South Sudan Begins
Dancers in Kapoeta at an awareness building rally for the peace agreement, 2006.

South Sudan Begins

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon are among the key speakers as the Republic of South Sudan comes into being on Saturday, bringing forth Africa's 54th nation.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: July 8, 2011


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Dreams do come true...
Sustained struggle for what you want eventually pays off...
Independence is sweet...
These are some of the statements on the lips of many South Sudanese as they mark the official declaration of Independence from the bigger Sudan on Saturday July 9th, 2011.

Having fought over 20 years of war for independence, reached an agreement that provided a six year transition period before a referendum on whether the South would remain part of the bigger Sudan or will ceased and form their own country, the long wait is over.

The World: Preparing for Statehood in Southern Sudan

The January 2011 referendum resulted in 98.83% (3,792,518 voters) choosing separation while (representing 1.17%) voted for unity, according to the Head of the Sudanese Referendum Commission, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil.

All roads lead to Juba, South Sudan as many southerners and international leaders converge at Juba square to witness the official birth of the Republic of South Sudan.

Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 2 Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 2

Challenges and Opportunities as Southern Sudan becomes Africa's 54th nation.
Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 1 Republic of South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities - Part 1

Challenges and Opportunities as Southern Sudan becomes Africa's 54th nation.

Dancers in Kapoeta at an awareness building rally for the peace agreement, 2006
Dancers in Kapoeta at an awareness building rally for the peace agreement, 2006

Dress and Dance rehearsals for South Sudan Independence
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Preparations for the celebrations to mark the Independence Day of South Sudan have been in high gear for some time, with dress and dance rehearsals in the capital Juba being attended by many people in recent weeks. Barnaba Benjamin Marial, South Sudan Minister of information and broadcasting says prayers, concerts and sports events are ongoing as build up to the July 9 independence celebrations.

"On the eve of independence, citizens across southern Sudan will be encouraged to go to churches or gather in public squares to light candles and say prayers, to herald the birth of the new nation. Dancing and festivities will take place in villages across the country," Marial told journalists in Juba.

Marial says bells and drums will be sounded at midnight on July 8 the eve of the Independence Day, to mark the historical birth of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS).

Ban Ki-moon - 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations
Ban Ki-moon - 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Many visitors, Including Bashir and Ki-moon expected
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He says over 3,500 representative, including kings, chiefs and elders from across the 10 states of the semi-autonomous region, leaders from the business community, civil society, women groups and youth movement are expected at the celebration. 

"It will be a historic occasion for all our people who have traveled a long and difficult road to the birth of this nation. We all know we face many challenges ahead – we will face them as united, peaceful and independent and build a stable and prosperous country," Marial said.

According to the programme for the day, Sudan's president, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon are among the key speakers as the Republic of South Sudan comes into being on Saturday, bringing forth Africa's 54th nation. Some 30 African heads of state, foreign ministers, leaders of regional and multilateral organisations, as well as foreign ministers will also grace the occasion.

Elaborate process to transfer Instruments of power
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James Wani Igga, the speaker of South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) proclaims the independence of the new nation, before President Salva Kirr signs the new transitional constitution. 

President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit
1st President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit

Kiir will then lead the lowering of Sudan flag and the raising of the new flag of the Republic of South Sudan. The president will then take the oath of office as the first President of the Republic of South Sudan.

The government says it expects over hundred thousand citizens to bear witness to events at Dr. John Garang mausoleum, via the live broadcast that will be on the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV). 

"We are so tired of waiting for our independence. We are happy that the day has finally come," says Mary Anuor, a business woman in Juba. She says people expect better leadership, more economic opportunities and development when they achieve independence from the north.

Another journey starts
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But while it will be a dream come true for many people in South Sudan, many already acknowledge another long journey of development and stability will just be starting. Anthony Abamba, a resident of Juba says that while they are happy about the Independence, many citizens are not sure about their status and rights, especially those living or working in north Sudan. Citizenship and immigration issues between the north and south are a key issue yet to be resolved as the South becomes an Independent state.

While the South Sudan government has promised to consider dual citizen for all people in the south who work in the north, and a permanent residency status for people from the north who work or live in the south, the Bashir government has insisted that it will take all Southerners as foreigners effective July 9th. 

"Some of us hold national identity documents for Sudan. But the north has said it will stop recognizing us from the day of Independence. We have businesses in Khartoum and since the immigration issues are not yet worked out, our travel between the north and south might be interrupted," Abamba says. 

