Peace and reconciliation starts with each of us

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I believe in South Sudan and all that makes it so. Do you know why? Let me explain it to you and maybe you will nod and say yes, she is right.

I believe in South Sudan and all that makes it so. Do you know why? Let me explain it to you and maybe you will nod and say yes, she is right.


When the mutiny started in Torit, a culmination of previous activism by university students and freedom fighters, it took but minutes before South Sudanese, in hundreds and thousands joined the fight. The solidarity, the determination to be free simply bound us together without a doubt and before we knew it, we were at the freedom square, celebrating our independence. Wow!

What happened after independence? We hit the ground running. You remember how the buildings simply kept shooting up and the empty lands began to fill with people, with life, with laughter, and with joy and hope. Investors found their way into the country - hotel owners, the bankers, the market vendors, the boda boda boys, and I know you have waited for this, yes, rolex came in. It is nice to step out of your home and get that chapati and egg rolled up…yum!

But we did not stop there - oh no, we did not. We started looking internally for ways to improve our lives, our education, and our society. We looked for ways to strengthen our government both at national and state levels. We were thirsty for knowledge, thirsty for experience, and thirsty to be among the other countries on the world map. Above all, we were thirsty to be known. We were eager for the world to know where South Sudan is on the world map.

Am I blowing my trumpet too loud? No, I also remember the other side. I remember South Sudanese are only human. We did many right things but we also did our share of wrong things. The fighting among tribes, the corruption, the insecurity brought about by fire arms, and the consequences of ignorance… yes, all these things we had and still have. All these things are working to pull us back, to take us back to where we fought so hard to leave. And it happened…well we did not go so far back but we did take a few steps back. Some say it is self-destruction and others say it was bound to happen.

I say it was a lesson well learnt. I say we have seen and experienced how easy it is for any nation to crumble; and for any people to self-destruct. And oh yes, the truth is cruel but it must be told. A friend told me that a lesson had to be learnt and maybe this was the best way to learn that lesson. I believe it was learnt. And now, we are at it again. We are picking up the pieces, wiping away the tears, ending the wounds and reaching out to each other. Even if fear lurks in us, we still take the broad step every day to lend a hand and where it is very hard to smile; we wave in peace and move on.

Going back to our normal businesses has been the biggest healing so far. The fact that people can wake up, go to their offices or businesses and try to resume normalcy as best as they can, given the situation is indeed one way to heal. We all have to eat, we all have to co-exist and we all want to live.

Maybe someone is saying the picture I am painting here is too pretty? Maybe someone is thinking, wake up woman, wake up and see things the way they are! But I am awake. I see so much every single day. The difference is how I perceive it all. I see pain and suffering, and I ask myself how can this pain be reduced? What can I do? What can we do?

Peace and reconciliation does not have to start with a signed agreement. Neither do we, as South Sudanese, have to wait for our government or the priests to say, let us start the healing process now. No. It started last year in December when a complete stranger came to your house, his having been destroyed and asked for water. You kindly gave him water and asked him to sit and rest a while.

It started in January when you started building your homes again and a friend here, a relative there, and a neighbour somewhere gave you an iron sheet or a few bags of cement. It started yesterday when you saw that beautiful girl and decided you want to marry her even without knowing her name, tribe or nationality for that matter. It starts today, when you wake up with a peaceful mind and want the best for your loved ones because we all want this. That drives you to want as stable and peaceful a nation as possible.

And it will continue tomorrow, when you meet a fellow South Sudanese and yes, there are always so many reasons to disagree, so many reasons to pick a fight, but tomorrow my friend, you will think twice. We will all think twice because history has taught us that there is so much more to life- that liberating our minds from all sorts of negativity and boundaries is the first step towards peace. And extending a hand, a smile, and even a kind consideration, is the first step towards reconciliation.