South Sudan is borrowing a leaf from Nigeria

Words: Chiaka Orjiako, Photograph: Emmanuel Adams

Africa’s youngest nation, South Sudan, is a country so blessed in mineral, human, and natural resources yet so ravaged by the debris of civil war. Recently, she sent her representatives to show solidarity at the Inauguration ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari. Among the representatives of President Salva Kiir were the Vice-president, Lt. General Wani Igga and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Benjamin. Montage Africa had an exclusive interview with Igga, who is also the Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

MA: How would you describe the conditions in your country as regards to the formation of government and ongoing negotiations by the different political actors on how to manage the affairs of Africa’s youngest nation?

Igga: South Sudan is between peace and conflict at the moment. Despite the fact, we are on a journey to economic recovery. The government is doing its level best to ensure peace. The conditions that the rebel leaders are giving are not necessary; they are uncalled- for. For instance, they want two leaders, they want ‘compensation of their loans’ and they want a division of wealth in the country. In addition, they believe President Salva should be titled as a ‘nominal president’ and not an executive, and that executive powers should be given to the former Vice-president turned rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar. Based on the above conditions they are giving, we have not been able to move forward on the governance front.

On the SPLM party front, several peace talks were held in Arusha and Addis Ababa, an agreement was signed and expertise sought from the (African National Congress) ANC of South Africa and the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania to guide the SPLM factions into reaching a consensus. We are expecting the ex-detainees to come to Juba this June for discussions as well. We believe the best approach to this situation is to use carrots rather than sticks to persuade peace.

MA: As he takes over office, there should be something that Nigeria’s newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari can learn from South Sudan on how to tackle rebel groups such as Boko Haram. What are your advice?

Igga: President Muhammadu Buhari being a military man does not need too much advice. He definitely has a Plan B and a Plan C for everything like most military men. We are very sure he will tackle Boko Haram very well. Rather, we need Nigeria’s help as it is an economic and political giant in Africa. We invite Nigeria to help tackle the issue of rebel groups in our country. We also need President Buhari to help persuade Nigerian investors to see South Sudan as a fertile ground for investment. Despite the challenges in the country, 90 per cent of the country is still very peaceful. Nigeria has a big hand in South Sudan’s independence. During the comprehensive peace agreements, Nigeria was one of the biggest mediators. Several peace talks were held right here in Abuja. We need to partner with Nigeria, learn how they became economic giants and borrow a leaf from their democratic practice. We also congratulate former President Goodluck Jonathan for gracefully conceding defeat and urge other African nations to replicate such display of democracy.

MA: You asked that Nigeria partner with and invest in South Sudan. Now, what are the incentives and what sectors of your economy would you say are good for investors willing to invest?

Igga: South Sudan is a country that is virgin in all aspects. It lies on 648,000sq kilometers, much of which is arable and fertile land. So sectors an investor may be interested in include mechanized agriculture, mineral resource excavation, mining, and production. That’s for agriculture. South Sudan is also blessed with diamond, gold, tin, iron, copper, oil, and more, thus these are areas of investment to look at. The education sector is another to consider. Being that war ravaged our country and shattered the education sector, should investors consider investing, areas like primary, secondary and tertiary education could be a good place for them to invest.