By PaanLuel Wel, Washington D.C, USA
"It is almost impossible to believe that this day has come. I am very happy. Even if I die, I would have seen what we have been fighting for—freedom," exclaimed Marial, a resident of Juba City, South Sudan.
July 11, 2011 (SSNA) — As we eagerly approach July 9th—the long-awaited independent day of South Sudan—it is incumbent upon us the media to provide an adequate platform for all South Sudanese citizens and their friends, within and outside the country, to air their personal views and opinions on this pivotal day in our long arduous history of socio-eco-political struggle. Imperatively, I have taken it upon myself to gather and broadcast the views, opinions, aspirations, fears, good and bad memories of the war etc of South Sudanese on the culmination of our long history of liberation.
There are two main sources of my information. One is a questionnaire, containing a set of questions, sends out to friends and acquaintances through both email and Facebook page, solemnly urging each and every potential respondent to participate on “this sacred occasion of our independence by answering the following questions to the best of his/her knowledge and ability.” The second primary source of my material is a bonanza of data randomly mined from my humongous numbers of Facebook friends, albeit without neither their permission nor information (welcome to the predatory age of Facebook!!).
Whereas the data extracted from the Facebook page was not necessarily provided for nor expressed with an explicit question(s) in mind, the information grilled from the questionnaire, however, was specifically engineered towards a set of well-defined questions. In addition to querying for such basic information like names/age, location and occupation; other questions asked were how potential respondents feel about the independence of South Sudan and what July 9th mean to them; what their expectations, hopes, aspirations, fears and anxieties are about and for the newly independent state of South Sudan, and what the most challenges that would confront an independent state of South Sudan are and what, in their opinions, should be done about them.
Moreover, potential participants were asked what they consider to have been the most memorable or infamous events or happenings that they would either favorably or sadly remember about our long war of liberation. Lastly, besides being challenged to name top five leaders in the entire history of our struggle that they would be most grateful to for the present independence of South Sudan, prospective respondents were also asked the following touchy question: “as liberated South Sudanese in our own nation, how ideally should we remember and honor our fallen and wounded heroes/heroines, and the war veterans, in the newly independent State of South Sudanese?”
Though the initial response from the contacted individuals was not overwhelming enough as anticipated, it gradually and steadily gained sufficient speed to become substantial enough to provide the basis for this article. The reactions came from South Sudanese within South Sudan and especially those in Juba city; from South Sudanese still residing in Khartoum or in the North; and from South Sudanese in the Diaspora in various countries such as the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zea-land, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia etc. Furthermore, friends of South Sudan from our neighboring countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda or from Western nations like the USA or England, and even surprisingly, some of our former bitter enemies—the Arabs in the North—did join us in ushering in the dawn and the joyous historic birth of the Republic of South Sudan.
What was the response from the participants and the Facebook friends? As would be expected in such kind of emotional time, the response was varied and mixed: a combination of raw emotions gushing freely from a long-suppressed veins characterized by unprecedented joys as well as a cautious and measured opinions about what the future hold for an independent state of South Sudan.
Below are the main selected findings:
As understandably should be expected from a largely religious society as ours, the main first responses were about gratitude and praising to God for granting South Sudanese their independence. These were then closely followed up by, or mixed up together with, welcoming messages announcing the arrival of the soon-to-be born independent state of South Sudan.
Sunday Taabu from the USA, a former official of GoSS Mission in Washington D.C, observed on her Facebook page: “Three days remaining, right? May the Almighty God take the steering wheel and guide us safely to the finishing line. May he bestow His abundant wisdom upon our leaders. Let us match to the finishing line with faith and hope in Him alone, Amen! Yeah! It is a long walk to freedom, and the journey has just begun.”
Chuol Chei, who lives in Minnesota, USA, but currently vacationing in Unity state, South Sudan, declares: “God is great, I am chilling in Nasir right now…New South Sudan Oyeee,” just as Nana Paul from Wau cries out to the Almighty, “Oooh God blesses South Sudan!!"
