It results into plenty of food for the buyers (citizens) in the local market and a supplementary source of income for the sellers (soldiers).

Fourthly, a shared agricultural plantation for a certain battalion can help the soldiers to develop the spirit of communal work which promotes strong rapport amongst the soldiers. This can reduce baseless suspicion that always dominates the atmosphere in the armies’ surroundings. On this basis, it is another way of building lasting teamwork.

Fifthly, adopting this plan can enhance the circulation of money within the territory of South Sudan which is a way of fighting inflation that has crushed South Sudanese Pound (SSP). The leading import for the South Sudanese people is foodstuffs. Millions of South Sudanese Pound is being sucked out of the economy every month in exchange for foreign food. If the military ministry takes this role, the import of foodstuff from the neighboring countries can be halted and the money can be circulated by buying local products, hence maintaining South Sudanese money in South Sudan economy.

Basically, it is a role of the government to ensure that people are used positively to build their own country. While it’s expected that the CPA II which has just been signed shall end ethnic conspiracies that have affected the nation for so long, it is also anticipated that the Interim Government of National Unity (IGoNU) will develop pragmatic ways of fighting poverty. In this case, the hub of development is the youth who are now in the army. Thus, the national government should embrace the SPLA as a key partner in the fight against poverty.

The author is a student who lives in Kampala and can be reached at mayenreech@gmail.com or +256 772 727 857

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