Unity State (Bentiu) is the underwriter for the South Sudan nation in term of wealth and manpower, the oil-rich Bentiu accounts for 90 percent of South Sudan’s daily oil production of 490,000 barrels and the sons and daughters of Bentiu are well known for their courageous and determination, they will always willfully takes risks if they observed injustice and unfair play. Bentiu also shares a tense and militarized border with North Sudan, which makes it strategically important to our security and our economy; it’s therefore in our interest as a nation to see Unity State do well economically and in a stable condition.
During Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) convention, Taban Deng Gai convinced the SPLM party that he is the best man to run Bentiu, as consequence he was appointed as governor following the 2008 SPLM convention. During national elections in April last year, Unity State SPLM party leadership, including prominent officials, supported independent candidate Angeline Teny for the governorship, despite this, the SPLM headquarters (president Kirr) anointed Governor Taban Deng as the official candidate, creating suspicion that SPLM party is loyal to Governor Taban than to the citizens.
Since last year defunct election Unity State continued to be insecure, with frequent incident of banditry and armed violence, mostly in Koch County, Mayom County, and in and round Bentiu. Violations committed by the state security forces during and after the 2010 elections are well documented, and most currently the SPLA deliberately killed 200 innocent civilians and more than 7800 homes were burned in Mayom County. These kinds of actions do not help build SPLA sentiment toward civilians’ population.
Bentiu remains extremely insecure and the blame lies squarely on President Kirr and Taban Deng Gai, the SPLM anointed Taban Deng Gai as the only trusted person in the state, while Taban failed the SPLM party at all levels. Common sense suggests that the recurrent violence in several counties in Unity is an indication that most of civilian’s grievances that initially sparked opposition to Governor Taban re-election have not been addressed by the leadership in both Juba and Bentiu.
It is apparent that the leaders at the Unity State are mired in the pursuit of selfish and personal goals at the expense of broader national interests, we believed that Governor Taban Deng Gai have not tried to build unified state, rather he uses official power and influence primarily in the pursuit of private (personal, close family, cohorts) goals, he see community objectives as secondary. In the last six years he creates more social crisis than he solved. For example, Governor Taban removed or rotated 5 commissioners from Mayom County, some of them served for only a year or less. We believed that these changes are motived by the governor Taban intentions to divide mayon county citizens in effort to advances his personal interest –to build cohorts.
In term of development Unity State remains stagnant at best.The availability of abundant resources to tap and steal is a good factor that breeds Governor Taban’s leadership; we concluded that Taban Deng Gai tried to bribe his way to remain in power forever.
The scorecard for Governor Taban has been dismal when one considers the material and human resources that have been at his disposal since 2005 and what has been achieved. The citizens of the Unity State are still lighting candles, putting on their own generators and still drinking from rivers. And important of all, there is insecurity, in spite of a professionally trained army and police force. So where is the progress in term of security and development? Unity State is under-performing in all major area i.e.; security, development, governance, and education. The conditions of the state are distresses, especially in the villages and small towns; it is difficult to explain where the millions of pounds the Governments receive every month goes.
A permanent solution to the Unity State crises problems must be found. The under development of the Unity State within the South Sudan should engage the attention of Juba. Unity State crises situation will not yield to amnesty alone but a developmental strategy that must be inclusive and effective. South Sudan gets 95 percent of its earnings from crude oil from the Unity state, yet, the place has no outstanding secondary schools, hospitals, college or university, governor Taban had six years to delivery basic services to the population, but lack of his leadership and corruption has failed the state.
The trouble with Unity State is simply and a straight failure of leadership, both at the Juba and Bentiu. There is nothing wrong with the Unity State citizen’s character, there is nothing wrong with the naath land or climate or the water they drink, but nonresponsive leadership in Juba and Bentiu.
The SPLM leadership, spearheaded by president Kirr, has been blinded toward Taban Deng Gai, and accepted Taban Deng Gai who has betrayed the people’s trust by attempting to hide behind his party to remain in power forever. The question at hand is whether the SPLM party will stand with Taban Deng Gai, or with mass of the Unity state citizens?
No matter how rich a nation is without the right leaders it is unlikely to progress. Unity State has not made much progress because the state has been according undue defiance in it leadership. Over the last six years Taban have revealed that he does not care about the welfare of the people he govern, we asked the SPLM party to make the right choice and stand with the people of Bentiu.
For the whole South Sudan to progress, people should be conscious of the character they support. We should all work harder to set the path for the South Sudan by refusing to be bribed and manipulated.
South Sudan needs a government that is grounded on democratic principles and respects the rights of the citizens. The SPLM party has golden opportunity to make necessary amendments to lay a good foundation for equity, justice and true democracy in South Sudan. This will reduce the unending social crises in the society.
Unity State needs effective leaders, whose intelligence, skill, and ability to get things done are equal to the task. The trouble with Unity State is simply and squarely a failure of leadership and the SPLM party have chance to support the right leader one more time.
Signed by Bul Community Association leadership in Canada, United States of America, and Australia
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