Meanwhile, KambaBoy, who Lives in Nanyuki, Kenya, beseeches the Great One: “GOD BLESS SOUTHERN SUDAN !”
“South Sudan Forever!!! God Bless South Sudan, You people are truly loved by God!!!”shouted Simon Yaqoob, a foreign friends of South Sudan sucked in by the mighty gravitational force heralding the birth of South Sudan.
Khor Dol, a student of Economics and Trade Policy at Ndejje University in Kampala, Uganda, but originally from Malakal, South Sudan, writes: “this is going to be one of the most memorable day as well as a historical day in the lives of Southern Sudanese…..may God bless this land and everyone shall prosper….Amen.”
And while most people might be all about praising and exalting the Lord of heaven for his perceived graciousness, others have their eyes transfixed on the timing, keenly tracking the arrival of the new born baby as the hour tick its way slowly toward July 9th, 2011.
Writing for the New Sudan Vision, Parek Maduot, a South Sudanese heavy intellectual from Washington, D.C, announces assuredly: “less than 48 hours separate us from the inaugural trumpets announcing the arrival of the Republic of South Sudan among the fraternity of nations.”
As if recalling the first bunch of Christians from Antioch, Johnny Madhang, a South Sudanese student from Sydney, Australia, concurs with Parek Maduot as he takes an exceptional pride in his new forthcoming special status. “Less than 24hrs to score the ball, but it seem Southerners in New South Wales, Australia, will be first citizen of the new nation,” he beams on his Facebook page.
Nyanyai Dau Deng, a South Sudanese young lady writing from the USA but originally from Wau, South Sudan, acknowledges the sacredness of the day: “To all my brothers and sisters, we are at the moment that we have all waited for a very long time for. Let’s celebrate our independence on July 9th. Give thanks to our mothers for our birth during our countries greatest days.”
Whereas July 9th is already a reality in the lives of most South Sudanese, for Augustino Mayom Makuok from Rumbek but currently lives in Israel, however, July 9th is yet a century away: “I am counting the days, when will 9th of July comes? Every now and then I feel like 9th of July is not going to come…but it is in our door.”
It is the same opinion for Panom Koryom from Kampala, Uganda: “Is it excitement or surprise that we are going to have a new nation soon? Can’t believe it guys that it is less than two weeks away for Republic of South Sudan (ROSS) to be officially declared! Be careful to run, for you may fall and be careful to walk, for you may miss it.”
While most South Sudanese are in a sheer celebratory mood, some are trying to offer more somber and thoughtful comments stressing the fact that this day has cost South Sudanese countless lives and untold amount of human and material resources.
Manyang Mayar, a South Sudanese journalist with the Juba Post somberly observed: “It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. Millions laid down their lives so that our country breathes this day. Never forget their sacrifices. Happy Independence Day, the Republic of South Sudan, happy birthday to yoooooooooooooooooou.”
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave,” he added patriotically!!!
But for Ayuel Leek Deng, a pre-Law student at Avila University from the USA, it is all about the wounded heroes and heroines of our protracted war. Commenting on the image of SPLA disabled soldiers on his Facebook page, he writes: “These individual disable soldiers in uniform have lost their arms, legs and other important part of the body in the war zones or battle-fields fighting for our freedom; these freedom fighters deserve to be respected and honored. Their bloodshed paid off and that’s why we’re about to gain our independence on July 9th, 2011. People of the Republic of South Sudan, must thank them for the costs they have paid so that we become free in our own land.”
He goes on beseechingly, urging South Sudanese to pay ultimate their tributes to our men and women in uniform: “Please let us remember them as we’re celebrating the birth of our newest nation….SPLA oyeeeeeee!”
As for one Deng Kuol Ajak from Brisbane, Australia, July 9th brought back the memories of his late father who took part in the war of independence: “The cause for which you sacrifice more than 30 yrs of your life is being achieved! 9th July is here. You and many of your South Sudanese comrades who said yes to southern liberation struggle in 1983 brought it for us. Freedom be your reward. Thank u daddy for being a liberator. RIP…”
“South Sudanese must be the most optimistic people on earth this year as their independence approaches,” concludes Deng Kuol.
