Which name is best for southern Sudan after 'inevitable' independence?

(Vancouver, Canada) - First, let us start with the nowadays talk: referendum, referendum, referendum!

It appears apparent that multitude of South Sudanese are impatient about the

referenda of S. Sudan and Abyei region in January 9th 2011 as stipulated in the

Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in Naivasha, Kenya in January 9th 2005.

Southerners have so far believed wholeheartedly that the forthcoming referenda for

self-determination are “sacrosanct” and sine qua non for a true comprehensive peace,

freedom, justice, equality, progress, development, the line goes on and on and on.


There is an indication that majority of Southerners have already vowed to run

“ransack” against anyone who plans to postpone or tamper upon with the highly

anticipated plebiscite. Some top GOSS officials have openly indicated that in case

of failure to conduct the referendum the regional Assembly in Juba (SSLA) will

decide on behalf of the Southerners. This is definitely none other than Unilateral

Declaration of Independence (UDI). Furthermore, the President of the Government of

Southern Sudan (GOSS), H. E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, has recently reiterated this

to the international community in the USA that, there would be a “massive”

escalation of war in the Sudan if the referenda for self determination is being

denied to the people of the South. The highly charged atmosphere in the South, due

to the long awaited self-determination for over a half century, makes the remaining

three months restless months ever in the history of the Sudan.

Prophecies for the “Inevitable” Independence of the South

“The South has no intention of separating from the North, for had that been the case

nothing on earth would have prevented the demand for separation. The South will at

any moment separate from the North if and when the North so decides, directly or

indirectly, through political, social and economic subjection of the South," Rev. Fr.

Saturnino Lohure said on the 2nd Sudan parliament (1958).


“I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years, have

brought to you CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your

turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When time

comes to vote at referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would

you like to be second class citizens in your own country?, it is absolutely your

choice,” said Dr John Garang de Mabior, Rumbek, Southern Sudan, May 15, 2005


Henceforth, the ongoing processions in the South, with special dedicated days on

9th of each month, do tell us, without any doubt, that Northern Sudan is losing its

oil rich region—Southern Sudan—its main economy basket. People from all works of

life in the South such as GOSS officials, civil servants, traditional chiefs,

bishops, Muslim leaders, youths, women, common people and even people from other

nationalities do come to the streets in all the ten states of Southern Sudan showing

their anger and dismay against the bitter and unrealistic unity of the Sudan thus

favoring secession. Famous slogans extracted from Exodus 8:1 such as “LET MY PEOPLE

GO” and others like “YES FOR SEPERATION AND NO FOR UNITY” are common.

More so, Hillary Clinton of the US calls the likely independence of the South as

“inevitable”. Even some people interpret the central stipulation in the CPA for the

word “unity” as a euphemism for the word “slavery”. They believe the CPA phrase for

“making unity attractive” actually means “making slavery attractive.”


In addition, once, a friend of mine told me that almost all South Sudanese, if not

all, have become “politicians” whether intellectuals or not, whether church

ministers or not, whether literate or not, whether soldiers or not, whether young or

not. The ongoing political atmosphere in Sudan, as a whole, has educated the

uneducated to become educated and thus with substantial experience about “politics”.

To justify this supposition, just meet South Sudanese in any of their gatherings, at

least you would hear them talking politics. Paradoxically, it is not even uncommon

to hear politics taken to church pulpits and mosques.


Likewise, majority of South Sudanese musicians intensely campaign for separation.

Their songs also warn the “Thomases” not to doubt the likely forth-coming

self-determination for the South. (Remember that Thomas, one of the disciples of

Jesus Christ, doubted the message that Jesus had risen from the dead, until Jesus

himself appeared to him and told him to prove for himself, John 20:24-29.) On the

same manner, some of their songs warn those Southerners who act or who are trying

to act like “Judas Iscariot” to abandon such devilish practices. (Judas Iscariot

was only given thirty pieces of silver as a bribe to sell Jesus Christ into the

hands of the enemies, Matthew 26:15.)


