Last year was the big day, celebrations in every corner of this brand new nation: “Justice, Liberty, Prosperity”. Today (July 9th) is the one year anniversary of South Sudan, that marks the first year of the nation being owned and run by South Sudanese after the decades of fighting. The sense of pride and ownership is tangible: Are these concepts defining this new nation?
Currently, South Sudan is implementing severe austerity measures to cope with the 98% decline in revenue due to the closed oil pipeline. This has many implications that are not looking promising or hopeful for South Sudan at this particular period in time. However, national pride does not seem to have suffered one bit! Celebrations bring this aspect forth most, which does not take away the daily sense of pride and ownership in this nation.
Ownership can be interpreted in many ways, and just like anywhere in the world, a nation is made up of many different kinds of persons. Ownership is needed for most social processes to be a success; HealthNet TPO sees it as a significant influencing factor in (re-)establishing health care systems in post-conflict areas. There is therefore much hope for a functioning health care system in South Sudan. Unfortunately, a sense of ownership in South Sudan seems to easily turn into a sense of entitlement: high demands made with a disproportionate to low input of actual work done.
A sense of entitlement is a concept, and observation, made by both South Sudanese and foreigners living and working in South Sudan; it is heavily discussed, controversial and sensitive and generally considered as one of the obstacles for development. Is it how people were ‘conditioned’ during a war with only ‘hand-outs’? Is it ‘laziness’ and ‘arrogance’? Or is it finally the ‘reward for fighting the war’? Perhaps cheeky people pushing their luck? Or could it be a misguided sense of standing up for their rights, without being exposed to general standards and professional practices?
Pride, ownership and entitlement, what is clear is the South Sudanese continue to bask in the glory of independence and truly enjoy a good celebration: plans have started weeks in advance for the big day. The celebrations look optimistic and definitely ‘owned’: parades, speeches, dances, roads finished, airports completed for re-opening and ‘city power’ is said to become more stable after July 9th. It almost seems as though they want the country fully developed before coming Monday! Will the celebrations be as genuine, big and wide spread as the independence? Perhaps even bigger as a way to show and share with every South Sudanese citizen that they are one country that will stick together and fight for its survival.
Whatever shape and size the celebrations will come in, a much deserved: Happy very first Independence Day, Republic of South Sudan!
Aletta Jansen – Organisational Development Officer at HealthNet TPO.
Background: Social geography and psychology (BA), international development studies (MSc). Currently Aletta is stationed in Wau, South Sudan, to support the HealthNet TPO field office. She also functions as the regional security focal person for three states (Western Bahr El Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap) where some 40 staff members are based and 6 bases are located.