And although it was all joyfulness and festivity, some South Sudanese do not want us to easily forget and forgive the old adversary. Abraham Deng Lueth Mayom from Missouri, USA, wishes for the detention of President Bashir: “While July 9th, 2011, will be the official Independence Day of ROSS, may be it will also be arrest Day of Beshir by the ICC. So, welcome to Juba Mr. Beshir and good luck!”
But his friend, Damade Deng, who was eavesdropping from Dallas, Texas, in the USA, has different opinion: “If Bashir was vital during CPA negotiation and in implementing it demands, I think Bashir should be the prime guest in this ceremonial event. I rather have Bashir than western dignitaries.”
And while James K. Deng from Pennsylvania, USA, is ready for “the PARTY of the decades” John Ayom from Mississippi, USA, is thinking about how Southerners have been missing in action for too long: “we have been missing out and we need to catch up with the rest of the world,” he says to his friend Deng.
Meanwhile, some shrewd-minded South Sudanese couldn’t let go unnoticed and unexploited the huge business opportunities in the euphoria of July 9th. “As we are approaching to the Birth of the world new nation, South Sudan, July 9th 2011, tune in Friday 8:00pm Central, as BUSINESS ON CAMERA introduce to you Rapper Hot-Dogg Music Video " Letter to God,” announces Rapper Hot-Dogg, a South Sudanese upcoming talented musician.
Martin King, From Los Angeles, USA, has also his eyes glued on the same prize: “Ayo my brothers and sisters your boii "MAGIC" on the process of releasing my song for my HOME "JUBA" hit me up on you tube, check out my Hits yall peace.”
For others though, it is all about invitations and communal partying for the whole community who might have had few reasons to gather for the “party of the decade “as James Deng put it.
Mangok Mach Bol, who lives in Massachusetts, USA but originally from Bor, South Sudan, takes to the air: “The flag of the Young Nation to be: Republic of South Sudan, will be raise next to American Flag on Saturday at Boston City Hall this coming Saturday morning @11:00am with military style by former Jech Amer. Our flag will fly for few weeks at the busiest Boston’s government Center. The South Sudanese communities of New England will witness this historical event. Congrats to all compatriots for the birth of New nation.”
At the very moment, Madol Mading, who presently resides in Kampala, Uganda, but was originally from Rumbek, was addressing his community: “Lakes state youth in Kampala will celebrate July 9th in Calendar Hotel, Makindye division, Kampala Uganda. You are all welcome to celebrate this joyous occasion with us. A lot of entertainment from various artists.”
Michael Ayuen Kuany, who was originally from Bor, South Sudan, but current lives in Wisconsin, USA, implores his community: “Please join Southern Sudanese in celebrating their independence on Saturday July 9th, 2011. It is a historic moment in which justice speaks and justice rings. I am glee to witness this time of history. May peace be upon earth!!”
But July 9th was not all a smooth ride for everyone. For while Mangok Mach Bol and Madol Mading are eagerly welcoming South Sudanese communities in their places for July 9th communal celebration, Magang Chol Mathei, from Sydney, Australia, was profusely apologizing to his constituents: “I just want to let you know that the celebrations of July 9th for South Sudan independent couldn’t be celebrated on the same 9th of July here in Sydney NSW, but it has been adjourned to 10th of July Sunday, due to an unforeseen circumstances.”
Commenting on the coincidence relationship between the USA July 4th and the South Sudan July 9th, Ngor Biar from the University of Louisville, USA, writes: “I am already pumped up! will spend July 4th weekend in Harrisburg/Philadelphia and it will be another celebratory weekend in Louisville comes July 9th for the independent of the South Sudan putting an end to 55 years of bloodshed.” To which Manyang Mayar, who worked at The Juba Post as a journalist, concurs adding that “now South Sudan and the U.S will share one thing in common. That is July as month of independence: July 4th for the U.S and July 9th for South Sudan.”
