My hut in the bush is made out of mud walls and grass-thatched roof. It wouldn’t take a minute for a bullet to go through if it wants to. That is why I’m writing this entry under my table, in the company of mosquitoes and all kinds of creeping, crawling, flying, biting insects you can think of. At this rate, I’m still lucky. While I am enjoying what little protection my good old wooden table offers, my other colleagues are hiding under their plastic ones. I’m told bullets can also pierce plastic with the ease of a pebble slicing the surface of water.
Bullets, yes. That’s the order of the day. Last night I was jolted awake by a series of gunshots, also known as “celebratory shootings” by the South Sudanese people. And we are not talking of .45s here. We are talking big—AK47s! It went on throughout the day and tonight, as I speak. Last night, I trembled almost to the point of convulsion. My colleague and the guard had to knock on my door to assure me that everything is going to be all right—for as long as I stay under the table. But tonight, well, I kind of gotten used to it. And well, these people are just celebrating!
Today, a new nation is born. After decades of war, South Sudan has finally embraced what it had been fighting for all this time—sweet independence
|Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk.
I was watching on TV the celebrations in Juba, the speeches by foreign dignitaries, the dancing, the singing of the new national anthem, the hoisting of the new South Sudan flag. It’s a very dramatic moment for everyone. Even for a non-Sudanese like me. When the flag was hoisted up and the Republic of South Sudan was declared the newest nation in the world, I was fighting back tears—while people broke out in spontaneous chanting and songs, while fierce-looking SPLA soldiers shed tears, while men from warring tribes embrace, while women scream their joy in a series of high-pitched tones. It was just heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. Finally, they have found freedom, but in exchange for millions of lives that were lost.
Sudan, the then largest country in Africa, was marred by two decades of civil war between the Arabic-speaking Muslim North and the Christian animist South—two very different geographical regions and cultures, two different worlds that were hastily merged by the British and Egyptian governments into a single administrative unit in 1946. Instead of bringing about unity, the merger however punctuated the differences between the two regions, which led to two bloody civil wars (1955-1972 and 1983-2005), which cost 2 million lives lost and millions displaced, mostly innocent civilians and young boys (Lost Boys
In 2005, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ended Africa’s longest civil war. The agreement also guaranteed elections and a referendum for Southerners to decide whether they want to stay with the North or become an independent state. The result of the referendum in January 9 this year was an indicator of the Southerners’ hunger for freedom. And although there are still violent border disputes to be solved, especially in the oil-rich region of Abyei
and the border region of South Kordofan, the Southerners were determined to claim their own country today, July 9, 2011.
|Photo courtesy of AFP.
Today, there are only tears of joy and victory. The past has passed, and today is the beginning of their future. But when the party is over, will there actually be peace and quiet and contentment?
That question will be answered tomorrow. Today it’s all about merry-making. Let’s party, everyone! Happy birthday, South Sudan! Oyee!