Ambassador H.E. Philip Jada Natana's speech on the occasion of the 4th Anniversary lndependence Celebration of South Sudan in Pretoria on 23rd July 2015.
Our Guest of Honor, the Hon. Ellen Molekane, Deputy Minister of State Security
My Dear Colleagues, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of
My Fellow South Sudanese
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of my colleagues from the Embassy of South Sudan in Pretoria, on behalf of my spouse Mary and indeed on my own behalf, I sincerely thank you for honoring our humble invitation and joining us tonight to celebrate the 4th Anniversary of the lndependence of the Youngest Country in the World, the Republic of South Sudan.
Today's celebration is a very important event in the history of our life because it is a time that we remember with pride the great sacrifices that our people made including the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom to see that we as South Sudanese join the rest of humanity as a free people.
A little over four years ago, in January 2011, Southern Sudanese queued up at different polling stations in Sudan and in many other parts of the world to cast the most important ballot of their lives in a referendum that would decide the fate and future of Sudan, a country that has witnessed so much bloodshed and suffering since 1955. On that day and the days immediately following, South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to have their own country. lndeed on the 9th of July 2011, the 54th flag in Africa went up in Juba, announcing the birth of a new country in the continent. ln the capital, Juba ,thousands came out as they were joined by several world leaders to witness this historic event. lt was a new beginning that promised joy, freedom and dignity for the people of South Sudan.
We will forever be grateful to our heroes and heroines for making us realize this great and noble dream. For the rest of us who are still alive, this is a day on which we remind ourselves and recommit to the promises that our martyrs laid their precious lives for and our heroes who are still alive struggle for. This occasion tonight is for all of you to join us celebrate a hard earned freedom.
As we celebrate four years of freedom and dignity, we must confess that as a country we are today faced with enormous challenges that not only threatened our social fabric but also our existence as a nation, a people and a country. The genesis of these challenges can be traced back to our own brothers and fellow countrymen who have always harbored a reckless greed for power and are willing to do everything to see that they grab it. Their plans have been made possible by those who have always wanted us to fail either because we refused to dance to their tunes or just to prove that we can never achieve anything if they are not part of the equation. We are not so naiVe and have to admit that the freedom, even of animals, is not a joyous occasion for everybody. There will always be those who feel the freedom of others meant a loss to them.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman,
A few days prior to July 9th 2015, a single question has been posed to many including myself as to whether there is a cause for any celebration given the many challenges that the country is going through. That question was answered by none other than the people of South Sudan themselves who turn up in their thousands in the capital Juba, in all the other states and in different capitals of the world to celebrate the occasion. The smiles on their faces and the laughter in their voices was not a performance stage for an audience but a genuine expression of their true feelings of happiness. The people of South Sudan gave their frank and honest answer by way of those celebrations.
May I take some of your precious time by illustrating this statement further by a very simple story that I learned as a kid more than three decades ago in Sudan. I am sure that some of my fellow country men and women may be familiar with this little story:
It is a story about Mohamed who has a beautiful little bird that he kept in a small cage. A pet. Mohamed loved his bird and made sure that every day he fed it and offered it water to drink. Mohamed would then pass most of his day listening to the little bird sing in its beautiful little sweet voice and watch it darting from one corner of the little cage to the other. Then one morning, when Mohamed came to perform his daily routine of feeding the bird, he was confronted with the sight of an open empty cage. Alarmed, he started looking for it everywhere in the vicinity, then after a few minutes, he heard the familiar sweet sounds of the beautiful songs coming from the bird perched on one of the branches of a tree in the compound. First, Mohamed was happy that he found his bird but then it quickly dawned on him that the bird had actually escaped and is now free. Speaking to the bird, he begged it to return to the cage where there is enough food and drink for it to enjoy. The little bird answered that its freedom can never be bought with food or drinks and it flew further away into much thicker and denser forest. As days passed, the little bird realized that freedom comes with responsibility: The responsibility of looking for its food and water but also the responsibility of staying alive and avoiding all predators. lt is a fact of life that the
strong will always prey on the weak and vulnerable. In spite of all the dangers, the bird was much happier than it was with all the food and water that it was provided with in that little cage of confinement.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman:
The story of the little bird is the story of South Sudan. As an independent country, we now encounter the responsibilities that come with freedom. And because our freedom was achieved after a long struggle and with the help of many, it made the challenges more complex, because as a country we almost trusted everybody.
