South Sudan becomes Independent
Tomorrow marks a very important day for the African continent as South Sudan finally becomes an independent state and Africa’s youngest country. The 9th of July will be a great day in African history, and in the global pursuit of peace and democracy.
Many Sudanese, young and old, have been dreaming about this day for most of their lives. I have looked into many faces during my travels through South Sudan – young and old. I have heard the stories of horror and loss, of pain and suffering, of hunger and thirst yet ultimately of hope that freedom is attainable. The day will certainly be a joyous one in the capital city of Juba, but also in the many small and remote towns and villages. Many will also be saddened by the memories of those countless brave men, women and children whose lives were sacrificed in the South’s long battle for freedom.
South Africa has played an important role in South Sudan’s pursuit of peace, primarily through former President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation as part of the AU’s High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan. Despite some criticism of the panel’s achievements and impact, Mbeki has been working with policy-makers and community leaders across Sudan until very recently, to set up peace agreements in politically unstable areas.
The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) has also arrived in Juba to assist with security measures and to stand guard as the celebrations kick off tomorrow.
This important transition will be well worth observing through broadcast and online coverage. And if you have ever wondered what it takes to set up a nation, take a look at this interesting article, which explains the difficult processes of agreeing on a national anthem (listen/watch), currency, flag and constitution, admission to the United Nations, and the complexity of finding an internet domain when your country acronym is ‘SS’.
The IJR will soon be releasing a forthcoming book titled Pain, Hope and Patience: The Lives of Women in South Sudan – an edited collection of new research and analysis by a selection of Sudanese and non-Sudanese authors outlining the experiences and contributions of women to South Sudan’s path to freedom. It is the first of its kind. By telling the stories of many brave women, the book highlights some of the tremendous challenges related to gender in South Sudan today. These are, amongst others: a lack of access to education for women, the prevalence of highly patriarchal traditions and customs, partially as enshrined in patriarchal customary law framework, and poor health care services, resulting in the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. It is our hope that the book will contribute meaningfully to the creation of a policy framework that is in line with the new country’s bill of rights.
Beyond this, IJR will continue its work with community leaders and policy makers to assist the new state in pursuing post-independence peace and reconciliation.