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South Sudan should avert famine first and hold on building Ramciel

By Deng Kiir Akok

Famine by is an extreme and a general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area. On February 20, 2017, both the government and the United Nations declared the present of famine in two counties of Mayendit and Leer in the former Unity State, blaming conflict and collapsing economy in the country.

Building Ramciel on the other hand, serves the vision of the late leader and founder of Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), Dr. John Garang de Mabior who proposed it to be a new capital of South Sudan when he visited the place now located in a newly created Eastern Lakes State in 2003. His promise was later left unfulfilled when the leader died in a Ugandan presidential Mi-172 helicopter crashed in 2005. To revive the building of a new capital, the Council of ministers sat on September 2, 2011 and resolved to relocate the city from Juba to Ramciel. Thirteen months later, a young nation slid into civil war, which shut down everything that was in progress.

Followed by the current economic crisis, the building of Ramciel was not and would has not been in the government plans or in the news till recently when the King of Morocco, His Majesty Mohammed VI visited South Sudan and brought back a 13 year old promised. The king enabled the promised saw the news once again. And this move, if implemented, would serve the SPLM vision of taking towns to people rather than people to the towns.

Some of the visions were perhaps seen coming back through the 2015 distribution of tractors to newly formed 28 states. This was much celebrated and welcome by the citizens. It was such a good decision taken by the president of the republic of South Sudan, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, and was perceived as another score for SPLM vision that intends to transform traditional agriculture to the modern one. The South Sudanese public seemed hopeful after tractors' distribution to all states was announced on a state-owned South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC).

Unexpectedly, those tractors were privately owned and used by some ruthless commissioners as the like of Mr. Matem Yak Deng Akon of Awan Chan, an October 2015 formed 28 states' born county. In this county, the now sacked and its first commissioner since created, privately used the two tractors that were given to his county from Gogrial State. He didn't care as he always said to the citizens of Awan Chan county. With his little mind, he abused the county's properties by employing them in his farm and not in the county farm nor were they hired to the people of Awan Chan. Such behaviours in public office were unacceptable and shocking. As a result, this intolerance mismanagement of public assets by such kind of officials is a big problem facing some counties in South Sudan today.

Those distributed tractors didn't serve what they were meant for. And if I am not correct here, then why does a 50kg sack of durra is currently sold at SSP6, 000? Our citizens have really suffered a lot. No single word can describe their suffering.
The rest of the citizens from other parts of South Sudan apart from the recent former Unity State in which  some areas were declared with the food crisis, already have knowledge of present of famine in their states but waiting for official declaration by those responsible for declaring famine.

As it was declared in some parts of the greater Upper Nile's former Unity State in late February this year, it will soon cover the remaining states of the region, and then will encroach on Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal during this coming rainy season. The former four states of Lakes, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap will be inaccessible because of bad roads. Thus, those citizens would have their day in a monster's mouth, the famine - Makurup, a Dinka word for famine meaning mass deaths by starvation.

In fact the famine does exist in the country right now, but those famine announcers are buying time to declare its present in the whole nation. But for those ones in Juba with chicken pizza as their usual meals would be surprised and try their best to criticize such an in-depth analysis by saying that this situation would never happen. In my view, if things don't change for better and continue as it is now, then it is not long before the whole country is declared in hunger.

It becomes difficult nowadays for an ordinary South Sudanese to provide daily meals for one's family in this current economic crisis, where a miniature bread is sold at SSP10. The cost amount of bread in Juba and in the states depends on black market dollar price. So, it is not fixed and could shoot up anytime. Thus, our citizens have no other choice than to feed on such life frustrating breads. One could eat as many as up to five of them and would still feel not satisfied. Anyone that is currently living in South Sudan can prove me right. The worst part of these breads is when one has a family of fifteen members, the minimum family size for South Sudanese. How much money would one need to feed such a number of people? It's a mind cracking issue.

Last year, I wrote an article titled " Gone is 2015 - 2016: What would year 2017 portends for the people of South Sudan? "  The article was to mark the end of difficult years of 2015 and 2016 in which South Sudanese people had gone through. Notwithstanding the fact that it was too early for me to celebrate the end of hard times. But not aware that 2017 would be another 2015-2016. Our citizens still have a long way to go. Moreover, there are no signs that show things will get better as the country's economy is collapsing.

As I write this piece, people in the greater Bahr el Ghazal are leaving for Sudan in big numbers, especially those of former Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap. The same thing is happening in the Upper Nile region. The ways that lead to Sudan and Ethiopia have to see a South Sudanese every hour. Also, not better in the greater Equatoria - people are going to Uganda, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo on a daily basis.

In conclusion, for South Sudan to avert famine is an urgent issue the citizens needed now rather than to build a new city. Building Ramciel will be the next. It's not a bad idea to build them a new capital, but it has coincided with wrong times - when the famine is knocking at our doors and the conflict in the country.

South Sudan should first of all, thinks of feeding its starving citizens and then come back later for this aging promised. If Ramciel is not built this year, no one will die.  But there would be dead ones for victims of recent declared famine in the former Unity State and other states that have not yet declared with famine.

Not to mention the countless sleepless nights, which those with empty stomachs will endure. But if building Ramciel is stopped for some time or completely, then those who prefer to choose building Ramciel over averting famine will not spend even a minute without falling into their deep sleeps. They will do it so because they don't feel its pain compared to the hunger that eat up people in their wake. No doubts that by next year, there would be grave for victims of famine. Hence, it will be a wise decision to avert famine. Famine or Makurup is a killer from hell.

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