EAST AFRICAN SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT AND UNCALLED FOR POLEMICAL RESPONSE
We all agree, even with some staunch government supporters in South Sudan, that the September 12, 2014 circular (No. 007 /2014) signed by the minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development, Hon. Ngor Kolong Ngor, was ill-conceived and dangerous for South Sudan. And it’s with that understanding that the government, a few days later, released a press statement (RSS/MOLPS&HRD/J/33) on September 17, 2014 ‘clarifying’ what was written in No. 007/2014.
The September 17, 2014 PR was dubbed a ‘clarification’ but it was rather a ‘correction’ because what was written in the circular was crystal clear and dangerous :(...all aliens…in all positions…) If South Sudan was a ‘normal’ country in peacetime; the minister should have resigned immediately because his action was actually a national security disaster on many levels. It endangered the lives of South Sudanese in other African countries, jeopardized our economic and diplomatic interests and reflected South Sudan as a nation of leaders who act first and think later.
The parliament, useless as it is, should have summoned the minister to explain himself. What do we know? It’s South Sudan anyways!
However, the point of this article isn’t so much about the gross error of judgement by the government of South Sudan because the government has admitted the error and corrected it.
This article addresses the unrealistic, childish and uncalled for response our East African brothers and sisters meted on South Sudanese nationals as a function of that infamous circular.
With no doubt, the government of South Sudan made a gross mistake; however, I don’t understand why Ugandans and Kenyans were gravely harsh to South Sudanese nationals even after the government corrected the error! And why react with such negative air to a blunder, first of its kind in South Sudan? Is that the essence of brotherhood and sisterhood our East African brothers have for us? Couldn’t our East African brothers wait for clarification before reacting? Would one consider that reaction as a sign of maturity?
However, the most disappointing part of this isn't the reaction by the average citizen of the two countries and some mindless musicians like Bebe Cool! It’s the reaction of the leadership! There’s no doubt that South Sudan has benefited from the generosity of our East African brothers and sisters; however, it’s ridiculous to rub it on our faces ALL THE TIME. Even the Kenyan chief diplomat, Kenyan foreign secretary, Amina Mohammed, reminded us of the help Kenya has given South Sudan.
Such generosities should be uttered in a way for others to just imply them. But for a seasoned diplomat to remind South Sudanese of the help Kenya has extended to South Sudan in the media in a condescending tone leaves a lot to be desired. It made me question whether Ms. Mohammed has any genuine regard for South Sudanese!
For those of us who did our High School education in Kenya, we know how ‘brotherly and sisterly’ Kenyans can be. And those who’ve been to Uganda know how they treated and still treat South Sudanese. I have had money extorted from me in both Nairobi and Kampala! And I was told to ‘go back to your country’ many times!
Kenyan and Ugandan police extorted money from us, jailed us, beat us up and treated us like dirt. That was such a sign of brotherhood, right? However, we couldn't do anything about it for we had no choice and we also saw other trade-offs such as allowing us refuge in their countries!
For those of us who were in refugee camps, we know Kenyans and Ugandans found employment through various NGOs working in South Sudan and with their headquarters in Nairobi and Kampala! In Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenyans were paid almost 5-10 times what we were paid and some Kenyans went to schools in Kakuma Refugee camps for free. There were many Kenyans employed in various South Sudanese offices in Nairobi. I know of a number employed by my aunt and uncle in their offices in Nairobi. Kenyans and Ugandans benefited economically too from expensive houses rented by South Sudanese commanders and civilian workers.
Now, how many South Sudanese worked in private sector or in the government in Kenya and Uganda? South Sudanese who worked as professors worked because they were qualified. They were not employed as a goodwill initiative by the Kenyan or Ugandan governments.
This makes me wonder why our brothers and sisters feel they have an unalienable sense of entitlement in South Sudan.
We know very much that Kenyans are benefiting economically from their businesses in South Sudan. Kenyans banks and restaurants employ Kenyans in positions South Sudanese can easily fill. What does it take to be a waiter/waitress? How much education does one need to be a teller in a bank?
Both the sense of entitlement our brothers and sisters have in South Sudan belittles what could be seen as help they extended to us. One could now conclude that their help isn't an assistance extended in the name of African brotherhood and sisterhood but it’s a function of what WE have to do for them.
Every country has every right to put its citizens first. Kenya and Uganda know that! So what’s with this foul-mouthing and sense of entitlement in a foreign country? What happened to the sense of gentlemanly Africanness and respect for one another? Do we have to please Kenyans and Ugandans for us to be respected? What kind of mentality is that? It’s okay to complain to your brother and sister but there has to be a civil way of doing it!
Kenyans and Ugandans are showing a side of them that’s not worthy of people who’ve been independent for over 50 years, or people one can see as friendly and sisterly! How about some 'civilized' behavior from our elder brothers and sisters?
The South Sudanese government has at least shown it cares by immediately correcting the error! So where’s your care my East African brothers and sisters?