As Sudan readies for the new year, it will not be the only thing the largest African country of more than 40 million people will be celebrating over the next few days.
January 1 marks the official independence day of Sudan when the nation first raised its official flag in 1956.
But the celebrations this year are being approached with mixed feelings.
Sudan is preparing for a referendum vote, a result of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a 22-year civil war, which left two million people dead and many others displaced.
The results of the vote could see the country split in two, which many believe is a likely outcome, leading to the creation of the world’s newest country.
Upon my arrival in Khartoum, I not only noticed the numerous posters welcoming the new year, but also many about the importance of a unified Sudan, and the colourful flags displayed in most places.
One government poster read: “Our strength is in our unity.”
But as Jalaa, the daughter of Sudan’s first president Ismail al-Azhari who came to power after the end of the British-Egyptian condominium, says: “This is just a little bit too late.”
She says the government had five years to make unity an attractive option for south Sudan, but they only started to work hard on unity in the last year and it’s just too late.
Jalaa also believes that the January 9 vote could see south Sudan secede, something very emotional for her because she feels that the united Sudan her father led is now crumbling.
Al-Azhari led the Sudan to complete independence in 1956, and his daughter says: “He would be very sad if he was alive today to see Sudan split.”
Jalaa, who followed in her father’s footsteps in politics, is filled with sadness but is also hopeful about the future.
“I hope that even if our brothers and sisters in the south decide to secede that one day we will be united again,” she says.
Teejay and Shadir, two young Sudanese students from Khartoum, feel that it is strange that Sudan is changing.
At Ahfad University, where they study, they say they have seen changes in everyday life and have noticed that some of their friends have already decided to move back to the South.
“It feels strange in our university now. It’s not as diverse and fun now. We understand why they choose to split, but we want everyone in the South to know that they are always welcome back,” they say.
“No matter what happens, we will always be one nation”.
However, there are also those who feel rejected by the South. As Weam from Khartoum says: “If they don’t want us, then we don’t want them. Good luck to them!”
Some newspapers, noticeably the separatist newspaper Al Intibaha, have been calling for the North and South to separate because they believe that the South only brought trouble to Sudan and the North is better off without it.
Despite the mixed emotions about what is to come in the new year, what I sensed from the people in Khartoum is that this is a sad and uncertain time for some in the North but many remain hopeful about the future and the dream of a strong, united Sudan.
The coming days will show if this is indeed Sudan’s last united independence day.