May 16th 2020 SPLA Day Message
His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit
President of the Republic of South Sudan.
My beloved and fellow citizens,
May 16th, 2020 marks the 37th Anniversary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and its political wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). This historic day is a time where we step back and reflect on our progress, success, failures, and plan. This year we will reflect and strategize the future of our beloved country, South Sudan. This year, I would also like to use today’s occasion to alert our people on the impending danger of COVID-19.
We cannot reflect on our glorious revolution without honoring our fallen heroes and heroines. I salute our late leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, and our beloved martyrs. We salute and acknowledge the contribution of the gallant South Sudanese people to the revolution.
I salute the women and men of the SSPDF. They continue to fight for the dignity of our people and defending our beloved country. I congratulate the newly appointed Chief of Defense Forces, General Johnson Juma Okot. I also thank General Gabriel Jok Riak, the outgoing Chief of Defense Force, for his exceptional work and service. To our gallant SSPDF, we salute and honor you and stand with you in defense of our young Republic.
When we reflect on the founding of the SPLA, chills run down our spines as we remember our humble beginnings of this glorious movement. Who would have thought that a small insurgency would successfully challenge a formidable and oppressive regime? What was considered as a weak and disorganized rebellion developed into a powerful force able to articulate the grievance of our oppressed people? This small movement 37 years ago culminated in the birth of the Republic of South Sudan.
Our emotions are mixed and confused because on the one hand, we want to celebrate our victory and pat ourselves on the back for what we have done. One the other hand, we cannot help but think of our fallen comrades. Their remains are scattered all over our country, having ultimately sacrificed for the belief that the generations of South Sudanese to follow would be free. We are haunted by the feeling of inadequacy as we continuously reflect on whether we have done what we needed to do to make our comrades’ sacrifices worthy.
All of us would be ashamed if we met our fallen comrades because we have not lived up to their expectations. The SPLM/SPLA was not formed to fight for the rights of a few to positions of power and wealth. It was founded to free the masses of our people and future generations. The last six years of conflict and power struggle have been a complete betrayal of our revolutionary ideals, principles, and purpose. We admit, mistakes are inherently human and we have the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSSS 2018) to correct our mistakes and get back on track casting aside personal ambitions and interests and focus on public interest.
Those of us entrusted with the responsibility to lead must do so with a great sense of humility and duty and give our people hope. The banner of freedom, justice, and progress under which many lives were martyred must continue to guide our actions. We must now shift our focus away from old enemies to new enemies. These new enemies are illiteracy, poverty, diseases, underdevelopment, and famine.
We must end for once the annual threat of famine and hunger in South Sudan and give the World Food Program and organizations alike a break. We must begin to take responsibility for feeding our people from our land. We have no excuse to allow the world to feed our people indefinitely. The time has come now to end this and to use our military for peacetime purposes such as food production and road construction. I want the Ministry of Agriculture to activate the Agriculture Master Plan and make food security a reality and collaborate with the Ministry of Defense on this initiative.
To achieve food security, we must end all forms of violence in this country, whether it is communal violence or political violence. Enough is enough, the peace we must pursue at all costs and to silence all the guns as this is the demand of our people, the order of the African Union and the world. I, therefore, call upon the SSPDF, SPLA-IO, and SSOMA, especially NAS, to observe the terms of the Rome Declaration and Resolution strictly, particularly the ceasefire provision. We must close all the files of war and open new files for dialogue and peaceful resolution of grievances. This option is cheap, fast, and saves lives.
While the threat of hunger looms large, what is more, threatening now is the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic. As a Government, we acted quickly to warn our people and impose travel restrictions both internally and externally to prevent coronavirus from entering South Sudan. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, the enemy is here, and it is spreading at an alarming rate, doubling nearly every five days. This disease is a dangerous killer, and we should not ignore it. We must strictly observe social distancing rules, whether at home or in public places. We must follow the guidelines and directives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and our Ministry of Health strictly.
I hear people joking that this is a disease of the kawajat or western world. My fellow citizens, this disease spares no one from any race, gender, and creed. It respects no country, no religion, and no age. We are all vulnerable, and many people in our country could die from this pandemic. We have a weak health system, and so our best defense against this pandemic is prevention. We took measures recently to relax some lockdown measures, we may be forced by circumstances to reimpose those measures if our medical team believes this is the best strategy. We will step back as political leaders from the High-level Taskforce on COVID-19 and allow medical professionals to take charge, and we can step in from time to time when that is necessary.
I want to appeal to the parents and elders across the country to ensure that the principle of social distancing is observed at the family level. We must end the group games such as playing cards, dominos, and other board games that require the gathering of two or more people. We must protect our families, especially the elders, by washing our hands regularly with soap and water. Confronting coronavirus is a severe war, and this enemy can be defeated if we keep social distancing rules and hygienic provisions.
In conclusion, I register appreciation to the signatories to the R-ARCSS 2018 for the formation of the Executive Organ of the R-TGONU. We must continue in the spirit of peace and collaboration to build trust and implement the Agreement in letter and spirit. We must not falter or tire in our efforts to find common ground and avoid violent confrontation. The next phase should focus on dialogue and pursuit of peace to give social and economic development a chance. We must all remain vigilant and resolute in our fight against the coronavirus. We should pay serious attention to the most vulnerable citizens who are disproportionately affected negatively by coronavirus measures.
Finally, let us once again thank the brave men and women who have fallen to ensure we have the Republic of South Sudan.
May God bless you and continue to bless the Republic of South Sudan.