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South Sudan: Free At Last!

This page is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

Africa has a new nation: the Republic of South Sudan. South Sudan held a referendum on January 9, 2011, on whether or not it should remain a part of Sudan as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

After voting almost unanimously (99%) for independence from the north, Southern Sudan's formal independence was declared on 9 July, 2011.

Children at South Sudan independence celebrations. Photo courtesy of Matata Safi.

Anthony Kamba looks at challenges that South Sudan faces:

However, the government will face challenges ranging from personal grievance to group grievances. It must address such dissatisfaction with care to ensure many don’t take up arms against their own government.

There are still groups leaders like renegade George Athor, Abdel Bagi Ayi who still cry foul about government representation and structures. Corruption is one other issue that makes such groups move to use forceful means to try to achieve what they want. President Kiir must tackle this head on.

A local Chief Abahala Primo also pointed at corruption as what he would like the government to fight. Abahala wants to see traditional leaders like him being given space to participate in the building of their nation.

Flag of the new Republic of South Sudan.

Ugandan blogger Rosebell Kagumire believes that South Sudan has been born at the right time:

South Sudan has been born at time when Africa has made substantial steps in development unlike the 60s. With a population that is not even half that of my country Uganda, South Sudan will need its neighbours who are already a step ahead in all sectors and am optimistic they will be a good asset. Women in Sudan are more than 60 percent of the population, yet 80 percent of them are illiterate. Empowerment of women of South Sudan will be key to the country improving the gloomy development indicators faster. I remember I met one woman on one of the trips to Sudan who said they didn’t want to be like women of Eritrea “who fought but in the end they were pushed out of the system and told their place was only in the kitchen once independence was declared.”

She reflects on her recent trip to Juba:

In April I was in Juba working with grassroots women leaders. Juba is a melting pot. It’s where East, Central Africa meets the north and horn of Africa. It’s one of the most diverse African capitals I have visited. My Boda Boda rider was a young man about 20 years old. He was born in Torit, he lived in Masindi in western Uganda then Kenya before finally coming back to Sudan. He speaks about ten languages. Language is important for integration and most Sudanese have spent many years living in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. These experiences can be harnessed to bring about changes in the new republic. South Sudan can take advantage of the booming sectors like education in Uganda where graduates spend years with no job.

“[South Sudan] independence is definitely worth the 63 year wait,” says Moezi Ali:

So it seems the South could have easily gained independence 63 years ago, but the tribal differences would've had an egregious effect on the country. Now however, there seems to be a sense of unification. The Southerners are proud to be a nation, not a tribe. Sentimentally, independence is definitely worth the 63 year wait.

“As we celebrate the birth of our newest nation we must remember the role that resources have in shaping the conditions of our humanity,” says Phoebe Fletcher:

As we celebrate the birth of our newest nation, we must remember the role that resources have in shaping the conditions of our humanity. We must continue to give scrutiny to the operation of states in trading. Give a thought today to those people affected. The risk of conflict is precarious, with analysts already pointing to the underdevelopment of infrastructure in the South and news reports coming out of South Kordofan. Sudan will also be affected by the burgeoning East African food crisis affecting up to 10 million people. Happy birthday, South Sudan: we wish you all the very best.

Sudanese Optimist points out five stages of grief that citizens in North South went through after the referendum:

With the independence of South Sudan fast approaching, North Sudanese citizens are coming to terms with the biggest change in the history of their country. For many, supporting independence is bitter-sweet, or tinged with retrospective regret. Others are unconflicted and happy about independence, although the happiness could sometimes be a result of a ‘good riddance’ attitude towards secession. I have observed many emotions and reactions to the independence of South Sudan amongst North Sudanese citizens, and based the following observations on the famous Kübler-Ross model for dealing with loss, commonly known as ‘The Five Stages of Grief.’ These observations are from the perspective of North Sudanese people only since I am assuming that the near unanimous vote for secession by South Sudan is enough proof that they are not considering this a cause for grief

Women in South Sudan celebrating the birth of a new nation. Photo courtesy of Matata Safi.

Susan has no words to express her joy and that of her fellow Kenyans for the independence of South Sudan:

Many of us Kenyans cannot just express the joy we have for our South Sudanese friends who have lived with us like family for many years, they were like Kenyans and we got used to them. We hoped and prayed for their oppression to come to an end and for them to get separated, it was not imaginable that it would happen.

After the late Dr. John Garang the founder of SPLA signed a peace agreement deal here in Kenya, then his sudden death there after, it was like that was the end of the peace deal and things would get back the way they were. At least there was some improvement after the power sharing deal that has eventually led to the separation. It is very sad Dr. John Garang is not alive to witness this historical event.

I don’t have the words to express my joy and that of many Kenyans, after watching the scenes of war, the lost lives, the refugees, the effects of war on the victims, the lack of development and infrastructure in the south and the many problems they underwent.

How did we get to this historical moment? Moezali takes us back in history:

In the beginning of the 20th century when Sudan was under the administration of the British empire, many thought that the British systematically isolated the South from the North. In reality, the situation was more complicated than that.

From mere observation, the British realised the differences between the north and south of the country in terms of physical appearance, culture and sociological behavior. It dawned on them that the people of the south had more in common with their southern neighbours, i.e. Northern Uganda, Kenya and Congo.

But then the British also realised that despite sharing the hardships of their southern neighbours, the people of South Sudan were actually in a more dire condition. Inevitably, this lead the British – with the burden of history eating at their conscience – to think that uniting the north and south of Sudan would afford the southerners a chance for development.

The north at the time was more acquainted, more developed and a product of conquest by various empires throughout history.

This theory worked on paper.

This page is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

Thumbnail and featured image shows members of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) arrive at the rally in Juba, as South Sudan prepares for its independence. Image by Flickr user United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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