By Deng Riak Khoryoam, South Sudan
January 30, 2011 (SSNA) — The much anticipated popular vote on independence for South Sudan has finally come to a close earlier this month with the results being announced by the SSRB and subsequently, by the commission in Khartoum this week. It goes without saying that the process went smoothly; in a free, fair and transparent manner, in which the international observers said they were “impressed” for what they saw throughout the whole process: that is before, during and after the polling process. This was against the backdrop of skeptics who thought that the whole process might turn chaotic since there were lots of stumbling blocks laid on the path to the voting booth. Theirs might have been a genuine fear but have been proven wrong as the contrary of their thinking was the case!!!
Debates have been raging as to what name the new nation or call it new country should pick as it moves towards full independence come July 9th, 2011. So let me add my view to the foregoing debate about the name of our new country- in – waiting, which is exactly six (6) months away from now. But before I add or present my view about the name, I challenge us all to take it cool and avoid abusive language or offensive words that may infuriate others, thus we should do so with some kind of civility and respect for one another. Let us also be rationale, because I myself, believe in rationale debates; not irrational and emotional ones!
Since last year, some South Sudanese writers as well as opinion leaders have embarked in an extensive futile search, in an attempt to find a suitable name for the Africa’s 54th youngest nation this year; and the world’s 193rd, and all is for a good reason, despite the fact some fellows are suggesting some incongruous names which carry connotations they themselves don’t either fully know or understand altogether. I am for South Sudan as the name of the new nation for various reasons, which is the “The republic of South Sudan” and that is the sole purpose of writing this article. First and foremost, the name “South Sudan” is historical and has been mentioned several times in all the international agreements as well as the domestic agreements and therefore should not just be thrown into the trash out of the blue.
I know the present Sudan is associated with a lot of negative attributes in the face of international community but it does not warrant us to completely get-rid of the last name ‘Sudan’. Many countries in Africa and other parts of the world have also committed despicable crimes and gross human rights violations and have been placed under similar sanctions like Sudan but are not ashamed to an extent of wanting to change the name. Some of the funny and fictitious names that are being suggested/proposed for the new nation are: Kush republic, Nile Republic, Wunjubacel and so forth.
To start with, those who suggested that the name of the new country be Kush have fallen short to convince us beyond any reasonable doubt as to why it should be the name of the new nation. Some have inconsistently, perhaps sometimes, may be consistently, tried to justify this by asserting that it’s because it has biblical connotation; that it’s written in the bible or probably because the late Dr. John Garang never failed – sometimes to mention it. Its Isaiah chapter 18 under the title or heading written “God shall punish Sudan” fancy as the heading goes in the holy bible, and it continue to talk and predict about all the horrible things that would happen to Sudan, and almost all of those things mentioned in that book have happened during the protracted and costly civil wars that have robed the Africa’s largest country by area of the chance to remain united – resulting of its fragmentation into two sovereign states come July 9, 2011.
Therefore the term “Kush” is not something a sensible Southern Sudanese would want the new country to be named after because of its ambiguities. It simply means black just as the word “Sudan” also means black, but are we the only black people in Sudan and elsewhere in African continent that we should name our new country ‘Kush’ just because we are blacks, and of African origin? It doesn’t hold any water!
It’s not appropriate because when our heroes and heroines (our martyrs) took up arms, they did not take up arms to liberate the so-called Kush or whatever name we are suggesting now but to liberate Sudan, and later when it became apparent that the whole Sudan was too big to be liberated by just a small portion of it – the South, the wise ones realized that Sudan was too deformed to be reformed; thus they started championing for the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan. So the recently closed polls, the referendum on self-determination was a culmination of their hard-work, wise and strategic planning!
Coming to Nile republic, the proponents seem to come from a rather different school of thought but almost similar to that of Kush since it carries the same meaning as is written in that prophet Isaiah 18 from verse 1 – 2 about land divided by rivers and which sends her ambassadors by sea. Perhaps, that is why the former Sudanese ambassador to Japan, H.E. Steven Wonde is in favor of this name ‘Nile republic’ probably because he wants to be sent to diplomatic mission by sea to fulfill what the bible has said! Because if that is not the case, then I don’t see any other concrete reason as to why we should name our country ‘Nile republic’ since the Nile as a river does not start and end in Sudan or South Sudan for that matter, it comes all the way from Lake Victoria in Uganda and goes further to Arab world (Mediterranean sea) via North Sudan. And furthermore, if it was such an honorable name, why didn’t Uganda pick it as its name upon her independence in sixties so as to feel a sense of ownership of it?
As for the fictitious name Wunjubacel, I cannot comment about it as I am not quite sure if the proponent understands it well or not, and whether he has done an extensive and careful research on the subject. It seems as though some of my fellow citizens are out to invent something that they will use to brag about if approved or got attention of the leaders who will have final say on what name the new nation shall pick. Let us not abandon the name ‘South Sudan’ just because it’s associated with North Sudan. South Korea separated from the North in 1953, eight years after the Second World War but it didn’t change or go for another name because Korea had committed horrible crimes; it remains to be called South Korea in her own face and in the face of international community.
In conclusion, let’s not bring up names that would put us to shame in the face of our martyrs and that of international community. And let’s not mix our personal or private issues with that of public, surely such things do happen and are bound to happen whether we give it (the South) another name or not, it does not only happen in those countries that placed Sudan under sanctions but even in countries within Africa as a continent. We may call it Nile republic, Kush or any other name but it if follows the bad examples (footsteps) of its erstwhile, which does not respect and honour fundamental and universal rights, it will find itself into the same situation and shall be placed under serious sanctions by the international community. So in my humble opinion, I think the name doesn’t really matter; what matters most is whether the new country shall value and respect basic rights of her citizens or not. If it doesn’t observe these, then it will just be like the old Sudan and her ambassadors shall get even harsher treatment than those of old Sudan overseas. I penned off here and let the debate continue but let us also consider the pros and cons of adapting a new name just because we’ve become independent. I would advise that we retain the name ‘South Sudan’ for the new country- to-be comes 9th July, 2011.
The author is Deng Riak Khoryoam, he lives in South Sudan and he is reachable at email@example.com