Yesterday marked the one month birthday of the world’s newest country. In honour of this occasion, I want to post a beautiful piece that was written by my lovely South Sudanese colleague Elizabeth Awate about what independence day meant to her.
The long awaited day – the day I have been waiting for since I was born.
With a few days to go, I had mixed feelings, as I remembered all that had happened in South Sudan to achieve independence. I remembered the day I went to cast my special vote in the Referendum. I remembered my late father, my mother, those who contributed to make this day happen and all that I gained and lost in my life for this special day.
Finally the count-down is over.
I was born a in a small town in South Sudan, a hundred miles from the capital Juba, called Yei. During the first war my family was exiled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is where I spent my childhood from the mid-sixties until the 1972, when I returned to South Sudan. This is when the Addis Ababa Agreement was signed (a peace agreement ending the First Sudanese Civil War). In 1994 I went to exile again when the Second Sudanese Civil War, which broke out in 1983, intensified.
However, I was not happy in exile and so in 1995 I decided to come back to South Sudan and work in the SPLA controlled areas, contributing in any way that I could. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 (a peace agreement ending the Second Sudanese Civil War), I moved to work in Juba.
A few years later, it was the time for the Referendum to decide whether South Sudan would become a free country. On this day, I woke up very early in the morning and queued to cast my special vote in Atlabara A polling station. As I was queuing, the former American President Jimmy Carter and the former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited the station. I nearly shed tears of excitement. It was wonderful to see how other nationals, especially dignitaries, really wanted to see southern Sudan become conflict-free.
On the eve of our Independence Day I went to the salon to style my hair. Unfortunately all the salons were full, as many women were busy, both styling their hair and decorating their nails with the South Sudan flag.It was impossible to find an empty seat so in the end I decided to wear a wig. I wanted to look my best for the special day.
In the evening my sister and our cousins joined many others in the driving through streets celebrating, shouting, singing, dancing and crying. We welcomed independence at midnight. After midnight we went back home to pray and sleep.
In the morning, of the Independence Day I was up by six o’clock to start preparing. I was honored with a VIP Card, Thanks to God, which would allow me to enter John Garang’s Mausoleum, where the official festivities were being held. By 8:50am I was already seated waiting for the arrival of the dignitaries. The program started late and it was hot but this did not bother me at all because I was excited to see what I had been waiting all my life for: the South Sudan flag flying high.
As I watched, representatives from different countries arrived. The place was so packed that even some of our Ministers vacated their seats for visitors.
Listening to the different speeches of encouragement and challenges from the representatives of different nations made my day. However, it was at the point when the soldiers, other armed forces and in particular those wounded during the wars, began marching, that I started to shed tears.
Then came the moment I had been waiting for – the flag of the Republic of South Sudan was raised. I wept together with many others,as finally the Republic of South Sudan was a free country.
I lived my entire life in a war. Now I just want our children to be free and for them to enjoy the fruits of the struggle. Finally we made it.
Thanks to GOD and to all those who joined hands to make this dream come true.
I went home from these celebrations a very happy woman. However, the biggest challenge now, is the way forward.