Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 17 April 2020

Call for National Sorry Day in South Sudan

Open Letter to His Excellency, President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit

Dear Your Excellency,
Greetings and congratulations on the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity.

Certainly, the next three years of the Transitional Government of National Unity will be very challenging. There are a multitude of issues to address: rebuilding trust; the introduction of new reforms across all sectors; strengthening the economy; building the infrastructures of hospitals, roads, and schools; reforming the security sector; increasing food security; repatriation of citizens who sought refuge in neighbouring countries; and resettling of those at various UN protection camps.

With these challenges also come the most wonderful opportunities, and the potential for this to be the most powerful and decisive moment in the history of our nation.

I was very moved to hear your address and those of other leaders at the swearing-in ceremony of the Vice Presidents last month. You and others spoke with great humility, wisdom, love and willingness to work together, to let go and move ahead. It gave me great hope and I am sure many others in our country felt the same.

Inspired by your words and those of our other leaders, I would like to suggest that above all we prioritise addressing the legacy of conflicts, promoting peace, national reconciliation and healing as stipulated in the peace agreement.

With the presence of unity, peace and harmony – we can build roads, hospitals and schools. With the presence of unity, peace and harmony – we can cultivate without fear and become a self-reliant society. With the presence of unity, peace and harmony - we can boost our economy. With the presence of unity, peace and harmony – we can heal the wounds and the pain we have caused each other and finally pave way for justice.

For this to happen, it will need courageous leadership by you and your brother, Dr Riek Machar to lead by example, forgive one another and lead us through this process of healing and reconciliation. I know you have said several times that you are sorry for the pain you have caused South Sudanese – and we hear you.

I have faith that this is possible. You both sacrificed yourselves when you were young by joining the fight for our freedom. You fought alongside each other and endured the most difficult times together. You both share a love, above everything, for South Sudan.

I am one of the lost boys (Red Army/Jesh el Amer) of South Sudan and was fortunate to resettle in Australia. Since 1998, the Australian people have held a National Sorry Day to address the history between white Australians and our Indigenous people. Although the Indigenous people continue to struggle today, that simple act, where millions flock to the streets each year and stand together in solidarity, continues to unite Australians. Today they address other issues under this event for it has paved the way and created an environment where they could discuss other national agendas.

This was followed in 2008, by the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, giving a formal apology on behalf of the Government to the First Nation’s people. Everyone was in tears. It was a powerful act from a leader who heard the call from his people to address their darkest past by acknowledging it openly. Australia continues to remember Prime Minister Rudd today for the courage he took to admit all the wrongdoings and mistreatment of the First Nation’s people.

Despite living in Australia, my concern and commitment to South Sudan have never wavered. I would, therefore, ask, that Your Excellency, Dr Riek Machar and all leaders consider dedicating a day where every man, woman, child across South Sudan stops and says sorry to each other. A day we can all shake hands and hug each other. A day where we can, irrespective of what role we played during the war, promise each other, “never again”. This I believe would be the start of a journey of healing, peace and reconciliation for our country – a National Sorry Day! This day would remind us for generations to come out of our darkest moment and the promise we have made to each other. I strongly believe we can achieve this with your blessing.

As Nelson Mandela said “In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people”. May the spirit of your leadership unite us in this endeavour.

I will remain glued to the television hoping for the launch of South Sudan’s National Sorry Day.

Yours Sincerely,
David Nyuol Vincent

The author is a South Sudanese Australian temporarily residing in South Sudan.