The United States Ambassador to South Sudan says the country's leaders must convince the world of their commitment to democratic principles.
In an opinion piece, Ambassador Susan Page wrote that “Democracy is hard earned, but easily lost," and she urged South Sudan to be patient with the pace of change and not to stray from the democratic path.
In an interview with VOA, she said any change in power through non-democratic means, “particularly through military means” or a military backed coup would be bad for South Sudan because the United States would be obligated to halt foreign assistance.
Page said she wrote the op-ed piece – ‘Democracy Is a Fragile Thing’ - for a couple of reasons. “One is that I feel people are getting very impatient right now with the constitutional revision processes - kind of taking off a little bit slower than expected - but I wanted to put out there that we stand by the people of South Sudan during this challenging time, particularly as the economic situation worsens with the austerity budget. Democracy requires patience,” she said.
The Ambassador noted that even countries with a long, democratic tradition have struggled, but she added that over time democracy is the best system of governance.
Ambassador Page said the second reason she wrote the letter now is persistent rumors about an attempt to oust the current government, even though she said there is no reason to believe that a coup is imminent, despite the tough challenges facing Juba.
Page admitted she does worry when she hears that police and civil servants have not been paid in a month or two. But she said she hopes South Sudan can turn the corner.
“Within...six months after independence, the oil was shut down,” she said. “That was their main source of revenue. Now there’s an austerity budget. As people feel the real pinch, they get frustrated and believe the government institutions are not set up the way they had hoped for.”
Another reason she said she wrote the letter was to tell the South Sudanese people, “we know it’s difficult but stick it out – be patient – and these things will come about positively, and democracy over the long term is the best way to achieve economic growth and independence.”