President Salva Kiir meets with Longtime American Friends of South Sudan in Juba

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[Washingtong D.C., TCT] Two American women, longtime friends of South Sudan, visited Juba during September 2016. Mrs. Deborah Martin of Nashville Tennessee and Mrs. Faith McDonnell of Washington, DC came to see old friends, but also to see for themselves the conditions in Juba.

Both Mrs. Martin and Mrs. McDonnell have been deeply concerned over the wellbeing of South Sudan the nation and the South Sudanese people. With many years of experience of South Sudan between them Mrs. Martin said,

“Faith and I have long understood the outside forces that seek South Sudan’s failure and destruction as a nation.”

While understanding that there have been mistakes and errors following South Sudan’s independence, Mrs. McDonnell said,

“Because we have known President Salva Kiir and other leaders for a long time, Deborah and I believe that the South Sudan government is working to make South Sudan a peaceful, just, and prosperous nation for all South Sudanese.”

During their visit to Juba, Mrs. Martin and Mrs. McDonnell had the opportunity to meet personally with President Kiir for three hours. They wanted to hear the President’s perspective on the claims being spread widely by the media, some political leaders, and international entrepreneurs of wrongdoing and corruption.

President Kiir was pleased to meet with his old friends. Speaking of the three hour meeting later, Mrs. Martin said that

“President Kiir spoke of his efforts to stabilize the country and to accommodate the international community’s insistence that Riek Machar be included back into the government yet again.”

She said the President assured them of the South Sudan government’s continued efforts to comply, by accepting the SPLM-IO’s replacement of Machar with Taban Deng Gai as First Vice President.

“Then President Kiir was criticized for doing the very thing that he had been asked to do,” added Mrs. Donnell.

The recent report by The Sentry accusing President Kiir of gross corruption and of profiting from the continued violence in the nation was another issue that the women discussed with President Kiir.

“Not only did President Kiir and others give us information that has been ignored by the international media, the United Nations, and others, but he gave us permission to travel to Lurit, to see the Government Presidential house, SPLA training center, and farm that were mentioned in The Sentry,” said Mrs. McDonnell.

The house and training center both remain unfinished.

The bricks to build the house and surrounding buildings were being created right there on the property.

“It seems like a good idea for the president of a country to have a retreat. Anybody hear of Camp David? Since the President of South Sudan can’t go on holidays to Martha’s Vineyard or Palm Springs and charge his nation’s taxpayers millions of dollars to pay for it, it would seem reasonable that he could have a place to retire to in Lurit,” Mrs. McDonnell observed.

On the President’s farm land down the road from the house she was shown some of the crops, including ground nuts and corn. “President Kiir’s farm is providing free food for the villagers,” Mrs. McDonnell discovered. “What a blessing!,” she exclaimed.

The also unfinished training center is meant to be a place for the military to increase the professionalism and integrity of young South Sudanese soldiers. The land on which the training center was being built was given to President Kiir by the Chief of the Bari people in the area in a gesture that demonstrates the desire of most South Sudanese to be one people, one nation. The goats of the local Bari community roam freely around the unfinished training center buildings. 

On their last day in Juba, Mrs. Martin and Mrs. McDonnell were the guests of honor at a festive luncheon attended by all the government leadership of South Sudan. Red, white, and blue bunting was intertwined with South Sudan’s colors and covered with twinkling lights to symbolize the love and friendship between South Sudan and the United States of America.

“What an incredible experience to shake hands with dozens of State ministers and other leaders and be with them, sharing the vision ahead for their country,” Mrs. Martin exclaimed.

“And how illuminating to learn of the immense diversity of ethnic identity in South Sudan’s leadership,” Mrs. McDonnell added. This diversity demonstrated yet again the desire of most of South Sudan to be One People and One Nation.

Background

Deborah Martin is a Sudanese/South Sudanese languages expert with 35 years of experience. She and her late husband, Henry, provided both technical support and linguistic expertise to Sudanese church and civil society leaders and members while living in both Sudan and South Sudan, and as a result of their experiences, became tireless advocates for South Sudan and Sudan’s marginalized people, as well. During this visit to Juba Mrs. Martin participated in a linguistics conference, renewing her acquaintance with South Sudanese linguists that she has been working with for many years. They are working on a languages project that is so important that it is actually a provision of 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

 

Faith McDonnell directs the Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, DC. She has been an advocate for Southern Sudanese Christians and for all those that resisted the imposition of Islamization and Arabization by the Khartoum regime for 23 years. As one of the founders and leaders of the Sudan Campaign in Washington, DC she fought against jihad slavery and genocide, led demonstrations at the Sudanese Embassy, and helped push for such U.S. policies as the appointment of the first Sudan Special Envoy (Senator John Danforth), the distribution of food to areas marked by the Khartoum regime for starvation, and the 2002 Sudan Peace Act.

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