Furthermore, opinion polls done by several researchers do tell us vividly that

Southerners have already decided their own destiny; they are now showing “deaf” ears

to the gobbledygook call in Khartoum for the unity of the country. They are openly

favoring total independence of South Sudan come January 9. This includes the SPLM,

one of the principle signatories to the CPA. As this article goes on media, South

Sudan is on the process of refining and finalizing its own proposed National Anthem

prior to the coming independence. Again, the recent opinion poll conducted in Lake

State by Agency for Independent Media (AIM) revealed that 97.6% of Southerners favor

secession. The experiences of the people from the past and current brutal

governments of Sudan have taught them enough lessons as to what the so-called unity

would be. They are opting for a total independence to avoid the ongoing

dictatorship, imposed Islamization and Arabization as well as inhuman legislations

on non-Muslims deemed to censure them for their refusal to accept slavery. Such

brutality, however, comes from within (Khartoum) and indirectly from other foreign

bodies that are Arab chauvinistic and anti Christian in nature. Even though now

Khartoum and its allies pour “rains” of dollars to the South for urgent development,

all will fall on deaf ears. Most Southerners believe the recent pro unity funds sent

from Khartoum actually come from the exploited resources in the South; they are just

taken to Khartoum and then a handful “za tongau min inak le wara fi Junub” in the

name of unity, as one of the chiefs from Central Equatoria once said. Ironically,

when a Southerner talks about unity of the Sudan, many Southerners see that person

as a “traitor” who is trying to sell them out for personal gains. This, however,

makes it difficult for the pro unity campaigners to do comprehensive campaigns in

the South.

Circulating names for the new state

South Sudanese all over the world are impulsive in knowing whether their anticipated

new country would have a brand new name or it would retain its current

name—South(ern) Sudan. They want to know whether GOSS has already proposed a name

for the soon to be new state, in which they still keep the name secret thus awaiting

the declaration of the referenda results. However, many Southern intellectuals are

brainstorming their minds in order to see as to which name would best suit their new

state. Below are some of the proposed names commonly circulating around the media,

which have sparked some hullabaloos or controversies as well:

• The Republic of South Sudan

• The Republic of Kush/Cush

• The Republic of Nileland

• The Nile Republic

• The Republic of Nile Africa

• Others acronyms


Experts studying names say names of countries matter; a name can “taint” the image

of a country or it can positively lift its image. Names that are associated with

unlucky countries may prevent investors from coming to those countries because “most

people usually do not bother to surface past their impressions” (Simon Anholt, the

founder of the Anhold-GfK Roper Nations Brands Index). Now let us examine critically

the pros and cons of each of the above-proposed names for the upcoming new state in

East Africa.


a) The Republic South Sudan

Proponents of this name favor the soon to be new state in the South to be called The

Republic of South Sudan. They assert that this name is a well-known name and it

reflects the indigenous people of Southern Sudan. The name Sudan comes from the

Arabic word as sud (black) or Bilaad as Sudan—the land of the blacks. Therefore,

Southerners are typically Sudanic and there is no doubt about that. Instead,

Northerners should change their own name and leave the whole name “Sudan” for the

South. Opponents of this name, however, see it as a “wounded” name. They stress that the

name, Sudan, has been spoiled or tainted by Khartoum governments and especially the

NCP led government of today. The word Sudan now sends a bad impression to the

international community—the name has been closely associated with genocide in

Darfur, wars, brutality, Janjaweed, indictment, human rights abuse, hunger etc. And

more worse, Sudan is under the US list of countries supporting terrorism. So calling

the new state in this name can mistakenly result to mistreatment of its own citizens

when travelling abroad. Again, if the South retains the “Sudan” name, it will

definitely chase investors away from coming to invest in the new country. Anhold

said that South Korea, one of the developed countries in the world, scores so badly

in Anhold Survey “because too many people fail to remember which Korea is ‘good’ and

which is ‘bad’”. Therefore, South Sudan may experience similar case if it does not

change its name. Instead, it should “get off” to a better brand name. Furthermore,

the opponents urge that historical facts inform us the name Sudan is not only for

the current Republic. The vast Sahel of sub Sahara constituted the Sudanic people

which extended from Senegal, Ghana, northern Nigeria, Mali, Niger, up to the Red Sea

coast; and even northern Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania have some Sudanic

people. So the only difference is that a small region has taken this name for its

country (Republic of the Sudan) which was baptized by Egypt. Therefore, the South

should not think they are the only Sudanic people.


