Youth plan to restore hope, rebuild South Sudan

Saturday July 15 2017

South Sudan Young Leaders Forum members. From left, Emmily Koiti, Peter Biar Ajak, and Priscilla Nyagoah Tut. PHOTO | FRED OLUOCH | NMG


They call themselves the Sunrise Generation. Their objective is to mobilise the youth of South Sudan to critically evaluate the successes and failures of the leaders currently in power who are accused of perpetuating the civil war for nearly four years.

The South Sudan Young Leaders Forum (SSYLF), which was set up January, is led by Peter Biar Ajak, a PhD student at Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

With 70 members drawn from the diaspora and South Sudan, the group has doctors, lawyers and economists. The forum says they want to achieve what local civil society, churches, regional leaders and the international community have been unable to do. 

“It is time for the sun to set on the old generation so that a new sun can rise with new hope,” said Mr Ajak, when three members of the group visited The EastAfrican offices recently.

He was accompanied by Emmily Koiti, a doctor at Juba Teaching Hospital, who represents the youth at the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) — an outfit in charge of the implementation of the August 2015 South Sudan Peace Agreement.

The other member was Priscilla Nyagoah Tut, a lawyer and a campaigner for South Sudan at Amnesty International.


“Even though the liberators took up arms and gave us a state, they have failed miserably to build a nation. We are now bringing together professionals from different ethnicities and political ideas and aspirations,” she said. 

Strategy of disorder

The group says that the government, led by President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek Machar, failed to make use of the international goodwill that the country enjoyed at Independence in July 2011 to build strong state institutions. Instead, the leaders adopted a strategy of disorder to undermine key institutions.

SSYLF plans to hold meetings in Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa and Juba. They did not reveal their source of funding: Mr Ajak simply said that they are mobilising from all over the world through their networks, including some personalities in government.

The EastAfrican found out that the group is being supported by US human-rights organisations that say the crisis in South Sudan can only come to an end if a caretaker government takes over.

SSYLF said they are aware that they have been infiltrated because they have received threats and warnings from government operatives. 

Mr Ajak said that even the National Dialogue that was launched by President Kiir will not work because the country cannot discuss matters when there is fighting, and famine, the roads are blocked by militia, there are 7.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and two million have fled to neighbouring countries.

In his State of the Nation address on July 11, President Kiir said the country was divided and risked disintegration, and that the implementation of the peace agreement and National Dialogue were the only way forward.

READ: Kiir appeals to Africa, UN to support national dialogue

ALSO READ: Splintering of Juba war makes peace more elusive

However, Ms Koiti said that once the parties decided to share power, the country sank back into chaos.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that if the fighting does not stop, almost half of the 12 million South Sudanese will either face famine or will flee the country.