People in South Sudan are outraged over the president’s directive that no one should sing the national anthem at any public event unless he is present.
President Salva Kiir believes that the national song, which was written shortly before the country gained independence in 2011, is being misused, especially by some government officials in his absence.
“We’ve seen that the anthem is played even when the ministers, undersecretaries, the governor or state ministers attend any function. This order should be observed because the anthem is not meant for everybody,” said Information Minister Michael Makuei who announced the president’s directive.
“It’s been observed that the national anthem is being played all over,” he said.
“Everybody is playing the national anthem. For the information of everybody, the national anthem is only meant for the president, and functions attended by him,” Makuei was quoted by Juba’s Eye Radio.
Meanwhile, Makuei told the AFP that with the exception of South Sudan’s embassies, which represent the president, and schools where children are taught the anthem, no one was allowed to sing the song in Kiir’s absence.
In South Sudan, the national anthem is usually played or sung during national holidays, including Independence Day celebrations, and is also performed during cultural and other festivals in the country.
“It reflects the country’s history, struggles, and traditions of the nation and its people. And it also serves as an expression of national identity,” the Eye Radio report noted.
Citizens who feel that the national anthem belongs to everyone have expressed their anger over the latest directive on social media while others have shared their own renditions of the song.
South Sudan is the world’s youngest country since it gained its independence eight years ago from neighbouring Sudan on July 9, 2011, after a 2005 agreement to end the longest-running civil war that started since 1962.
The independence of the black South Sudanese indigenes indeed ended the civil war with the Arab Sudanese overlords, but started another inter-ethnic and inter-factional civil war based on greed and paranoia among the black Africans.
Oil-rich South Sudan is the only country where rebels are leading the state with the cowboy hat-wearing president Salva Kiir leading the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) faction while his Vice President Riek Machar – whom he had fired twice – leads the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition (SPLM-IO) rival faction.
They fought primarily along ethnic lines between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer tribal groups. These two armed rebel groups have caused the displacement of over 4 million citizens since independence and caused the death of over a million as they fought each other since 2013 using kidnapped children to fight their battles.
The powerful rebel groups were not dissolved after they successfully fought for independence, they rather gained more authority with impunity as out-of-control soldiers boldly raped women, raided communities and recruited child soldiers to stay formidable.
The 2013 resumption of the civil war followed accusations by Salva Kiir that his Vice President Riek Machar was plotting to overthrow him. He dissolved the cabinet, sacked Machar and another deadly war erupted. The factions targeted oil-mining communities and killed civilians.
There were many unsuccessful ceasefire agreements brokered by Uganda and Ethiopia while the fighting continued until 2016 when the Vice President was reinstated briefly between April and July.
Machar went back into exile and the fighting intensified as over a million civilians entered into Uganda while foreign missions and companies exited the country. This caused a strain on the government as the economy collapsed and famine ravaged the country.
Some hope was restored in 2017 after the government declared a unilateral ceasefire and launched a national dialogue inclusive of the rival rebel factions in the country. Riek Machar, who was in self-exile in South Africa, refused to be a part of the dialogue after delegations were sent to him.
Fast-forward to July 2018, Kiir and Machar have agreed for a third time to a power-sharing deal that will ensure the reinstatement of Riek Machar as a Vice President and his return to the capital of Juba.
The power-sharing agreement should have been implemented on May 12. This has, however, not materialized over a lack of political will, financing and time constraints, but both sides said they were still committed to peace.
Even if peace is restored permanently, the country has a long way to go in terms of solving the major problem of child soldiers, lack of media freedom, unstable electricity, food shortages and economic instability.