By Honorable; Arop Madut Arop
As a tradition, human beings do mark and celebrate their birth days annually. In the same vein, citizens of a given country do joyously and lavishly mark and celebrate the birthday of their nation, annually. As a continuation of my writings about the political history of South Sudan, through my experiences, having lived some of the events described in my published two books; it is natural that I should also write a book about the insurmountable challenges encountered during the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005) between the Government of Khartoum and the rebel Sudan People Liberation Movement, which had been fighting continuously for more than two decades. The last chapter from the book: The Passing of John Garang and Ascent of Salva Kiir to power in South Sudan, gives an eyewitness account July 2011 to December 2013 crisis. This last chapter of the book attempts to answer one vital question as to whether the senseless destructive conflict, which arose out of sheer political wrangling within the leadership of the historic ruling party, the SPLM; was avoidable? As I have not been able to find funding for the publication of this import piece of work, as described by the people who have read the manuscript; and as we mark the Sixth Birthday of our beloved young nation, I have decided to share with my compatriots, a chapter from the book. Below is the chapter on the Birth of South Sudan as an Independent State after more than fifty years of painful labour and birth pangs. Happy Birth Day To You My Beloved Country (we can now read the piece).
SOUTH SUDAN BECOMES AN INDEPENDENT STATE
After a successful referendum and six months of wait for the declaration of their region as an independent state, the people of South Sudan, on July 9th 2011, converged at their respective public square across the country. These citizens were there on the streets this time around, waiting to hear the formal declaration of their region as an independent state, after over five decades of Hardships and sufferings.
As they await the formal declaration of their region as an independent state, thousands of citizens were in constant contacts with relatives and friends in Juba to inform them of the zero hour when the declaration would be made.
Similarly, the citizens in Juba, where waiting concurringly, when the zero hour would strike. Those who had portable radio sets across the region were also constantly tuning in to Radio Juba, while other were following the events in Juba over the BBC, VOA or SSTV stations. Thousands of citizens of Juba Capital, had equally gathered, since the early hours of the morning, at the new freedom square near the Mausoleum of Dr John Garang De Mabior, the founder of the SPLM Liberation Movement. Thousands of citizens were waiting anxiously for the zero hour to strike.
Minutes ticked on, the invited foreign guests: among them representatives of heads of state and government from various part of the world, members of diplomatic Corps accredited to the Republic of Sudan as well as representatives of UN affiliated agencies, began to arrive along with their official delegates and took their seats according to the protocol at the spot where the formal declaration would be made.
The coming in of seven heads of state and government, among them Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al Bashir, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon and the US secretary of state General Colin Powel, undoubtedly showed how important the occasion was.
When the zero hour struck amidst emotional celebrations at the freedom square, on July 11th 2011, South Sudan was declared inside parliament as an independent state. As the flag of the ancient regime was being lowered down and the flag of the new state going up concurringly, South Sudan was at long last free.
When the statue of Dr John Garang de Mabior, the hero who brought peace and freedom, was unveiled and with flag of the new state flapping aloft the tall mast in the middle of the freedom square, there were thunderous uproars by thousands of excited citizens, who have been waiting anxiously to hear their region become an independent state: some clapping their hands; others waving the flags of their new nation; women ululating, young people dancing or jumping up and down as expressions that after decades of painful wait, their dream to have a country of their own, has become true at long last.
Excited, apparently, with emotions of disbelief that they were free at last, some elderly people both men and women who had witnessed the scourge of the previous agonising years of the two wars and remembering their loved ones, fell down unconsciously and were rushed to the hospitals by ambulance vans that have been standing by for that purpose. Others who had expressed their emotions only shed tears in disbelief: among them were some of the friends of South Sudan; who have constantly and consistently lobbied or supported them during their struggle to be free.
Otieno Onyango, Editor of the East African magazine stated. President Salva Kiir has lived through the South Sudan Liberation struggle to see the independence of his country as the 54th independent African state. Gratefully, On July 14th 2011, the young republic of South Sudan finally joined the leagues of world independent nation as number 193rd. Thus President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the veteran of the two liberation wars became the first president of independent Republic of South Sudan. Below is an account of the historic event.
PRESIDENT SALVA KIIR MAYARDIT ADDRESSES THE FIRST SITTING OF POST INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENT.
Weeks of preparations following independence, President Salva Kiir was expected to address the first sitting of the transformed Transitional National Legislature, scheduled for August 11th 2011. In anticipation of this happy occasion, hundreds of thousands citizens in the capital of the new independent state and surrounding villages had converged at the parliament square, in the early hours of the morning of August 11th 2011.
