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South Sudan — full of promises

O H God
We praise and glorify you
For your grace on South Sudan,
Land of great abundance
Uphold us united in peace and harmony.

Oh motherland
We rise raising flag with the guiding star
And sing songs of freedom with joy,
For justice, liberty and prosperity
Shall forever more reign.

Oh great patriots
Let us stand up in silence and respect,
Saluting our martyrs whose blood
Cemented our national foundation,
We vow to protect our nation
Oh God bless South Sudan.
National anthem of South Sudan.

THIRTY-NINE years of continuous wars, a referendum that came four years after the papers were signed, South Sudan on Saturday became the world’s newest country, with all the hopes and aspirations of independence. The national anthem above captures those ambitions in crisp terms.

Khartoum opposed the Southern independence movement for years. The struggles pre-dated Sudan’s independence in 1955. Connivance between Egypt and Britain, Sudan’s colonial lords, created a country that ignored the South and its fears. The South wanted a federal system that will recognise its autonomy, culture, and religion.

Sudan got independence with the infusion of two diverse entities. The South’s struggles began immediately, slowing down the development of Africa’s largest country, by land mass.  Sudan wasted 39 years of its first 50 years (until the 2005 peace agreement) in civil wars against the South.

From 1971, former army Lieutenant Joseph Lagu massed all the guerrilla groups under his Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, SSLM that gave the struggle more focus. The Addis Ababa agreement in 1972 granted the South defined powers with a regional capital in Juba.

The discovery of oil and the imposition of Sharia law throughout Sudan in 1978 caused more wars, which by some accounts, killed about three million people in the South.

John Garang, Africa’s most educated guerrilla fighter, he held Ph.d in Agricultural Economics, joined the war in 1962, but the commanders considered him too young and sent him back to school. While on a mission to quell a rebellion in Southern Sudan in 1983, he rebelled against the central government and began the next 22 years of the war as leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

Garang was appointed first vice-president, when the war ended and he supported a united Sudan. He died controversially, at 60, in a crash aboard a Ugandan presidential helicopter in July 2005.

The South’s quest for independence appeared doomed with the demise of Garang, but even in the South, it was becoming obvious that his stand on a united Sudan no longer enjoyed  his people’s support.

“In the name of all the people of Sudan I tell the people of Southern Sudan that we will be your support to bypass the bitterness of the past and our hope is that with your resources that you can move ahead and we are confident that you are aware of the challenges and able to overcome them,” Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir, said while opening his country’s embassy in Juba. The world expects the two Sudans to exist peacefully.

The tear-soaked independence ceremonies at the Garang Mausoleum were befitting memorials to Garang and the millions, who died in the wars, as the national anthem acknowledges.

South Sudan is a challenge as well as a chance for the newest hopes and expectations of Africa’s people to be met by a country that emerged from re-drawn colonial impositions.


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