Our problems started when we refused to enter the bigger cage that some of our so called friends opened for us. Like the little bird, we do realize that although bigger than the first, still remains what it is: "a cage".
But the challenges that confronted us also gave us the opportunity to discover our true and genuine friends. As a country, we took a heavy fall but as one of the greatest revolutionary of our time and the world lcon Nelson Mandela eloquently put it, and I quote: The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. End of quote.
As a country, we acknowledge that we have fallen in the first few steps that we have taken as a free nation. Today, as we try to rise back on our feet, we are confronted by different scenarios, ranging from that of genuine friends who are willing to help us rise, those who just laugh and walk by and those who would want to push us back to the ground.
We remain grateful to all the countries that are helping us resolve this conflict including the IGAD countries. We are optimistic that with the commitment our leadership has shown to resolve this conflict through negotiations, peace will be achieved soon and South Sudan will redirect its energy to development.
ln a special way may I seize this opportunity to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to the People and Government of South Africa and especially to the ANC for always standing with us to see that this conflict is resolved. The South African government and people have always stood by us during our most difficult times even prior to our independence. They have helped in building the capacity of more than 1500 South Sudanese including the person who is standing right here in front of you struggling to read to you a speech.
The recent initiative that is led by the CCM in Tanzania and the ANC, in South Africa has indeed born fruit in seeing that the current crisis which originated from the split in the party is resolved. Through the relentless and tireless efforts of His Excellency Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the South African special envoy to South Sudan we have now witnessed the return of one of the splinter groups of the SPLM, known as the former detainees back to the country.
Its leader has already been reinstated to his position as the Secretary General of the Party. Today, members of that group are engaging both the government and rebels to ensure that the next round of peace talks result in the signing of a peace agreement. As a government, we are indeed optimistic that we will reach a peace deal soon. Our President has reassured the nation that he will do everything possible to see that peace is achieved and the suffering of the people is ended. He has already shown in the past his willingness to negotiate directly with the rebels without giving any preconditions something that only a few heads of states can do. He has shown and demonstrated in the past a spirit of forgiveness as was the case in 2006 in when he welcomed back all the progovernment militias who had fought the SPLA all along and absorbed them into the army unconditionally. We believe that he will do the same this time around and peace will be achieved.
As we wait to see the white smoke of peace coming out of the chimneys of the negotiating room in Addis Ababa, our governments continues to encourage local initiatives for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing at the grassroots.
While we believe that peace will be achieved soon, we are also mindful of the fact that in order for this peace to be sustainable and durable, the grassroots must actively be involved. May I take this opportunity to thank all those who are giving support to our civil society organizations including the churches and other religious organizations for their great work.
We also believe that peace can be achieved through development. During the last nineteen months of conflict, only three of the ten states in South Sudan have been affected by the conflict. The other seven states are relatively peaceful. We believe that through investment in development projects, there will be less idle hands that may be tempted to join the workshop of the devil (violence). May I therefore take this opportunity to call on some of the companies that are represented in this celebration today to come and invest in South Sudan. As some of you probably know, MTN, South African Breweries, Stanbic and others are already in South Sudan. There are many investment opportunities in South Sudan in the fields of mining, agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, real estate development, fisheries, livestock, to mention but only a few. As someone once told me "it is only in South Sudan that I saw fish dying of old age".lnvestors from as far as the far East are already present in South Sudan and I think that South Africans can do better given their expertise, knowledge of the local culture and a similar climate.
ln conclusion, Distinguished Guest, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I wish you a night of joy and celebrations as you join your friends from South Sudan in this happy moment in their life as a country as they hope and pray for peace knowing well as summed by the words of President Salva Kiir Mayardit himself and I quote "The Night may be too long but the day shall certainly come".
God Bless you all and God Bless South Sudan. Thank you!
Embassy of South Sudan in Pretoria