b) The Republic of Kush

The people described as Cushites, descendents of the biblical Cush, goes far back to

the Old Testament period of the “Tables on Nations”. Thus, the Bible tells us

(Genesis 10 and 1 Chronicles 1) that Cush was the eldest son of Ham, the son of

Noah. He was the brother of Mizraim (where Philistines descended from, not the

current Palestine), Put (Egyptians descended from him) and Canaan (whom God

cursed—ancestor of the Hitites, Jebusites, Amorites etc who became a snare to the

Israelites later). The children of Cush were Nimrod (the mighty warrior on earth who

spearheaded the building of the tower of Babylon) Seba, Havilah etc. Cush was the

grandfather of Sheba of Ethiopia, whose queen later visited Jerusalem and got

impregnated by King Solomon. The book of Numbers 12:1 shows the wife of Moses,

Zippora, as a Cushite. Isaiah 18:2, 7 (NIV) describes the Cushites as “people who

are tall and smooth-skinned…feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange

speech, whose land is divided by rivers”.


In history, Egyptian old manuscripts and archeological findings (excavated by Gerstang

and Dows Dunham) found out that there was a well developed and civilized nation

called the Kingdom of Kush which stretched from southern Egypt and to the Sudan and its first capital in Kerma, above the third cataract of the Nile (along Dongola of

Sudan). Later when Kush (dark skinned people) became independent from Egypt it

established its capital in Napata (the capital of the flourished, civilized ancient

world) and then moved to Meroe (along the confluence of the Nile and Atbara rivers)

for 1,070 years until the middle of 4th century A.D. Kush became strong and

conquered the neighboring states including Egypt thus established 25th black dynasty

of Pharaohs in Egypt which it ruled for about 200 years. Finally, rival Kingdom of

Axum from the Ethiopian highlands broke up the Kingdom hence ending its 1,070 years



Proponents of this name want the new nation from Southern Sudan to be called The

Republic of Kush (or Cush).They believe this name has historic contexts stretching

from the biblical times and proved by historical facts, legends and archeological

findings. They believe this name, however, re-instills confidence in the people of

the South who have undergone prolonged slavery. The proponents see themselves as the

“biblical people” whom Isaiah prophesied that its nation would one time become a

flourishing nation after the long censorships. Also some statements have been made

by some GOSS officials about their support for this name. For example, the content

of the proposed South Sudan National Anthem mentions Cush and its black warrior-like

people probably cited from Prophet Isaiah 18. And more so, there is an independent,

public strategic research and policy studies institute established by GOSS which is

already called Kush Institute headed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

Opponents of this name do not believe this name is appropriate. They think this name

may cause some tension in the future since the biblical Cushites are said to be

“tall and smooth-skinned…feared far and wide, an aggressive nation (warriors) of

strange speech”. Many of the ethnic groups in the South are not in that manner;

these groups are not tall, worrier like people as some of the ethnic groups in the

South. Therefore, it would be difficult to reconcile this description to accommodate

all Southerners. Likewise, history and biblical accounts do not necessarily confine

the Cushites to the current Southern Sudan. It goes further to describe some groups

of people in the horn of Africa and Asia as well. Historians and theologians still

have some conflicting ideas as to who these Cushites are. Nevertheless, the

opponents of this name urge that the etymological word which is claimed to describe

the black Africans (Cushites) need to be expounded. The Hebrew word ??? or Cush was translated in the Septuagint (the Greek translation) as ???????? or Aethiopia (“of

burned face”) and in other Bible translations it is translated as Sudan (see Isaiah