But for the lost boys and girls of South Sudan, it was all about the bad memories on the long treks to and from Ethiopia to Kenya. Panom Koryom, from Kampala, Uganda, paid tribute to his comrades in sorrow: “seeing my "Jeny Amer" picture of 1987 in Pinyundo and compare it with my present moment, I felt having really contributed to this "freedom at last". I think we need Red Army Museum for this archive. Happy Independent day to everybody!!”
Many commentators are surprisingly upbeat about the future prospects of the new nation. Tes G. Lul applauds: “To all South Sudanese say goodbye to Arabs and welcome a brand new Nation of the Republic of South Sudan with Good Things in Mind,” just as Karin Benjamin, from Nairobi, Kenya, agrees: “Dubai Africa is born….. Welcome!”
And Cisse Jok, From Eldoret, Kenya, makes a comparison: “I believe South Sudan will be the best country in Africa,” just as Otim Denish who lives in Juba, South Sudan, proudly hammers the drum of “Southern Sudan oyeeeee!!!”
For others though, pride in the new nation was the topmost feeling. Nyuon Gatluak, who dwells in Cairo, Egypt, declares: “am proud to be a Southern Sudanese!”
And even the not-so-yesterday enemies of South Sudanese—the northerners, could not escape the black-hole-like pull from the euphoria generated by July 9th as attest by one Tarig Mubarak, a northerner who writes: “I wished that we had remained as one nation, but I shall attend the celebration as it is our brothers choice….good luck and bright future!”
Like the capturing and killing of Osama Bin Laden was to the American people, July 9th is also a mark of closure to most South Sudanese after over 55 years of relentless wars. “We are finally free and i respect every single SPLA soldier who fought for our Independence and peace,” writes Chol Dwight Howard Ater.
And Bol Diing Bul, a third year law student from Mukono, Uganda, agrees with Chol Ater: “I feel relieve that we finally get what we had been fighting right away from Juba Conference of 1947, Torit uprising of August 1955, Anya –Anya I of 1963 which culminated into signing of Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972, then Anya-Anya II combined with SPLA/M from 1983 to 2002 and finally the CPA in 2005.”
And even those who may not be physically present in South Sudan join in ushering in the new country. Says John Jock: “I am in Khartoum, I am waiting for 9th July the day that we gonna be happy. I will make a celebration here in Khartoum supporting you there in the south.”
Bewails Mark Maper, a South Sudanese student from Kampala, Uganda: “I wish I could be there to see my people celebrating with happiness, and I wish that our heroes made it to this final end. My many uncountable thanks go to them the soldiers for their sacrifices; some of them are half part of the body, they are the best to me.”
George Oreste, who lives in Queensland, Australia, but originally from Torit, Sudan, chirps in: “Yes bro, nothing like home no matter where u r, or where I am, God bless our holy land. Amen”
For others though, South Sudan which is yet to be born is already a mother. David Mbugua, a Kenyan who lives in Nairobi, Kenya, but originally from Nakuru, exclaims: “happy bday s.sudan. u r my second mother!!”
And even foreigners joined in the celebration and in the triumphant ushering in of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. “I wish all the people of South Sudan a happy and joyful celebration in the coming week as they mark their first independence day. God bless you, God bless South Sudan” says Enos Okoko, a Kenyan guy from Luanda, Western, Kenya.
And Khalid Alam from England, quips in: “I’m from England, but I’m really looking forward to the 9th July, the people of South Sudan deserves independence. I’ll be celebrating with you from England.” And Leon Natalina laments her absence: “I wish I can be there in SOUTH SUDAN to attend independent day, may God bless Southern Sudan and bless all of us!!”
Majoros Kulang who lives in Nairobi, Kenya, but from Khartoum, Sudan, was all emotional: “I never celebrate in my life but i will not miss this historical event. Thanks 4 Dr. Garang and anyone who participated in the war.”
Obulejo Thomas who lives in Juba, Sudan, but from Nimule, pleads: “My dear Southerners who are within the country, we have to come and witness the birthday of our own land coz you guys contribute blood for the coming of this new nation.” Just the same time that Taban Felix, who is staying in Kampala, Uganda, but from Yei, Sudan, broadcasts: “Thousand Candles of One Nation, people, tribe and Language. May she stand for effective representation and access to information forever. Amen!!”
