After five decades of struggle and millions of lives lost, the Republic of South Sudan was finally born on July 9, 2011. Congratulations and welcome to the African Union!
I was introduced to the struggle of the people of South Sudan in 1999 while completing an internship with a Kenyan newspaper. Kenya’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs held a press conference with the Sudanese Ambassador to Kenya to announce that officials from the two countries would be meeting to resolve “the refugee problem” in Kenya.
A good friend, on reading my report in the newspaper, commented that the piece was biased against the South Sudanese. I responded that I hadn’t written an opinion piece, rather, I had provided coverage for an official government event under orders from the newspaper. Since my friend was intimately connected with Dr. John Garang, who was the face of the struggle until he died under questionable circumstances in a helicopter crash in 2005, my friend filled me in on the injustices that were being perpetrated against the South Sudanese by their own government. These atrocities were later to become publicized to the world by the media as other nations stepped in to try and broker peace between the north and south.
I rejoice with the people of South Sudan as they look ahead to a future in which they have more of a say, and which requires a lot of work for effective nation building. Many are already predicting doom for this fledgling nation, but I choose to proclaim good things for it instead. South Sudan, may you have lasting peace, internally and with your neighbors on every side. May you make the most of opportunities for unity among your people groups so that you can be a strong nation. May your government and private sector flourish and come up with long term solutions for education, health, water, electricity and even oil production. May your elders build a legacy for future generations and rise above the unnecessary ills plaguing many African countries. May all your dreams come true, Republic of South Sudan.