EDITORIAL: The meaning behind declaration of South Sudan independence

Category: Sudan
Published on Friday, 08 July 2011 14:43
Written by Joseph Deng Garang, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), newsudanvision.com
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OMAHA, NE (The New Sudan Vision) - IN few hours, South Sudan will formally declare independence from Sudan. But before we witness history unfold, let's pause for a moment to recap how we got here. History was bookended in the Sudan on January 9, 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Kenya, essentially bringing to a close Africa’s longest Civil War between Northern and Southern Sudan. For the first time, a new era of the Peace opened the doors for a new course of history and opportunity for all marginalized people in the Sudan. On that day, under the clear African skies, our founding father John Garang exuded optimism and inspiration by putting decades-old wars into historical and moral perspectives—stressing the need for all free people to establish a new anchor in history. It is the 5000 years of Sudanese history which Dr. John Garang de Mabior shared passionately that day with a proud sea of the marginalized people of Sudan at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr. Garang immortalized the CPA as follows:

With this peace agreement, there will be no more bombs falling from the sky on innocent children and women. Instead of the cries of children and the wailing of women and the pain of the last 21 years of war, peace will bless us once more with hearing the happy giggling of children and the enchanting ululation of women who are excited in happiness for one reason or another.

This peace agreement will change the Sudan forever. Sudan cannot and will never be the same again as this peace agreement will engulf the country in democratic and fundamental transformations, instead of being engulfed in wars as it has always been for the last 184 years - since 1821, when our country was first invaded by outside powers and exposed to the ravages of the slave trade and predatory commerce of all sorts, and since before independence from 1955 in civil wars.

The CPA spanned 6 years of intense implementation, which were characterized by usual tug of war and bickering between the north and the south, something which very often resulted in then South Sudanese leadership (SPLM) finding itself having to thread the needle in order to keep the peace treaty alive. But in few hours, thankfully, those days of stonewalling will come to an end. And understandably, all South Sudanese and their friends in the marginalized areas are yet again filled with immense pride as they welcome a brave new nation: the Republic of South Sudan.

The victory all South Sudanese relish today could be cast in a manner akin to the Biblical story of David vs. Goliath. Yes, ours was an improbable victory given the numerical advantage the north always had over the south, especially when it came to the number of the fighting force. Granted, our revolution remains tied to the 190 years of Sudanese bitter struggle, but to be witnesses to the backdrop of today’s celebration of South Sudan independence is the greatest cathartic experience of all. It is simply the greatest feeling! So as we celebrate and remember those who died under the venerable flag of the SPLA, let’s also reflect on the very genius of our revolutionary movement that allowed the great generation to win the day; plus, what it will take for us to build a new nation from scratch. And if we ever think of honoring them in a more meaningful way, starting this month, South Sudanese ought to gave something they believe in, like embarking on a national project... a campaign for South Sudan's Future--one that will commit us to 22 years of hard work---the same number of years it took us to fight for freedom—by working hard to build South Sudan into a decent place fit for every man, woman or child to live and dream.

And by so doing, we will have delivered on the sacred promise of our nation to all those who gave selflessly of themselves---the martyrs to whom this day belongs.

PROFILES IN STATESMANSHIP: Thanks to the courageous spirit and the astute leadership of our founding father whose profile in statesmanship will continue to guide and humble us, the gallant fighters of the SPLA carried the day, thus delivering that which was at stake: the quest for freedom and human dignity. Today is a validation of the triumph of human spirit. Today stands as our communion in revolution with all those 4 million who laid down their lives for this land.

As a little known educated young man, Dr. John Garang banded with all the like-minded colleagues to found the SPLM/SPLA, which rose from obscurity to wage a relentless war of revolution against the entrenched forces of oppression in Khartoum. Garang drew inspiration from the pioneer liberation icons of the Anyanya One Movement. Garang's leadership couple with his knack for defining the mission became legendary from 1983-2005. We also pay tribute to the millions of our gallant forces along with the founding members of the SPLM/A, whose goals were to wage a struggle for justice and human dignity after decades of oppression by the North.

Garang and his team saw a future homeland and a sea of the marginalized people waiting to be liberated and that became their cause célèbre’ for 22 years. Our new nation will forever remain indebted to them. Let the candles that we will light today also burn in honor of the fallen as each of those will represent the tombstones of over 3 million that were killed during the war.

In the face of future challenges, a new generation of leaders would do well to look to that great generation of heroes for courage.