For Silvia Franco who lives in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia but From Yei, it is all about fresh start and justice done: “just 7 days left for the independent day, all our people were very excited; for me this like a new chapter in a book of South Sudan, just now all of us can say the justice have been done and we really paid for our freedom.”
But for Young Bor, however, there are dangers that South Sudanese must guard themselves against as they go about celebrating the new dawn of freedom, one of which is never to over-drink themselves to death. “we all needs to give hands to ourselves to advice each other b4 this golden day arrive to cheer this history with love,” said Young Bor.
“To my brothers and sisters who’re always over-drinking alcohol during any event, please avoid that on July 9th. We all want to celebrate our new born country without fight amongst us. Alcohol is a best drink for any celebration, but if u don’t know a beauty of it, then don’t attempt to drink it. Just get ‘urself energy drinks so that u will be able to dance whole day and night,” he advises coolly.
As for Nyi Bior who lives in Sydney, Australia, July 9th is more of a competition between South Sudanese Americans and the South Sudanese Australians: “Will American Sudanese celebrate better than the Sudanese in Australia? Yal should video tape this James, it’s gonna be a blast!!”
And if it is not about competition, then it is about seeking ye first the appeasement of the stomach and the kingdom of heaven will be added unto you. For Panom Koryom who lives in Kampala, Uganda, July 9th celebration starts in the kitchen: “July 9th party food style; "Chol Muong & Kulang Tot style". South Sudanese in Canada are stocking up food for everybody on that day. R U? No stomach should complain on that day guys.”
And while it may appear as all talks and no work among South Sudanese people in the days leading up to July 9th, others such as Brian Adeba, a young South Sudanese journalist from Canada, are literally hitting the street to record and showcase the big day. “I am shooting a one hour documentary on the topic of independence and what it means for South Sudanese Canadians,” Brian Adeba explained to me in an email message as to why he could not find ample time to respond to my questionnaire.
For some South Sudanese though, July 9th mean something specific to them. For one Dor Manyang Kariom from New South Wales, Australia, independence means: “the freedom to say what is in our minds and in our hearts, with the obligation of thinking about what suits our needs; we expect strong security, safety, respecting the legal rules and values; love, trust, hope and equality before the law.”
“I have reasons for excitement that I am no longer a slave but a citizen from a sovereign State because my father, brothers and I fought for it. I quote Late Dr. Garang de Mabior when he was asked to leave the SPLM/A to look for better living abroad, he boldly stated, “It is better to be dead than be a slave.” Finally I am not a slave now,” answers Bol Diing, a 3rd year law student from Uganda, to what July 9th mean to him personally as a South Sudanese.
Says Madol Mading from Kampala, Uganda: “Independence of South Sudan is very important to us because we feel that the struggle that our fathers had been waging has not been in vain. July 9th mean the day we become senior citizen of South Sudan. You know we Southerners have been feeling that we are people without a country because our neighbors do insult us, ‘you tall Sudanese, what are you doing in our country, you go back’. We feel bad but now July 9th will be our precious day, let me say.”
But for Panom Koryom from Duk county, Jonglei state, July 9th is too much a torturous day for him to bear thinking about: “Independent of South Sudan send me a mix emotions- the emotion of my parents and relatives who are missing because of this so call independent; the emotion of my missing comrades who perished in Pinyundo and several battles because of this so call independent; the emotion of thought about orphans and widows who have become victims of circumstances because of so call Independent; and the emotion of restoration of our humanity, liberty and happiness at last. July 9th to me is a day of sad memories than happiness; it brought back all my experiences to reality.”
As for the great memorable events in our long history of our struggle, many respondents cited Torit mutiny of 1955 that led to Anya-anya One war; the 16th of May marking Bor Mutiny that resulted in the SPLM/A war of liberation; the signing of the CPA in 2005; the success of the 2011 referendum vote that granted Southerners the right to secede; the triumphant arrival of Dr. John Garang in Khartoum in 2005 following the CPA agreement, and finally the declaration of South Sudan independence on July 9th, 2011.
