One of the pass-times that many Southern Sudanese love to engage in is discussing the foibles and peculiar behaviors of our fellow southern Sudanese in whatever situation they might be in. It is interesting in a sense because we all end up talking about "junubbin" in a detached and fairly critical manner, and implicitly suggesting that we speak of others. It's not a uniquely southern Sudanese propensity, because all communities engage in the same sort of social criticism and satire about their communities.
I always thought that this particular habit has undercurrents of condescension and derision that are not always productive in a community. Alas, while that point can be more comprehensively dissected by others, I think it would serve us all well to debate the effects that our forced exile and immersion in other communities in the Diaspora had wrought on our social conditions.
Thousands of young southern Sudanese adults are scattered all over the globe, and observing some of them in the myriad social occasions that bring them together highlights the intense affinity and yearning that they have for their homeland and people. It is clear that the initial alarm that many people back home had about their relatives and offspring essentially abandoning their homeland and disappearing into their new western societies is unfounded.
I believe many factors have combined to render such a possibility moot. One critical aspect was that the resettlement process of the refugees from Egypt and East Africa resulted in the formation of reasonably large numbers of Sudanese in certain US, Canadian and Australian localities. That has resulted in the formation of fairly cohesive communities that are self-supporting in their new environments, and not necessarily inclined or pressured by want or need to subordinate their intrinsic cultural identities in the service of being absorbed into the larger dominant community.
The resettlement regime by the UN also indiscriminately assessed all potential candidates and families without any pre-ordained age, educational or experience criteria. That was in keeping with the guidelines of the UN refugee charters, but had the indirect effect of bringing a very diverse pool of refugees that could essentially readily establish functioning mini-communities in their new locales. It is therefore possible to go to the Midwest in the United States or Sidney in Australia, and find a vibrant community teeming with young couples, workaday striving single men and women, wise grandmothers helping raise grandkids, fathers leading a typical seven offspring household... etc.
That is a great benefit in the sense that immersion into the new community now occurs in a more deliberate manner, and with the support, direct or not, of others who have gone through the process. Positive aspects of our cultures can still germinate and prosper in this new environment, while a slower accommodation of newer modes of living and learning that are positive can occur.
I believe that these unique sets of circumstances will make the overall project of turning this exile into a contributing factor t0 the development of Southern Sudan possible. These communities of Southern Sudanese in exiles can certainly follow the steps of other ethnic groups that found themselves in the same situation in the West decades ago. A very positive model is that of the enterprising Indian immigrants in the United States and the rest of North America. It has become an article of community pride for them to translate their success abroad into real contributions in their homeland. The Indian Engineering and Computer sector is the pride of Asia nowadays because much of the talent that achieved success in those fields abroad have redirected their energy towards utilizing that success, and their connections in the West, to drag their country into the 21st century. While most Indians remain destitute, the pace of education and innovation is slowly but surely making a big dent in the fight against poverty.
It seems irrationally optimistic to start dreaming of such undertakings for our people, but setting on the path to achieving those dreams starts with such simple insights and a healthy dose of confidence in our people. It is critical that the policy makers in Southern Sudan have the foresight to dream large, and then lay the ground and foster an environment where such dreams can be achieved. The policy makers have to strife to make it amenable for people to come and participate in development, encourage and assist their input on decisions, and generally incentivise people with specific expertise to work in the country.
It is a pity that we have such great affinity to politics, and very minimal regard for acquiring purely technical expertise that can return tangible benefits to our people. While it is laudable to spout off all day about representation and south-south dialogue, I wish our people will sometimes take a break and also start talking about plans to provide clean water, eliminate river blindness and assorted other plagues. I wish some of our leaders would one day resign from whatever post they have because their plan to dispense malaria antidotes or dig wells was being obstructed by the cabinet or some department. That would be a principled break from the usual bickering about seats on commissions and tribal or regional representations in the cabinet.
Anyway, I digress, but members of the communities of our people in the Diaspora need to be involved in ensuring that the human capital that we have here can produce maximum returns. It is clearly a numbers game that should not be allowed to organically work itself out, but should be nurtured and nudged in the right direction. Small gestures of appreciation to our youngsters who graduate from High School and beyond, incentives to encourage community involvement by kids in projects to assist other kids back home, and myriad other small scale projects will result in the development of a great core of southern Sudanese that will strive in the West while always making sure they never forget their homeland.