SOUTH SUDANESE IN CONTROL OF SHAPING OWN DESTINY: Independence Day evokes every aspect of our brave young nation. In our search for a narrative or model template for this new country, perhaps we should thank the recent sitting of the South Sudan Fifth Speakers’ Forum for giving those of us working on this editorial page some perspective on how our new nation must start from day one.

Buoyed by the glare of excitement that has been building since the landslide result of the Self-Determination referendum and in the lead up to the independence, South Sudan Legislative Assembly and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs hosted the speakers and deputy speakers of all 10 states in an effort to jumpstart conversation within the broader narrative of readying ourselves for the challenges and the pains of building a new nation. The recommendations and resolutions of their 4-day meeting were very solid and the following lines struck us as prescient: that the Constitution should be viewed as a “tool of national healing and character.”

Prior to the 5th Speakers Forum, we also got great perspective and experience from a group of well-read Southern Sudanese intellectuals who shared their vision for our new nation, which according to them, must embrace its diversity of cultures and traditions. As we celebrate independence, let’s also showcase the vibrancy of our cultures confident in the knowledge that we are free to share with the world that which was under repression.

Let’s look to our heroes who centred the movement on a set of ideas, professionalism and competence to propel our nation forward. Despite the fact that we are building a new nation in the aftermath of a global financial collapse, there is no reason the Republic of South Sudan must not aspire to become a model for fresh politics on the African continent.

But let’s also remember that humor can serve us along the road to nation building, like in our creativity and the desire to build animal-shaped cities.

We also have a very unique chance of creating a political system and an environment where nearly all citizens can appreciate and participate in government and politics as long as the idea of political efficacy is built into our socio-economic and political development. During the last 6 years, Southern Sudanese have seen the lure of self-government and that should serve as a ringing evidence of how people can be motivated to work for their government.

Citizens only tune out when the government and politics are made as hobbies by some politicians who practice mindless politics rather than as service by capable men and women who believe in the Africa’s ineffable capacity for benevolence, self-determination and good governance. Put the right people to work. Cultivate a generation of educated workforce. Take the towns to the villages. That is the meaning of independence. It will mean ‘taking the road less travelled” sometimes, that “unconventional path” will mean devising different solutions to our problems. However, these noble aspirations are illusive without adhering to the precepts of good governance, accountability, transparency, and justice. We commend the Southern Sudanese parliament for empowering the Anti Corruption Commission with prosecutorial powers in the final version of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, passed on Wednesday. Our post-independence government must shed itself of its toothless “zero-tolerance” on corruption and begin hand-curving culprits.

TO HERALD A BRAVE NEW REPUBLIC: It would not be an exercise in human hubris to conclude that the current generations of South Sudanese, by creating a new country, have reached a milestone not uncommon in African history. Let us continue to think humbly like the pioneers our founding fathers were, because if there is one subtle fact that our liberation struggle underscored well, it is the truth that great nations are first built as ideas in the minds of their leaders, well before every citizen becomes intimately involved in the physical exercise of nation building.

So as we nudge along, let’s remind ourselves that building this nation is going to demand a great measure of bravery from all our leaders if we are to make our independence worthy of its name—as the people’s liberation it once was. Let’s match our revolutionary credentials with the equity of independence.

When all is said and done, perhaps South Sudanese could use this post independence period to learn about our diverse heritage and traditions, get to know the basic things about many different tribes because when citizens find themselves debating and opposing one another in the future, at least each will have much to say rather than indulging in the usual parroting of nonsense that smacks of mindless politics. Such will be the beginning of our common nationality—an embrace of true citizenship by the citizenry.

Also, our celebration would not be complete without our returning the gratitude to all the nations, and individuals who opened up their doors, minds and hearts to help us in every way during our long decades of suffering. For we cannot think of a better way to return that love other than turn to this Biblical verse from the New Testament, which reminds nations and individuals to care.

“I was hungry and you gave me food....I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...I was a stranger and you welcomed me...I was naked and you gave me clothing ...and when asked when? The Lord said, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” Matthew 25:40.

Finally, let the feeling of poetic justice of today reach our brothers, sisters and cousins in the marginalized areas of Sudan. We must not forget the thread that held the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, Abyei, Darfur, and South Sudan during the last 21 years of camaraderie, because such bond must remain unbreakable.

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 This Editorial was published on July 8, 2011, the eve of Independence, hours before South Sudan formally declared independence from the Sudan.