[Nairobi, Kenya, TCT] The announcement that the US government will set up a fellowship to support former lost boys and girls who want to return home is welcome.
The bill that was introduced last week in the House Foreign Affairs Committee calls for transporting up to 500 skilled workers to South Sudan, but the number could be revised upward if the need arises.
The Lost Boys and Girls RISE Act (2016) will enable fellows to use their expertise to educate and train the next generation of workers in South Sudan, by creating a three-year pilot fellowship programme for those who want to come back home from the US.
The move is welcome because these men and women who left this country several years back have skills and experiences which will be useful when they come back to the country. They will add to the numbers of professionals that are currently based in the country.
South Sudan needs each and every one of its sons and daughters who are ready to come back and help in rebuilding the country and making it the country that the liberation fighters envisaged.
Early this week, the US government announced nearly $133 million in humanitarian assistance for South Sudanese refugees, who now number over one million, as well as for internally displaced persons (IDPs). This funding will also assist refugees who have fled to South Sudan, and others affected by the ongoing conflict.
This and other kinds of gestures by the international community are laudable.
However, it is only home-grown efforts that will help South Sudan to become the nation that its people will be proud of, a nation where each and every person is valued, and where tribe or religion are not considered as the only means of advancement. It is only when South Sudanese get an opportunity to work in their country and serve their people that they will be proud of their country.
We laud decision by US Congress
This is why we laud the decision by the US Congress to assist those with an intention to return and help develop their homeland.
Yet, in spite of the enthusiasm that many of the returnees may have, their ability to come and settle at home and be useful members of the society will depend on the kind of environment that they will find here.
If they come back home and find that the environment is still polluted with ethnic animosity and corruption, they may be forced to pack and go back where they came from. This is not a far-fetched thought. It has happened previously.
There are many cases of young men and women who were very eager to help rebuild the country but their efforts went to waste because when they came back, violence erupted and they were forced to flee again. They did not get the kind of environment that would have allowed them to support the development efforts of the government and other non-governmental organizations.
Some of them simply went back to the Diaspora where they had come from.
The government on its parts needs to support these efforts by the US Congress because these men and women are coming back with skills and experiences that the country desperately needs.
Currently, the government is stretched trying to train manpower for the civil service and for other sectors in the society. Human resources are some of the most essential resources that a country can have. The government should treasure these men and women who want to come back with usable skills.
Society, too, should be ready to embrace and accept them in their midst. Those who are in the system should not feel threatened by these men and women who probably have advanced skills than most of them. They should embrace them and allow them to share their skills and knowledge with them. That is the only way skills and knowledge transfer can happen.
In the absence of this, then this good gesture by the US Congress will only be an exercise in futility and will be just a white elephant project, that ends up gobbling much needed resources, but which does not have the desired outcome.