Birth of the other Sudan
As the new southern state is born, there is hope, as well as concern, in the two Sudans, reports Asmaa El-Husseini in Juba
The people of the two parts of Sudan were in turmoil this week as they prepared for the birth of the new state of South Sudan on 9 July. Preparations were underway in the southern capital, Juba, and in all 10 southern states to make the occasion an unforgettable one, including music, sporting events and religious ceremonies.
On Friday, on the eve of the celebrations, the people of the South will gather to light candles and pray for their new country. There will also be dance festivals across the South and joint feasts for all faiths, including for Muslims. At midnight on Friday, the bells will ring out, and the drums will sound to mark the historic birth of the Republic of South Sudan.
The official celebrations will begin on Saturday opposite southern leader John Garang's mausoleum and will be attended by 30 African heads of state and the leaders of regional organisations, as well as foreign ministers and officials from around the world. More than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the celebrations, while others will watch them on large-screen monitors. The event will be broadcast live on Sudanese television, amidst vigilant security measures.
Some 150 people are expected to take part in the processions, including a parade of military and police units. There will be groups of folklore dancers from across the South, and the National Choir will join hundreds of young people singing the new national anthem, chosen by southern poets and composers. The anthem reflects the unity and identity of the South, and over the past few weeks, civil servants, members of security agencies, and civic, social and other groups have been taught to sing it.
Southern Sudanese parliamentary speaker James Wani Igga will then announce the birth of the independent Republic of South Sudan, after which the national flag of Sudan will be lowered and the flag of the new republic hoisted. Salva Kiir Mayardit will sign the new transitional constitution into law and will then be sworn in as the first president of the Republic of South Sudan.
Other key speakers will include Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the chair of the UN General Assembly, representatives from the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, the US and China.
There are conflicting feelings, however. Many northerners are dismayed at the break up of the country, but wish their new southern neighbour well. They include writer and activist Hadya Hasaballah, who had previously called on the North to mourn the separation of the South. Her feelings are shared by writer and poet Taj Al-Serr Hussein, who nevertheless told northerners in Cairo to celebrate the choice of their brothers from the South.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by Sadeq Al-Mahdi, leader of the opposition Al-Umma Party, who has stated that Sudan is now facing new circumstances as a result of the secession of the South and the creation of a new country.
"The South has two choices: either to look towards the North or the South," Al-Mahdi explains. "If it looks towards the South, it could ally itself with hostile forces, but if it looks northwards it could build strong bonds and common interests." The alliance between Egypt and North Sudan could play a critical role in this, he said, because an independent South was seeking joint interests through ties with the North.
"This could be very successful if we can establish good ties with democratic Egypt and in this way attract the South to the North," he said. "But the regime in the North must also be democratic and acknowledge the mistakes that caused the division and work on addressing them."
Meanwhile, in the South itself despite the festive mood some locals feel that this is an incomplete independence, and they mourn victims of recent clashes in Abyei and South Kordofan. "They are our allies, the sons of the Nubian Mountains, and we should not abandon them or celebrate while they suffer," said John, a leader in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
In the North, there are separatists who do not hide their joy at the secession of the South, including Al-Tayeb Mustafa, director of the organisation Just Peace, who has celebrated the secession of the South, a goal he has supported through his newspaper Al-Intibaha.
Mustafa has been disappointed, however, with the agreements signed in Addis Ababa, which he believes are creating a "new South" in the North in the regions of Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. The popular movement will remain in the North, he says, and he criticises its leaders because whereas the southerners were fighting for a national cause, northerners who support them are "traitors".
Northern members of the SPLM are also emotional about what is happening. They joined the SPLM when Garang was at its helm, and they believed in his grand plan for a new Sudan, which fell apart when he died. Today, his followers in both the North and South are in conflict, although they still believe his project offers a solution for Sudan.
The condition of northerners in the SPLM is similar to that of southerners in northern political parties, among them Abdallah Dink, presidential candidate of the Popular Congress Party in the last elections. A member of the Dinka tribe, the largest in the South, Dink has lived and studied in the North and is a graduate of Al-Azhar in Cairo. He is expected to leave the North, along with millions of others, when on 10 July he becomes a foreigner.
Sadiq Al-Hendi, a unionist leader, is worried about the millions of southerners living in the North who must now leave. "They have lived in the North for decades and generations and have their roots there," he says. "The South is beckoning them, but villages there have been obliterated, and no one knows where their land or cattle have gone. What will the southerners in the North return to in the South?"
Taylor Dink, adviser to the government of Prime Minister Mayardit in the South, says that "the people of Sudan have lived in one country, and it cannot now be sliced up like a mango. They are people with human, social, economic and security ties, and I hope that our relationship with the North will be amicable. When we raise the flag of the new state on 9 July, we will not ask the northerners to leave."
Southerners in the North should not be denied their rights either after secession. "We will all observe international law," he said. "If someone from the North comes to the South, he will be given residence, as will a southerner going North. People are not goods to be shipped at will: they have their own histories, as well as rights that are guaranteed by law." (see p.13)