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“We have almost nothing to celebrate”

Estella Turukoyo
Four years ago, Elizabeth Bol, joined thousands of people who cheered South Sudan's long-awaited independence by flocking to the Mausoleum of John Garang, a national hero.
9.07.2015  |  Juba
South Sudanese celebrating independence in 2011.
South Sudanese celebrating independence in 2011.

But four years on, her high hopes have fallen flat. Elizabeth, a mother of five, is left frustrated with her political leaders for letting South Sudan decline into a nation riven by violence and food shortages.

While the government met on 9 July to celebrate independence, Elizabeth was not happy. We have almost nothing to celebrate,” she said. The tens of thousands of pounds that have been spent to prepare for this day could have been used to provide the basic necessities for the desperate women and children in the refugee camps.”

And refugee camps are expanding fast. South Sudan seceded from the Khartoum government in 2011, after South Sudanese people voted overwhelmingly in favour of separation in a referendum. But in 2013 the country slipped into full-scale war, sparked by a conflict within the ruling political party, the SPLM.

More than a year later, after fighting started among soldiers in the capital,  more than ten thousands people have been killed and at least two million people, around two out of every ten citizens, have fled their homes. Any tentative progress with infrastructure development in one of the world's poorest countries has been reversed.

But while many citizens, like Elizabeth, see little cause to celebrate, his Grace Paulino Lokudu, Arch Bishop of Roman Catholic Church of South Sudan/Sudan, encouraged citizens to join the festivities.

He told South Sudanese people not to get entangled in the enmity of politicians who are fighting for power, adding that President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, former Vice President Riek Machar should halt the conflict immediately. The celebration is important for us as a country. I urge everyone to be happy because we are celebrating this land that God has given us,” he said.

The Committee on International Justice and Peace underscored that peace was still possible, despite the deep-seated mistrust which has taken hold. Chairman, Reverend Oscar Cantu said the leaders should ease their people's suffering, and not work for their own selfish interests. The two leaders (meaning Kiir and Machar) are great men. But they should be the servants of all, especially of those who are poor,” Oscar said.

The reverend said the celebration should have been organized to give hope to those who have no voice, people like Elizabeth.

And although Elizabeth sees no good reason to join the government in celebrating the fourth anniversary, she says she still retains hope that a ‘true Independence Day’ will come in the future, and then she will return to the streets of the capital and head to the John Garang Mausoleum.