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Issue 493 -- 9th - 15th July 2011
South Sudan Hoists World’s Newest Flag
By Katrina Manson
Juba, South Sudan, July 9, 2011 – An ecstatic night and day of celebration has greeted the birth of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, which has formally parted from the Arab-led Khartoum government to the north.
In a day of firsts for South Sudan, the new country hoisted its flag in front of a crowd of thousands of cheering southern Sudanese chanting their delight at new-found freedom.
At midnight on Friday, in the small southern capital Juba, passing cars honked in chaotic unison and careered round a countdown clock to independence waving flags, branches and the spirit of the possible. Ill-lit, workers were still fixing up street lights as South Sudan’s new capital celebrated its birth.
Wearing face paint of the flag, many sat on car bonnets, hung out the windows and bounced their cars up and down in delight. Banging jerry cans for drums, wearing feathers or cradling candles, the impromptu late-night street party signaled the release of a nation. Heavily policed, the buoyant mood won out. Many security officers danced, smiled and celebrated alongside them.
Kumba Alibea, 42, carried a sign he made saying “Just Divorced”. “When you are married to someone who gives you no freedom, you must leave them,” he said. Others yelled out “Bye bye Bashir” to signify the break from Omar al-Bashir’s presidency in Khartoum. For many who gathered at the town’s countdown clock, the red digital flash said it all: “Free at last”.
On Saturday, tens of thousands walked towards the parade ground where President Salva Kiir raised the new South Sudan flag, bold in colors to represent blood, skin, peace, water and land.
Women ululated, while men skipped and danced their way waving mini versions of the flag, hanging them from shirt buttons, wrapped round as hats, attached to any spoke or surface of vehicles from motorbikes to 4WDs.
Police laced flag poles into their boots, or stuck two apiece per pocket. Thousands streamed toward the John Garang memorial ground, tribute to the leader who was killed in a helicopter crash three months after signing a historic peace deal in 2005.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit swore an oath of allegiance to the new state and a brass band played the anthem to the crowd, which included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US envoy Susan Rice, Colin Powell and UK foreign secretary William Hague.
The odd US flag and a placard in appreciation of the role played by US president George Bush in brokering the peace, plus several Israeli flags recognizing that country’s support and supply of weapons, went alongside other memories.
“We spent a long time at war, it’s enough,” said Rebecca Atoo, 30, waving her flag as she jostled to try to see the ceremony unfold.
Mr Kiir earlier greeted Khartoum’s Mr Bashir, an indicted war criminal, whose country was the first to recognize the new South Sudan and who later watched the ceremony unfold. Neighbor Egypt and the US have both recognized the new country.
For many southerners, Sudan is a country they have come to know only later in life. “I was born in war and grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda – now I have my own country I am so glad,” said John Agele, 18, craning forward at a security rope.
Samuel Woja Duku’s family left for Uganda when he was one year old, in flight from civil wars that have characterized the south since even a year before its independence in 1956. Fifty four years later, as a teacher in Khartoum, Mr Woja Duku finally made the move home, two weeks ago, travelling by barge down the River Nile with his children.
He says many of his friends are at the river port waiting to make the journey too. UN agencies estimate most of the 800,000 or so Southerners who stay in the north will follow suit and there are several hints the Khartoum government will make life unpleasant for southerners, from closing down southern newspapers to terminating jobs of southerners working in government service or private sector jobs without visas.
Now that South Sudan is free and independent nation, Mr Woja Duku, now a 55-year-old teacher, has a more immediate mission in neighboring Uganda, however. “My father used to tell he would not come back here until it was free. That day has come so now I am going to Uganda to collect his bones and bring them back here.”
Heeding Mr Kiir’s conviction that “we must now allow ourselves to dream” in sectors ranging from education and food to water and electricity in the sorely under-developed new country, Mr Woja Duku has another plan too: “Now I will teach here and build up my nation.”
Facts on South Sudan, the world’s newest country
The Republic of South Sudan
It’s the former emblem of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – black, red and green horizontal stripes, with a gold star in a blue triangle.
Salva Kiir Mayardit, 60, a former army officer, who often wears cowboy hats. He is the head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political wing of the rebel army that fought with the north before a peace accord was signed in 2005.
Mostly Christian (Anglican, Catholic), but many practice traditional African beliefs.
An estimated 8.5 million citizens. At least 80 per cent are illiterate – rising to 92 per cent for women – the majority of civil servants did not finish secondary school and there are estimated to be fewer than 500 trained doctors. More than three million people, nearly 40 per cent of the population, need food aid to survive.
A landlocked 580,000 square kilometers, roughly equal to France or Texas. Formed from the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is a land of expansive grassland, swamps and tropical rain forest straddling both banks of the White Nile. In contrast, Sudan in the north is mostly desert. Infrastructure is still lacking – with only about 50 kilometers of paved roads. Water remains a luxury in most communities.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan.
Oil. However, South Sudan has the potential to be among the largest food producers in Africa. The country also has hardwood timber, gold, chromium, iron ore and a host of other minerals.
Not yet decided. Currently the Sudanese pound
New national anthem
God Bless South Sudan, with verses dedicated to the motherland and the great patriots, is an upbeat tune that has people humming and can be heard on people’s cellphones. Students and teachers at Juba University won the anthem-writing competition.
Oh God! We praise and glorify you
For your grace on South Sudan
Land of great abundance
Uphold us united in peace and harmony
We rise raising flag with the guiding star
And sing songs of freedom with joy
For justice, liberty and prosperity
Shall forevermore reign
Oh great patriots!
Let us stand up in silence and respect
Saluting our martyrs whose blood
Cemented our national foundation
We vow to protect our nation
Oh God, bless South Sudan!