South Sudanese in tryst with destiny

    It was very emotional. To witness the birth pangs of a nation.

    To watch southern Sudanese come out in their thousands to cast their vote in the referendum for self-determination.

    They were in a hurry and impatient.

    Something Salva Kiir, their president, rightly sensed when he came to vote. His main appeal to his people was to have patience and spread the voting across the scheduled seven days.
    It was as if the impatience was about not wanting to miss a referendum like the first one scheduled in Sudan and which never happened.
    That was in 1953. Sudan's British and Egyptian colonisers promised the people a referendum to choose between an independent Sudan and a union with Egypt.

    But the narrow nationalist movement played its colonisers against each other and declared independence unilaterally in 1956 through a unanimous parliamentary vote.
    The northern parliamentarians had persuaded the small bloc of reluctant southern parliamentarians that their region's autonomy and interests would be given due consideration.  But after two years they rejected autonomy for the south.
    That was the outcome of a tradition of exclusionary politics in which the people were never consulted by the elite.

    This time around the populace has been consulted and they seem to have grabbed the opportunity.
    And how! They came dancing and singing to the polling stations. Many women, once they had voted ran out to do impromptu jigs to say "bye-bye" to the north.
    The voting, however, was orderly and smooth. Many of those lining up were old, infirm and poor. But their quiet dignity never left them.

    They were unfazed by the sudden media attention and all the foreign dignitaries who came visiting. It was evident that these two worlds would be crossing paths for a brief period.
    For the media this is just another story embellished by the dignitaries. For those voting it is about a new, hopeful future for generations to come.
    To erase a fault line between the north and the south perpetuated through religion, music, dress and language. Overcome memories of slavery, colonialism and internal turmoil that sucked them dry.

    Of trying to seek solace by thanking God.

    "God you washed away our pain and you have brought us peace. We now give Sudan to you," went a lyric in lilting Juba Arabic that was played at the John Garang memorial.

    Like what Rebecca, the widow of John Garang, had to say about "not having the luxury of crying over spilt milk". Brave words that need not take away the felt need to purge the poisons of the past.


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