Citizenship, immigration and human rights issues
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There are approximately 2 million southerners living in northern Sudan. The UN Mission in Southern Sudan recently released a report expressing concern that the rights and protections of minority communities have not been addressed by the Khartoum government, creating fear that southerners living in the north will become victims of marginalization, discrimination, and harassment. In recent months over 190,000 southern Sudanese living in the north have gone back to the south, a movement that is expected to increase substantially in the coming months. 

Trade between the north and South is also expected to be affected by lack of agreement on currency issues, with the North refusing to recognize the South Sudan pound, since it has been part of the bigger Sudan. "We as traders will be torn between whether to carry South Sudan pound on Northern Sudan currency when trading between the two areas, yet there is no official exchange between the two currencies," Abamba says. 

It is hoped that the secession of southern Sudan will bring peace to the country. However, there are continued concerns regarding security, currency, debt, borders, and resources that need to be addressed by July. Currently the government of the south relies on oil revenues for nearly 98 percent of its budget. While the south does hold the largest supply of oil, the pipelines all run north. Oil negotiations are therefore a key factor in ensuring long-term peace between the north and south.

The popular consultations offer some opportunity for the local communities in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States to address the grievances and expectations for which they took up arms against Khartoum and which, as yet, have been unmet by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The presence of up to 40,000 SPLA combatants from these areas within the two States, and with SPLM in Southern Sudan, pose a risk of conflict if political aspirations are not addressed, potentially exacerbating tensions between Juba and Khartoum and affecting border security.

  • The Nile River is Sudan's main source of water, but it is also shared with Egypt. This could create possible confrontations between the countries.
  • Sudan's economy continues to fight the inflation of the Sudanese pound. The North and South must decide on currency issues. In addition, Sudan's estimated US $38 million debt causes major disputed between the regions. While the North hopes to receive international debt forgiveness, the South claims that the northern government in Khartoum used the money to buy weapons during the civil war in 1983-2005 and expects the North to pay back the loans.
  • Sudan's current boundaries were created before the discovery of oil and mineral deposits. The two nations will have to create boundaries that allow access to natural resources for both countries. There is also concern over the future status of disputed areas like Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile State, and Abyei.
  • After the July 9th split between the two nations, all of the displaced South Sudanese will no longer have an accessible Sudanese passport which leaves obstacles for displaced refugees in cities like Nairobi and Cairo.

Source: June 2011 UN Mission report

Resolving Oil, Abyei and South Kordofan conflicts
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The key sector of oil has also been largely under control of the north and it is unclear how oil matters will be handled. While the South has 8 of Sudan's 13 oil wells, none of the three oil refineries are located in the South. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement mandated that the two regions split revenues from oil produced in the South 50-50 for the duration of the deal's interim period (July 9, 2005 - July 9, 2011). But a new arrangement is yet to be agreed on despite the expiry of the old agreement.

The continued contestation of the oil rich Abyei and other South Kordofan regions between the north and South continues to cause concerns of insecurity.  The government of Khartom recently invaded and occupied these regions, which resulted in a war cut short by international intervention.  The two regions were expected to vote in their own referendum on whether they will belong to the North or the South, but their referendum was delayed.

"The violence in the Abyei region and South Kordofan thus has forced more civilians to flee creating a greater displacement.  Insecurity has resulted in more than 116,000 internally displaced persons in southern Sudan since the beginning of 2011. At the same time, humanitarian access to areas affected by conflict has been obstructed by a number of factors, including denial of access by government officials," the UN Mission report said.

But Dr. Oyai Deng Ojak, South Sudan Minister for investment says Sudan President Omar Bashir and South Sudan President Salvar Kirr have agreed to continue negotiating on outstanding issues beyond the independence of the south, with the help of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional grouping of African states. 

Dr. Deng says most of the international issues will be easily solved in the most peaceful ways and the government wants to focus on national development. 

In addition to concerted efforts to develop infrastructure and attract foreign investors, Dr. Deng says the government is working on the removal and destruction of land mines that were left in the 20 year war with the north. This is expected to boost security and trade through easing travel and movement within South Sudan.

"We are doing what we can but we need investors from our neighbours to come and help us develop the country. We need investment in education institutions, health facilities in addition to usual businesses. All of us we have our children in Kenya and Uganda but if quality schools are built here, we shall educate our children from here," Minister Deng says.

The South Sudan government say they have being working with the UN Mission in South Sudan to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrates former combatants in states of the South. According to a June 2011 report, he DDR program has removed weapons from more than 27,698 former combatants who have been re-equipped with vocational skills. This might be a long way from the 180,000 former combatants but it is a step in the right direction of ensuring peace, stability and economic empowerment of the Republic of South Sudan.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: July 8, 2011
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.