Challenges and opportunities for change in South Sudan

prescription geneva; font-size: small;”>Not least among these are concerns about the country’s governance and the management of its resources.

There is evidence of government corruption, and it is common to hear citizens say that the leaders simply don’t care about ordinary people and only take care of themselves. Services are poor or non-existent, the road network is still very bad in most rural areas, health centres don’t have medicine or supplies, and there could be many schools but quality remains a challenge.

In addition, violence and insecurity is still common as a result of tribal conflict, cattle rustling, and continuing fighting with Sudan in the north.

The Within and Without the State project hopes to contribute to building the new State and to creating accountable governance structures that ensure development meets the needs of citizens.

When I joined Oxfam as the Civil Society Programme Manager for Within and Without the State (WWS) in South Sudan, I realised that the project was behind schedule due to the difficulty Oxfam had in recruiting and retaining suitably qualified project staff.

Programme management structures were already in place, the project had a steering committee, and staff had been contracted on a short-term basis to start the work; but mapping, selection, and capacity assessment of potential partners had yet to be done.

Since then, we have recruited a Community Engagement Officer for the work in the rural Lakes State area. We have also completed the mapping and selection of our partners in both Juba and Lakes States. We are now working under a very tight schedule, but we hope to make strides.

A chance for change

Alongside our challenges, there are real opportunities for change. The State is ‘in the making’ and so are civil society organisations. The transition and constitution processes offer an opportunity for the project to influence governance. And there is a strong civil society awakening taking place in South Sudan.

While many organisations were involved in delivering aid during the conflict, a new breed of CSOs has been emerging since independence, many coming from the diaspora with fairly open and wide-ranging viewpoints and a keen appetite for citizen participation.

Donors are also gradually taking an interest in long-term development approaches such as building the civil society. This is currently limited but there are possibilities for more support and funding in the future.

We are fortunate to be working with strongly motivated partners, keen to contribute, as well as committed and motivated staff who want to achieve real progress.

In the 1980s, as a primary school student in rural northern Uganda, I read a book called ‘The Aid Workers Handbook’ written by an Oxfam staff member in northern Kenya. The insight it gave me into community development intrigued me. I wondered why the writer would leave his home to work so far away.

At the time, I perceived aid workers as similar to missionaries! I thought of becoming a priest myself, to be able to travel far away and help others. Later, I realised that I did not need to become a priest to do such work.

Although I didn’t join Oxfam immediately after my education, I kept searching for an opportunity – and after 15 years I am very pleased to be here.

I will be a happy man one day when, while in my village home, I am listening to reports of honest and constructive engagement between the citizens and their government.

This is not about the scale at which it happens, but the fact that something will be happening – as a result of WWS and many other initiatives in South Sudan.

The Within and Without the State project is funded through UK Aid


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