A day after Sudan marked the 55th anniversary of its independence from British ruling, Jalaa al-Azhari, the daughter of Sudan’s first president Ismali al-Azhari, marked the event by half raising the flag. A sign of sadness at the state of the nation in the light of the looming referendum that could see Africa’s largest country split in two halves.
As I entered the big former presidential building, I looked up to see the old Sudanese flag with the green, yellow and black colours raised in half. I sensed the somber atmosphere as I looked around the courtyard that had big banners with her father’s pictures on the flag with the slogan: A nation that includes everyone.
As the team arrived at the house, kindergarden children started arriving to pay their respect to the first president of Sudan, seeing them diffused the sad mood, it was a moment that exhumed innocence.
They were all armed with the current flag. As they marched inside they were singing the national anthem and chanting “Sudan, our beloved country, Sudan, Sudan”.
One child was chosen to rein-act the moment al-Azhari raised the flag for the first time, I couldn’t help noticing the curious eyes of some of the kids, the ones that got tired of holding their flags high as instructed by their teachers and those who seemed indifferent to the whole process.
This is an emotional time for Jalaa and her family. She was born on the same day her father raised the flag, her name was given to her as a symbol of Sudan’s independence as the last British soldier evacuated the country.
Her family decided to half raise the flag in their home to express what many Sudanese people feel: a deep
sadness and disappointment.
“we are in mourning, I feel that my generation failed our fathers who fought hard for this country”, she said.
She feels that celebrating independence day will never be the same, “we have not respected what our founding fathers have done.
“We have not tried to maintain and sustained unity and peace for the future generations.
“We do not know what to present to our future generation anymore. The map itself will look different,” she said.
Jalaa followed her father’s footsteps in politics like her brother and niece,”Politics runs in my family’s blood,
it is something that we can not run away from.”
A banner with Sudan’s old flag containing al-Azhari picture with the slogan ‘Sudan a nation for everybody
I wanted to know what her father would say about the state of Sudan today if he was alive, and what she thinks of those who say that he did not do enough for the South.
“My father’s vision was that he had achieved independence for Sudan and it is now up to the new generation to build and develop Sudan and I think in that we have failed.
“Whatever people think about the failures of my father in regards to the South, it is not just the South that is underdeveloped.
Most of the Sudan is ignored, it is not just the South.
“However, I don’t blame those who feel this way, my dad and those who built this nation did not have the time to achieve what they had dreamed of,” she said.
Jalaa vows that even if the outcome of the referendum will lead to secession, she will respect what the South wishes but
she would still work towards unity. But she fears the Sudan she knows will never be the same.
Abeer the grand daughter of al-Azhari is the party’s media spokesperson and she shares her aunts sentiments, she believes that the people in the North are in a state of denial.
“This denial of what is happening in the country is what will kill Sudan,” she says.
Tribal dances were in public display in the streets of Khartoum to mark independence day
At this point it was hard to believe that 24 hours ago the main streets of Khartoum witnessed a euphoric carnival like atmosphere, where different tribes displayed their cultures through dance and music.
The Nile street in central Khartoum was lined with cars that were decorated with the flag, tents were set up that had different small traditional concerts.
Families and people of all ages came out to celebrate, and as I approached some I realised that I have so far encountered two types of people in the light of the referendum.
– The optimistic that are in denial about the referendum, that still believe that nothing will happen, and that Sudan will remain the same.
Almost every other person I spoke to echoes the sentiments of unity.
– Those who say we don’t want the Southerners anyways, ‘if they don’t want us, then we don’t want them too” is the infamous phrase.
Their argument seems more like a reaction rather than a well thought argument.
One thing is certain, no matter what the outcome is, Sudan will never be the same and it is going to be a big wake up call for those who are still in denial.