Let's Speak Out

Dialogue or no dialogue

The steering committee of the National Dialogue started deliberations on Monday the 29th of last month. Being a member of the steering committee of this dialogue, I have noticed that a lot needs to be done to build trust and confidence in this process and the government. Yesterday I was on Radio Bakhita on a talk show to talk about the role of the media in this process. I was bombarded with so many questions that I was unable to answer them adequately.

I realized that the matter was no longer the issue of dialogue but it had a lot to do with trust and confidence. One caller said the dialogue was called to reconcile President Salva Kiir and General Paul Malong, the former Chief of Staff of the SPLA. Another one was sure that those who would come from outside would be immediately arrested when they enter Juba. According to another caller, I Alfred Taban was only appointed in the committee as a décor and I would be ineffective. Another caller asked why former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar is being excluded from the talks, adding that the problems in this country stem from differences between Kiir and Dr. Machar and if the problems of this country are to be resolved the two men should meet preferably outside this country to iron out their differences and bring peace. Another one said the ordinary citizen of South Sudan is hungry and sick and asked how could these kind of people be expected to participate in this dialogue on an empty stomach. It is clear from these concerns that some people have little or no trust in the government of Salva Kiir. This is no surprise considering the difficulties many people in this country endured over the years.

The people of South Sudan are very good at bottling up their anger and emotions. They hide their anger for a long time but when that anger is vented out the result is a catastrophe. This is what this dialogue is all about. It is meant to give us a chance to vent our anger, it is meant to release our frustrations and speak out our minds. Although the members of the steering committee are there to facilitate the dialogue, they are already behaving as if they are actually the participants themselves. They are already providing what they believe to be the root causes of the crisis. You cannot blame them too. They are facilitators but they too are affected by what is happening. The solution to many of the problems mentioned above can and should be addressed by the government. Issues such as brutality and abuses of human rights of the people including rape of women by government forces, the run-away prices in the market which are tormenting the citizens and the behavior of some of the governors are matters that can be addressed by the government.   Kiir’s government has released some political prisoners including two or three Journalists. This has restored the trust some people had lost in the government. It needs to do much more. The salaries of workers need to be paid in time; prices in the markets need to be checked by price control measures or availability of dollars to importers and providing farm implements and inputs to farmers. These are matters that will restore the confidence of the people in their government. It is that restoration of trust and confidence that will lead to peace.

Let us speak out – 31/5

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