18). So calling South Sudan as Kush is the same as calling it Nuba, Sudan or

Ethiopia. To make it funny, many women find it hard to pronounce the word Cush since the pronunciation for the female reproductive part in Arabic is similar to its

sound; so some people may use it derogatively.

c) The Republic of Nileland

Proponents of this name believe Nileland is the best name for the people of South

Sudan. The reason is, they believe, naming the new state in the name of the Nile and

its vast land will prevent the new country from tension between communities in the

region. For instant, if the name of the new state represents only one part of the

region, those who are not represented would feel alienated. They would feel

disregarded as genuine citizens of the nation thus it would cause some future

conflicts. It would be the same as calling Sudan an Arab state when majority of the

people are not Arabs. Opponents of this name believe the name is not suitable for the people of Southern

Sudan. Many who oppose this name commented through the social media that they feel the name (Nileland and its people, Nilelanders) sounds like a “small” land or an

island within the Nile, while Southern Sudan region is even bigger than the combined

Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

d) Nile Republic

Proponents of this name assert that the new nation should be called Nile Republic.

They believe this is the most appropriate brand name for Southern Sudan. Steve

Bloomfield, author of the recently published “Africa United: How Football Explains

Africa” says “calling the new country the Nile Republic could instantly transform

its image. It is a positive popular brand known all around the world”. On the other

hand, northern Uganda opposition politicians, including Norbert Mao, the Ugandan

presidential hopeful for 2011, had threatened the Ugandan government that they would

create a new state called Nile Republic for the people of northern Uganda if their

government continued marginalizing their people. This, however, indicates that this

name is positive and popular and it would be a catalysts to attract investors.

Opponents of this name believe the name would cause some tension between Egypt and the South if the South opts for this name, as Egypt is curious about anything

relating to the Nile. On the other hand, coming up with a name to describe the

citizens of “Nile Republic” would be difficult. Since majority of South’s ethnic

groups are “Nilotics” coming up with this name would send a wrong message to the

Sudanese with a Bantu ethnicity from Western Equatoria and even in Western Bahr el

Ghazal, to some extent.

e) The Republic of Nile Africa

Proponents who support this name believe this name is the most appropriate than all

the others; hence, it mentions the longest and popular river in the world where the

new state to be is situated. Calling the South “The Republic of Nile Africa”

actually describes both the geographical location of the new country and its people.

This, unlike the aforementioned, would not carry any wrong message to any of the

ethnic groups found in the South since they are all Africans in which the

consecutive Khartoum governments and their allies are trying to make extinct. Those

who favor this name believe the name would definitely attract investors as well as

send a “shiny” image of the new country to the international community. They argue

that this brand name is very accommodative. Additionally, the way to describe its

citizens is easy and to the point—Nile Africans.

Opponents of this name think the name carry no sense since the Nile is only found in

Africa. Therefore, there is no need to call a country “Nile Africa”.

f) Acronyms

Proponents: Many have also suggestion that the name for the “soon to be” nation in

Southern Sudan should be named by using acronyms. For example, The Citizen English

newspaper in Juba indicated that one prominent Southerner proposed the name to be

JUMAWA, taken from the former regional capitals of the provinces of Equatoria, Bahr

el Ghazal and Upper Nile, with their first two letters of Juba, Malakal and Wau.

Others think it should be called GEBU, Greater Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper

Nile. Some believe all the ten states of the South should be represented as well.

Opponents to these suggested acronyms say these names do not make sense since a

town’s name can be changed at any time. Such names cannot accommodate all the

states; for instant, some of the ten states are not fully represented and if Blue

Nile and Southern Kordofan states join the South as they still have some room in the

CPA, the suggested names would not accommodate these states.


The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) should not hurry to endorse any unnecessary proposed name for the forth-coming new state in East Africa without thorough study  by looking into its pro and cons to avoid any blunder, which would cause tension/conflict in the future. The new name should not be dictated upon, rather some of the well-informed Southerners be involved in the process.


*The author of this article, Peter Towongo John, holds Dip and BA in Bible and

Theology and currently he is a graduate psychology student in Vancouver, Canada. You

can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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