THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN – INDEPENDENT AT LAST
Following the sequence of events yesterday, and tweeting it to the world, was playing living witness to a very rare event, the birth of a new nation, as the Republic of South Sudan was finally launched. For many in the crowd of what can only be described as massive, the key events were the signing of the new constitution and then the taking of the oath of office by new President Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit and the raising of the flag at 13.35 hrs and their voices rose to the skies when singing their own new national anthem.
In a surprise move was it also announced that the lowered flag of the erstwhile united Republic of the Sudan would not be handed to Khartoum’s regime leader Field Marshal Omar Hassan Al Bashir to take back with him from the celebrations in Juba to his own capital, but that it would be kept in the South. Norway gifted the new republic a National Archives building to begin gather evidence of the 56 year long independence struggle, which cost over 25 million lives, and the flag will be kept there as a reminder for future generations of overcoming oppression through hardships and sacrifice and determination to be free.
The process which started with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 in Kenya concluded yesterday with the birth of a new nation, the 54th recognized by the United Nations in Africa, but the road is by no means at an end. Many contentious issues remain to be resolved between the now sovereign countries of the Sudan and of the South Sudan, and while now speaking with each other on truly level terms, that will make the task not any easier. President Kiir in his inaugural address was magnanimous by offering the Khartoum regime to forgive, though not forget, the immense damage done to the people of the South during the years of the civil war. The offer for cordial if not friendly relations is on the table for the North to consider and embrace, but notice was also served when President Kiir assured the people of Abyei, South Kordofan, the Blue Mountains and of Darfur that they were not forgotten and he would do all he and the new Republic of South Sudan could to help them reach their own destiny.
The most contentious issues between the two countries are in fact over Abyei and the delayed referendum where that state’s people wish to belong to, expected to be another massive vote in favour of separation. Equally contentious is the area of South Kordofan where recent elections were widely regarded as hopelessly rigged in favour of Khartoum and where military and militia interventions, a la Janjaweed, have driven over 100.000 people from their homes deep into the South for refuge, trying to cleanse the area of Africans while ‘stuffing’ it with Northern puppets. Other issues are remaining border demarcations, a process which in the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea led to a bitter war, the future ‘transit fees’ for crude oil to be pumped from the Southern oilfields to Port Sudan for export, water rights over the Nile, and the quantification of the national assets and debts of the previously united Sudan, amongst many other open questions.
President Kiir reminded his fellow country women and men of the need to start work on building a nation immediately the celebration ended, and the tasks are truly herculean. The country needs a complete infrastructure from roads to rail, from bridges across the rivers to airports, from hospitals to schools to vocational training institutions and universities, from social services and administrative structures to creating a conducive business environment, while creating a corridor of trade for exports and imports to the Southern neighbours of Uganda and Kenya to reduce reliance on installations in the neighbouring ‘North’ Sudan.
Investment opportunities exist as in few other countries now but also required are conducive laws and regulations, including resolving the issue of land for investors, to build on across the towns and cities but also for commercial scale farming, forestry projects and not the least for tourism investments in the present 6 national parks.
From this correspondent, a long time friend and ardent outspoken supporter for independence, come the best wishes and heartiest congratulations, and as the 10th of July dawns across the South, let the work begin to build Africa’s and the world’s youngest nation.