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21. South Sudan's reconstruction requires team players like Nehemiah

My life (put) alongside God's word. Section on National development issues.

by Anthony Poggo

Just before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace

Agreement (CPA) in January 2005, various stakeholders

undertook an assessment of the needs of Sudan so that they would be ready for the time when the expected peace agreement was signed. The results of this assessment were put together in a Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) report. This report was the basis of the donor discussions in the Oslo donor conference of April 2005. At this conference donors pledged to give 4.5 billion dollars towards the post war reconstruction efforts of the Sudan. The JAM report was a result of various visits and meetings with numerous stakeholders inside Sudan but also outside Sudan.

Reflecting on the biblical character Nehemiah, we read that one of the things that Nehemiah did once he got permission from King Artaxerxes of Persia to undertake the

construction of the walls of Jerusalem was to undertake an inspection of the ruined city, Nehemiah 2:11-16. Nehemiah did this first inspection visit in secret, save for a few trusted

aides. He wanted to have a first hand view of the situation to be able to count the true cost. After he inspected the city, he gave the people a report on the gravity of the situation and encouraged them to respond by acting on this problem. He also told them of how God had helped him up to that time and expressed his faith that God would continue to do so, “the God of heaven will give us success”, 2:20. The response of the people was encouraging to Nehemiah for they said, “Let us start rebuilding”, 2:18. By explaining to the people the task and the work ahead, Nehemiah involved them. He was the visionary in this plan. The vision needed to be shared with the people so that they could be involved.

Once they caught the vision, they were able to own it as their own project. One of the qualities of Nehemiah was his ability to plan ahead. There is a saying that when one fails to plan she/he is planning to fail. For us to undertake the re-building of South Sudan, we need “Nehemiahs” who can undertake comprehensive strategic plans for the whole country. I do not know what became of the JAM report referred to above, it needed to be operationalised into annual, semi-annual and quarterly plans. Many strategic plans have been written at all levels of Government as well as those written by others in their various roles. Such plans need to be translated into tangible benefits for the average South

Sudanese person.

In Nehemiah chapter 3 we see a list of all the participants in the reconstruction of the city wall. Each portion of the wall was given to a particular group of people. These were in

accordance to family, clan or professional groups. Notice that the priests were also involved. The way the work was done was a classic example of teamwork. Teamwork is not therefore a modern management concept but a biblical approach that was practiced by Nehemiah and others in the Bible.

We also see here that everybody was involved in the building of the walls of Jerusalem. Even the priests were involved in the work. The rebuilding of South Sudan needs all of us. The Government leads through coming up with the

right policies but all other stakeholders should also be active participants. This includes the United Nations agencies, the churches, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. The concerted effort of

rebuilding South Sudan can be compared to the cooperation between the parts of the human body. Each part has to play its role well for the body to function smoothly. In fact we know from life that if one part of the body is unwell, the entire body suffers. All parts of the body are important, remember 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. This means that all South Sudanese have important roles to play in the development of the nation and also to ensure that there is peace in all parts of the country. There is a mistaken belief that now we have our own nation the Government should do everything for us.

Hard work is one of the things that we all have to embrace. For us to catch up with the rest of the world in development, we will need to work extra hard to make an impact in our country. We also need to have a change of attitude and see work as part of our responsibilities and not as a curse. We all have individual roles and responsibilities and can make a useful contribution to the development of our country. This responsibility is for each and every one of us people of South Sudan. I have written and preached elsewhere that the Bible encourages hard work. In fact Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that any person who does not work should not eat. It has also been said, “Laziness is the mother of poverty”. This may not be true for us in South Sudan, as some of the causes of our poverty have to do with the situation that we have been through.

Hard work goes hand in hand with time management. In some places we have the culture of doing things according to our “local time”. The understanding of the word “local” in our context is for something that is worthless and is not exact. This concept isn’t helpful. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word local to mean, “belonging to or connected with the particular place or area that you are talking about, near to the place where you live”. Being local should not mean being ineffective time managers. In some parts of South Sudan the exact time is referred to as “standard time”. We need to work on keeping time so as to catch up with the rest of the world. This is why, after the CPA was signed, the decision to extend the official working hours to 5:00 pm was a welcome development. It is not however the number of hours that one spends working, but the quality of work that one does which really makes a difference. The habit of visitors sitting in offices just chatting at the expense of meaningful work should always be shunned.

In the story of Nehemiah, we see that he sub-divided the work according to various clans and professional groups, see this throughout chapter 3. Each group was to play its role within the project so as to rebuild the city and the wall of Jerusalem together. Here we find that all the people joined in the work, in spite of the opposition that they

faced. The work was finished in an amazingly short time. They were not paid but they had the great joy and satisfaction of seeing the work completed and their beloved city restored. We need to learn from this story so that South Sudan is re-built.

The devolved system of governance where we have ten states in South Sudan should make it easier for us to develop every single part of South Sudan. This is one way of

fulfilling Dr. John Garang’s stated objective of bringing the urban centres to the people rather than the people to the towns.

For us to achieve meaningful development, we will require peace to be achieved in all parts of the country and within the region. This is because if one part of the country is

suffering all parts of the country will be affected, just like the analogy that we have used above on the parts of the human body. By peace, we do not mean the absence of war,

but peace in totality, where there is reconciliation, healing, trust and good neighbourliness.


'Come Let Us Rebuild, Lessons from Nehemiah', a 218 pages book by Bishop Anthony

Poggo, is available from Millipede Books, Hertford, England and from good book

distributors in South Sudan.

Discussion questions

1. What are the values of sharing a common vision?

List as many as you can.

Consider Nehemiah 2:11-18.

2. Considering “the FOCUS vision for South Sudan” (chapter 19), what practical steps would be needed to take it – or any other vision – into reality?

3. Why do some people view hard work as a curse?

Are they right or wrong?


4. How do you get the most out of every day that you live?

Share practical ways of making the best use of your time.

5. What are the strengths and weakness of teams made up of different kinds of people?


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