But when it come to the most infamous happenings in our elongated history of armed struggle that many would like to forget, most respondents settled on the tragic untimely death of Late Dr. John Garang in 2005; the 1991 split of the SPLM/A spearheaded by Dr. Machar and Dr. Lam Akol; the forceful displacement of Bor civilians and the subsequent Bor Massacre of 1991 which was carried out under the command of Dr. Riek Machar; the long trek by Jech-amer (Red Army) to and from Ethiopia to Kenya, and finally, the political detention and/or assassinations of our great founding leaders of the movement such as Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, Arok Thon Arok, Joseph Oduho, Martin Majier Gai, William Nyuon Bany, Makur Alayyou, Bol Manguak etc, without reasonable verdict passed by a competent Court of Law.
Amongst the great leaders that most South Sudanese would be proud of for delivering July 9th on the golden plate are: Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Hon. kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Hon.William Nyuon, President Salva Kiir, Hon. Arok Thon Arok, Hon.Yusuf Kuwa, James Wani Igga, Dr.Marial Benjamin, Hon. James Hoth Mai, Kuol Manyang Juuk, Isaac Mamur, Chagai Atem, Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, William Deng Nhial, Joseph Lagu, Father Saturnino Lohure etc.
And while most people might be celebrating the birth of the new nation, it is not lost on some South Sudanese that the road ahead would be rough and unpredictable for the young nation of South Sudan. Among the possible problems that might prematurely cripple and dismember the Republic of South Sudan are: the lack of adequate skills, knowledge and experience in governance; greediness for and scrambling over power; lack of democratic rules and the dearth of strong institutions which means many leaders may adopt short term strategies of quick gains, politics of divide and rule and partisan terrorism; tribalism, corruption and political impunity which are becoming dangerous epidemic chronic diseases in the 21st century, and the continued tribal fighting between tribes and political rebellions, all of which may impede sustainable development and long lasting peace.
According to one Panom Koryom from Jonglei State, the simple solution to all these tribulations awaiting the young nation of South Sudan would be, “for the Government of South Sudan to revisits its objectives for liberation and renewed its commitment to fulfilling such objectives.” In his opinion, even July 9th itself would contribute more problems to South Sudan than solving them: “Independence is of course a burden to Government and peoples of South Sudan as expectations are high from the people who expect better services delivery, and leaders who may be driven by greed.”
And finally about how best we should honor and commemorate the selfless sacrifices of our fallen and wounded heroes/heroines, and the war veterans, there was an unusual unity of purpose and opinions about the urgency to do something special to our liberators.
“The families of the late heroes/heroines should be paid by ROSS, their children should be allowed free education and medication by ROSS, and every county should build veteran centers with health and education facilities,” argues Atem Bul, a 26 years old South Sudanese student of Mathematics from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Writes Madol Mading from Kampala, Uganda, but originally from Lakes state: “the fallen and wounded heroes/heroines should be given pension as compensation; places should be named with the names of fallen heroes. Their young ones should be assisted by the gov’t.”
Panom Koryom from Jonglei State thinks that “we need to build the Veterans square with their pictures, the nature of their visions, the time the struggle took and how it ended. This will safeguard the good true history of our struggle from being eroded and will make remembrance of these heroes/heroines more symbolic.”
“The Parliament should enact some laws in honoring the fallen heroes and heroines like Award of Hero Model to the bereaved family, building schools for war fallen heroes’ and heroines’ children, etc”, suggests Bol Diing Bul from Mukono, Uganda.
But above all, as one of the respondents, Dor Manyang Kariom from Australia, wrote back to me on this deliberation, the highest reverence we can bestow upon our liberators would be “for us to honour and remember our founders by keeping their visions alive. We should also celebrate the historical days when we commemorate the sacrifices of our founders who served and died in a war for the eternal freedom of our country.”
PaanLuel Wël is a South Sudanese student of Philosophy from Washington D.C, USA. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or through his blog at: http://paanluelwel2011.wordpress.com/