Hat's off to Southern Sudan

Despite the pessimism of international observers, southerners are likely to vote for a new chaper in their history on S

    I arrived in Juba in September last year when the sentiment from observers was Southern Sudan may not be ready for the referendum.

    The registration of voters hadn't begun yet - in fact it was seriously delayed. The international community was concerned of an outbreak of conflict should officials in Southern Sudan fail to hold the referendum on time.

    To be frank given the poverty and challenges the South faced at the time - and still does - I was sceptical too. I had flown in from Johannesburg, South Africa - and stupidly that was my comparison
     
    There was some development in the capital Juba - roads were being constructed, some buildings were going up, and there seemed to be a concerted effort to try and rebuild Juba.

    But I could see the damage done during the civil wars and I understood why some were concerned about the referendum.

    I've travelled to Yei, Bentui, Yambio, Malakal and Aweil. I actually drove to Yei and have a flat tyre to prove it! The road is not tarred and at times extremely difficult and uncomfortable. It took me twice as long to reach my destination. But here you rarely complain - because you can understand it's a region devastated by way trying to rebuild itself.

    I was there when the registration process started. It was slow but it started. As the days dragged on more and more people showed up at referendum centres to register.

    It was a sight to behold. People were so excited the day had finally arrived.

    I tried to find people who wanted Sudan to remain one country but it was hard. Everybody seemed to want self-determination. I remember an old man i met who didn't have an identity document.

    But he wanted to register. He must have been around 70-years-old but very sure about what he wanted. Turns out he knew someone who knew someone and he finally managed to get the necessary documents.
     
    I hope when I get to that age I will still be passionate about things.

    Now we are literally hours away from referendum day and I'm glad the sceptics were wrong. Things aren't perfect but they've done the best they can. One can never take that away from them.

    The people of Southern Sudan have an incredible resolve to succeed despite the challenges facing them.

    I can't wait until Sunday - it's going to be a moment in history and perhaps a new chapter for the people of the South.


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