December 10th, 2018 (Nyamilepedia) – Dear Comrades, I welcome all of you to our first SPLM leadership retreat since the events of December 2013 that divided our historical party. As we gathered today in our village, Lobonok, to reflect on our liberation journey, we do this without the fear of Antonov hovering over our heads, a clear sign of our liberation success. We are free citizens in our country able to meet at a place and time of our choosing without the fear of being bombed aerially.
Today comrades, I want to take you back to the archives of our liberation struggle and the phases we have passed through that brought us to the present moment. Our hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior used to tell us that the reason rams appear retreating when they are fighting is to gather more strength and thrust to use its own power and the power of elements to crash the opponent. I believe this retreat has the same objective, which is to enable us to reflect on our achievements and challenges and to give us the inspiration that allows us to gather more strength and momentum to propel our party and our country forward.
While I am fully aware that all of you in this gathering have the knowledge of our liberation journey, pardon me to arrogate to myself the privilege of refreshing your memories. Why did we take arms in 1983? The SPLM was established to fight gross injustice, marginalization, and oppression of our people just because they happened to be black Africans who have their own beliefs and did not have power. While our brothers in Africa were fighting racism, colonialism and settler capitalists that marginalized majority owners of the land and subjugating them to subhuman treatments across the continent, the people of South Sudan were fighting an internal colonial power that was built on Arab and Islamic identity to the exclusion of the many, who professed other religious beliefs and who clearly had no Arabic genealogy.
The unfairness with which the state power was used to suppress our people and the manner in which economic resources were extracted from our people and used for the benefits of those whom the state had chosen to award favor, gave birth to our revolution. At the start of our liberation struggle, we recognized early on that the anger of our people towards the oppressive policies of Khartoum-based regimes was the best recipe for mobilization of society and so our job as leaders of the liberation struggle was to properly articulate the grievances for which we chose to take arms.
Among the grievances was the marginalization of black and non-Muslim Africans and being treated as second- or third-class citizens in their own country. The second issue was the imposition of Islamic Sharia law on non- Muslims. The third issue was the exclusion of people who live at the periphery of Khartoum from accessing political and economic power. The fourth issue was the deliberate underdevelopment of the peripheral regions of Sudan. The last grievance was the abrogation of the Addis Ababa Agreement.
We decided to resist the government in Khartoum and we adopted a strategy for a complete liberation of our people. The liberation was to take phases.
Phase I was to wage an armed struggle with the aim to overthrow Khartoum government so that we can establish the New Sudan and engender a new political dispensation. We successfully waged the war and although we did not take over the government in Khartoum, we achieved the ultimate objective of the people of South Sudan, which is independence.
The second phase II of the liberation process was the political negotiation, which was only made possible through phase I, an armed struggle. We succeeded through the negotiation to establish the government of Southern Sudan with its own army and financial resources to defend the interest of our people. We also mobilized our people and guided their actions to successfully vote for the referendum leading to the declaration of our independence in 2011.
We are now in the third phase of our liberation struggle.
Phase III of the liberation struggle is the formation of the state and establishment of the nation being built on a strong foundation. This stage is the most challenging stage because we are all fighting and struggling to find our rightful places in the free Republic of South Sudan. The political upheavals we are undergoing are normal processes of shaping and forming a great nation. Through this process, we will get to know our allies, our friends, and our enemies alike within the regional and international structures. We are also learning internally about the best ways we can manage politics and resources. Going through this stage might take 15 to 20 years to get to phase IV and the last stage of our liberation process.
Phase IV of our liberation process is to free our people from the jaws of poverty, ignorance, underdevelopment, and diseases. This is the ultimate aim of our liberation struggle. The armed struggle, the political struggle, and the formative stages of our new nation are all transient and so we cannot sit and relax and be content with our laurels. We must begin anew our resolve to confront poverty and underdevelopment in our country. The Bible says the root of all evil is money and the Holy is always right, but in South Sudan, the root of all evil is poverty.
The Peace Agreement we have just signed should herald the beginning of phase IV of our liberation struggle. That is, we must transform our experience of war by redefining the greatest enemy of our people. From my perspective, the greatest enemy of the people of South Sudan is poverty, which is the mother of illiteracy, poor health, fighting, corruption and nepotism, hatred and jealousy. We must without fail to confront poverty head-on and the SPLM must lead.
We must face poverty with all our might and be guided by our principles to fight against forces of repression, injustices, political sectarianism, ethnic chauvinism, marginalization and exploitation, religious bigotry and intolerance. These vices are all rooted in poverty and scarcity. Take for example marginalization and exploitation; these are a function of not being able to have enough of whatever that is the point of contention. They are all intended to exclude others so that one can take the benefits at the expense of others. The same is true for injustice, repression, and political sectarianism; they are borne out of ideological bankruptcy and lack of political imagination.
As we move forward comrades, no liberation is possible without the guidance and without organization. South Sudan was not possible without the SPLM and without the commitment of men and women who sacrificed immensely and ultimately to pursue the liberation cause.
We must admit, the SPLM, as a political party is at its weakest point now since its founding. It is not weak because we are bankrupt, it is weak because we are divided, and we do not share a common vision. We have paid too much attention to the pursuit of power and personal gratification and we have taken our eyes off the ball. We must return our focus on the continuing work of liberation to liberate our people from poverty, from backwardness and from destitute.
An ominous cloud hangs over our heads; a cloud of too many questions gone unanswered, too many liberation-promises unfulfilled, and most importantly, the conditions in which our people lived before the liberation struggle continue unchanged. Did we liberate our people from Jalaba only to starve in our hands? We must collectively put our heads together and find the answer for this!
The SPLM must rise and once again raise our flag with the guiding star to lead our people to phase four of our liberation struggles. We must rise to defend our liberation credentials and bring hope to our people who pinned their future on the historical legacy of this party.
We must rise so that the words of Prophet Isaiah ring true. SPLM must lead, the SPLM must inspire, SPLM must unleash its liberation zeal and captivate the imagination of our people yet again. This sleeping giant must wake up and proclaim its greatness once again.