Today is the independence of South Sudan. After decades of civil war and struggle with the North, the people of Southern Sudan have earned their freedom and their right to a country of their own. Through various peace agreements, the latest of which was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, leading to an overwhemlingly successful referendum last January (2011) favouring secession from the north and which culminated in today, the day of independence and final separation from the Republic of Sudan, the newest nation in Africa and the world, the Republic of South Sudan, is born.
Though themselves diverse in race, religion and ethnicity, the people of South Sudan are very different from the North. Their struggle after the longest civil wars in Africa, decades of marginalisation in terms of services and resources, displacement of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes because of war and conflict, and more than 1.5 million deaths, this independence is well earned. The road however is still rough and long. Conflicts still abide, and health care and education are minimal. Most of the neglected tropical diseases known in the world are endemic in South Sudan, maternal and infant mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world and enrolment in education is very low. Infrastructure and institutions need to be built from scratch. However from the happiness and relief of the people that I have witnessed this past month and especially yesterday and today, from the large numbers of displaced Sudanese who are rapidly making their way back to their country and from the speeches of the dignitaries who were invited to the international celebratory event today and the support they showed, there is a strong will and desire to reconstruct this country and develop it and make it a nation worthy of the struggle of its people and those who gave their lives for its freedom. The country is still treading its first steps but I am optimistic and its people are confident that it will rise to a beautiful nation that recognises the rights of its citizens and respects their diversity and humanity.
It’s another Thursday night alone at home and I just finished watching Innocent Voices. Last Thursday I watched Las 13 Rosas. Ahmed, I love you for introducing me to those movies, and I thank you for it, but I am deeply and acutely moved by them. Las 13 Rosas is the story of 13 young women (minors) in Madrid who were wrongly gunned down in the Almudena cemetery in 1939 in the early years of the Franco regime because of a political crime they did not commit. It’s a beautiful film, despite that last sentence. Innocent Voices talks about the civil war in El Salvador through the eyes of an 11-year old boy. They are both very strong material to digest, and as I embark upon a journey that will change my career and my life, I pause to think a little about what I am about to do.
My whole life I have wanted to do something useful.. to help people. I’m not the corporate employee, nor the teacher, nor am I one to work at a 9-5 job that won’t bring some sort of change to myself and to the people around me. I need to be doing something useful and after 14 years of work in development that has in my opinion grown stagnant, I need to look for something that is more in the line of fire. Well, not in so many words, but at least something that has more action to it, where I feel that my mark will leave a stronger imprint. I have no idea if that is a wise decision, nor a rash one for that matter, and I have absolutely no clue what the outcome of this year is going to be, more so, what the future holds for me, and I don’t know if I will be able to take the life that I am choosing for myself. But I know that I have my faith, my thrill and thirst for knowledge, my desire to travel to the 70 thousand corners of the world, and my need to do some good in this world.
I also have a strong urge to understand what it is that makes people live in the circumstances that they live in, to suffer the way they do, to fight for what they believe in, to lose members of their family and their community one after the other, to lose everything they own, and still believe that their cause is just and that there is a certain solidarity that unifies us all as humans. I know I don’t have to work in countries where there is violence, but I need to understand this resilience and this solidarity.
And I hope that this coming year will be a step closer towards this understanding and my own realization of what it is I truly want to do in this life.