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I am writing to you as a friend, a brother and a concerned citizen of our country.
I write to you far away from our homeland. Nevertheless, I have you and my country in mind, and always will. I will return to walk with you together to build up our country as soon as I can.
Reflecting on our struggle for liberation
For more than two decades, our national liberators fought to liberate us from all forms of injustice. They spoke in one voice and made it clear that South Sudanese have rights that no one could ever take away from them. In other words, we could not tolerate repressions, indignities, discrimination and unfair representations from the regime in the North. We knew we could do better things for ourselves and achieve greater things on our own. It took concerted struggle loaded with sacrifices and sufferings. In fact, South Sudanese went through horrible experiences during the war.
At the point when the liberation struggle dangles on the brink of hopelessness, our nation's heroes and heroines drew their strength and hope from the fact that they would one day free their people. Four years ago, this became a reality. South Sudan obtained its independence from the Sudan. It was the beginning of a new journey to implement the big dreams and meet expectation of the people. That was the moment to establish roadmap to give the citizens rights and opportunities they had been denied for decades. It was the time for the second phase of struggle that did not require guns. A fight against illiteracy and poverty, a fight against diseases and poor infrastructure. A time to put South Sudan on its rightful global position of self-reliance and economic stability. The entire world recognized us with great honor and expectations. We started well in 2011 as one people, determined like in the first day when the struggle was first started in Torit in 1955 to mark the beginning of liberationagenda.
What has happened to our big picture?
Looking at where we are today as a nation, we have a serious question to ask ourselves: what happened to the big picture? The big dreams we had in our hearts disappeared when we turned guns on each other two years ago. We felt back and went steps behind losing days we could have step ahead for development. It could be easy to point fingers but at this critical moment in our nation's history, it does not matter who you may have in mind to blame for the conflict. What matters is that you, the Youth of South Sudan, have the power to unite. What matters is that the hope and the future of our country lies in the choices we make today. In addition, the choice I strongly believe we should make is to advocate for love and peaceful coexistence among all fellow nationals in our own personal ways. It is the simplest way to begin but has huge impact in creating path towards building a peaceful nation.
Your role and my role
I share in the dreams and in the aspirations; you have for yourselves and for our country. I also share in the same belief that every young person in South Sudan can build a bright future and do great things for the country. This is why I decided to write to you, especially you the young people. Your roles and your efforts count. And by saying young people, I am not referring to the date on your birth certificates. I am talking about your approach to life, your feeling in heart and mind that guide you in making right decisions in a challenging and difficult circumstance. Your willingness to follow your passion earnestly. I am talking about commitment to do what is meaningful and what helps others, what helps the country and what makes a difference in this world.
Unite and shun tribalism
We need to unite and shun tribalism. If we are to build the prosperous nation we have always hoped for, this must happen today. We must see each the same and equal in all lifestyles. The fact that one is a South Sudan national is enough to be treated fairly with due care and consideration, and to be entitled to all services and duties.
Thirty years back, tribalism did not exist in South Sudan. Historically and culturally, this is true. A guest from a different tribe or ethnicity would always be welcomed and treated with utmost care and respect. I experienced this first hand while growing up as young boy in my community and from my interactions with fellow compatriots all across the country. Take a moment and examine your life in retrospect. You will notice a point in your life when you gladly out of love, care and generosity extended a helping hand even when you knew you would be virtually left with nothing. This is the kind of spirit that defines us. South Sudanese have always loved one another from the beginning and nothing should have ever change that. Do not accept to live lives that do not reflect to your identity. Tribalism and hatred have never been part of our culture and must never be. Instead, they are results of bad politics. However, you know that you have a choice to reject bad politics, to reject whatever causes disharmony or divides us along ethnic lines and accept values and ideals that build on peace and unity.
I respect and acknowledge the sacrifices our leaders made for us. But as citizens we have responsibilities- responsibilities for our own personal lives, for our families, communities and country. That is why I strongly feel we have to be bold and share views, concerns and ideas with our leaders, especially when they miss a step. Yes, it is obvious, human being do go wrong most times. But it is more human to be receptive to views and ideas of the citizens especially if these help in getting things done in a right way. This is what I believe good leadership encompasses. Good politics and commanding a large majority in national assembly are not really, what work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation. It works because no one is right all the time. We also do know that even a broken clock is right twice a day! With a common purpose of getting things done right for their citizens, our leaders could choose to cooperate and agree to disagree without resorting to the way of gun.
Today I am hopeful of a bright future ahead of us because our leaders have put their differences aside and decided to restore peace in our nation. They cannot achieve this without you. Let us give them our full support.
Refrain from hate speeches
As of now, there are children who do not have roofs over their heads and are on the verge of starvation because they have been displaced by conflict. You can give these children hope of returning to their homes to live normal lives by refraining from posting and circulating social media messages that tend to spread hate speeches and drive us further apart. Right now wherever you may be, a brilliant student has dropped out of school because they cannot afford hard currency to fund their education in a conflict-crippled economy. Their future is at a crossroad. But in a stable and peaceful South Sudan, they can have a second chance to take a decent life and make the best out of their abilities. Only you can give them this hope. So let us rise and embrace the spirit of togetherness, and believing that when a person is a South Sudanese, that alone is enough to treat him or her as family.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Machok Atak, student. Dec. 15, 2015. This is edited version of the letter circulated by the author. The author is responsible for the content.
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