Dear Aguer Atem Deng,
I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the heartfelt message you shared in your recent video. I can honestly say that as you brought up certain facts regarding the suffering of our people, I was overwhelmed. At such a young age, you have proven to be a well-informed, smart, and concerned citizen of South Sudan. Your inspirational words make me very proud of you, and proud to be a citizen of South Sudan.
The information you have offered gives me hope for you and for the next generation as a whole. You spoke confidently and articulately when you said, “I want our country to be next big thing.” But more than that, you went on to describe what you want our future country to be like. Your vision for our country is ambitious and powerful—to be like the United States and the United Kingdom—and that vision left me speechless. Just like you, I would like our country to be “the next big thing,” but it is up to our leaders to work as a team, as you very well said, for them to accomplish something. The only way that the South Sudanese can find peace this time is to embrace that sense of teamwork. As you help to spread this message, you are helping us work towards that goal.
Aguer, you have seriously amazed me with your words, and you make me feel optimistic about our future as citizens of South Sudan. You embody the hopes for our next generation, and I have a feeling that your family is also very proud of you. I’m sure that every person who hears your message would want to thank your parents for raising such a beautiful, strong, caring young girl. You are clearly a very smart young lady, and I hope that you will grow up to be a leader that our people love and admire. Even adults have trouble asking important questions, but you dive right into the heart of the matter. If more people were like you, maybe we would be able to hold our leaders accountable.
As an adult, it is difficult to confess the truth to you, but talking about our concerns as South Sudanese people makes me feel ashamed. It seems like the epitome of failure, but I am afraid that I cannot answer your questions as well as you would like. Please don’t misunderstand me, though, because you ask wonderful questions. In fact, “Why are we always fighting?” is a great question for both President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar. I’m sure that this question will shock them as it has shocked me, especially because it comes from an 11 year old girl—a girl who is clearly very smart. All I can say is that there are no justifications for some of the problems that our people are dealing with right now in South Sudan.
It is terrible and inexcusable for South Sudanese to suffer again after we fought so hard to secure our rights as people. Years after our country declared its independence, those things we fought for—human rights, security, and prosperity of our people—are still in question. Hopefully, the time is coming when children like yourself and our families can live in a peaceful South Sudan. Again, your question is very serious and strikes at the heart of the problem, but there is no specific or easy way to answer it. You are seeking facts, and while our leaders should never hide these facts, it could be that there is no right answer. In all honesty, our country is still overrun with violence, and our people have been traumatized. But to be blunt, it is ridiculous that this sort of problem is happening at the moment, on the heels of our great victory as a nation.
As a person who grew up during the civil war, I don’t like war; in fact, I hate war with passion, because it destroyed my childhood. I am not trying to overwhelm you, but imagine if you and other South Sudanese children your age have to experience the same sort of horrors. What would be the point of the first war? There are no actual benefits of having an independent nation if we continue to kill ourselves. I have not seen my family since I was a boy, younger than you are now. When I finally was able to plan to visit my family, another war was ignited. This left me shattered and confused, but it also made me more motivated to do what I can to advocate for peace. And because of your moving words, I am very hopeful that peace will come.
The promises preached during the civil war by Dr. John Garang Mabior and our current President Salva Kiir were meant to ensure that my generation and your generation would benefit from the victory of the SPLM/SPLA. Our hope has always been for a better South Sudan, and it still is as we speak. What is going on in our country right now is heart breaking. Your father and I grew up during the toughest of times, and it is very hard to watch children like yourself also go through that sort of suffering. It is extremely hard to have endured that much pain and still continue to live through it. We must never forget what we sacrificed to attain peace, and we must continue to fix our eyes firmly on the peace process that was recently signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the same time, we must focus on the forgiveness and reconciliation of South Sudanese people. As you so perfectly put it, “Right now, we are known as a country of war, the country of poverty. Do you want our country known of that?” There is no easy way to fix the problems that our country is facing, but in hearts of many South Sudanese people, the answer to your question is simple. No, we don’t want South Sudan to be known as a country of war or a country of poverty. We want South Sudan to be a land of unity and peace forever. The process of achieving and maintaining peace is an act of regaining trust and living in that trust, and that is what we all want. With the encouragement of people like yourself, the war will be finished soon and peace will be restored at last. You will definitely achieve your goals by staying in school.
Thank you so much for your inspiring words, Aguer.
This letter was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org