They were there waiting excitedly for the arrival of their new president to parliament square. Adorned and displaying their work of arts, thousands of enthusiastic citizens were moving freely about in the parliament square performing various dances. Others were dancing wildly as they tuned in, to the beating of their traditional drums; marking the advent of this happy occasion.
With heavy equatorial clouds hovering over the old city of Juba, threatening with sudden down pours of torrential rain over the happy celebrants, at any time, as it did so in the previous night, the atmosphere at the parliament square, as one excited citizen put it, was really pandemonic but colourful.
At the eleventh hour amidst colourful celebrations, President Salva Kiir Mayardit presidential motorcade arrived at the parliament square, where thousands of citizens were waiting to receive him. Emerging from his black limousine presidential car, the hero of the two liberation wars was given rapturous welcome by joyous citizens who represented various South Sudanese nationalities.
As he moved briefly around the square to greet the enthusiastic jostling crowds, with some trying to shake hands with him, President Salva Kiir was apparently vindicated for having led his people to the Promised Land after 30 years of bush life. Stern but astute, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in his Rabbinic style of dress, waved back to the crowds and entered the parliament building.
Minutes after the new National Anthem of the new republic was played by the SPLA military Music Band, inside the parliament building and flanked by the Speaker of the transformed National Assembly, Hon James Wani Igga, President Salva Kiir went on the podium and calmly and confidently delivered his politically charged speech in which he outlines, the dream of the new nation before the first sitting of the 332- member -Chamber of the National legislature. President Salva Kiir speech, was constantly punctuated, with applauses by lawmakers and by the SPLA and Police Music Bands, interchangeably, playing the liberation songs, reminding the well packed House of the old days of the liberation struggle.
Concluding his written elaborate speech which lasted for over an hour, President Salva Kiir stated. “I am grateful to have witnessed the birth of our nation; and to you all comrades, congratulation for being pioneer citizens of this new nation. He also warned the lawmakers of challenges and difficult times ahead. President Salva Kiir, politically charged speech before the first sitting of the new country’s legislature, August 2011 reads in part:
“On July 9th, 2011, we ended a long period of misfortunes by the formal declaration of our independence. We have been occupied, colonized, marginalized and denied our dignity and humanity. This sitting clearly demonstrates the result of our long struggle and the beginning of a new journey for peace, democracy and prosperity. The independence we celebrated a few weeks ago is a great achievement for our people. I am grateful to have witnessed the birth of our nation and to you all comrades, congratulations for being pioneer citizens of this new nation! We are indeed a lucky lot because history has favoured us to be alive to witness this great moment of emancipation.
“Let us recreate ourselves, let us find new ways, new thinking and be ready to learn in order to adequately meet new challenges. We should not take anything for granted. Instead every challenge should be considered an opening for greater opportunities and triumphs. I urge all of you to seize the opportunities and accept the challenges of the future. The freedom we have just achieved endows us with power and mandate. In return, we must manage what is given to us with utmost care and responsibility.
“Moreover, as a sovereign body representing the sovereign will of the people of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS), it is incumbent upon this august House to manage the affairs of this land in order to deliver on what we promised to our people. While debating matters of national interest, it is important that we put the wellbeing of our people and nation first. Our people have waited patiently for so long. It is time we act and we do so without delay. Therefore, the two houses must complement each other rather than compete against one another.
“This is expected of you in the conduct of business and this is critical for nation-building. As a people who have navigated from far it may not be easy to forget the pains of the past. Our hearts are still heavy with the anguish of history. That notwithstanding, we must be brave and wise enough to resist revisiting the past and we must embrace the future. We will not forget the past but the sacrifices of our martyrs will keep us consoled to be worthy of freedom and concentrate all our energies on nation-building.
“If we deviated away from the core objectives of our liberation struggle, the sacrifices made by many will be for nothing. We were able to achieve our objectives because of the sacrifices of our martyrs and the long suffering of our people. The rewards of our heroes and heroines lie in our future and in the realization of our vision. And it is also in this future and in the realization of this vision that we can fulfil the pledges we have made to our people.”
At the end of his speech, President Salva Kiir Mayardit was given standing ovation by the lawmakers. The end of the officialdom was marked by SPLA Music Band playing new national anthem. The president went back to the parliament square where he was greeted by thousands of citizens with the clapping of hands and ululating from women in the crowds at the parliament square.
Officialdom over, the president waved back to the crowds and entered the presidential limousine and off back to the State House to attend other official functions, on the top consultation with his aides about the formation of the first new post independent inclusive cabinet.