Friday, July 15, 2011

On the 9th of July

Less than a week ago, Sudan, my country, split into two following a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of 1/3 of its citizens voted in favor of secession. South Sudan was born on the 9th of July and I wrote this late at night on 9 July after reaching home feeling a roller coaster of emotions.

The young men sitting under the tree in front of my house couldn’t stop staring at me.

I left my house in the scorching sun to go to a friend’s house to celebrate South Sudan. In my mind and heart, I was celebrating the freedom of Southern Sudanese and their right to living in their own country as First-Class Citizens, something that they would never have in the haphazard landmass called Sudan. Armed with a makeshift hand-painted Sudanese flag, I was holding the flag with one hand and trying to wave a taxi with the other. I couldn’t put it down.

I finally reached my friend’s house accompanied by another friend. Ajaa A., a friend who hails from South Sudan, was organizing a small gathering at her house to celebrate South Sudan’s independence. I have been watching South Sudan TV (SSTV) since midnight. My father has recently grown fond of Ebony and SSTV, they are the only channels he watches in addition to Al Jazeera. Sudanese channels are in a world of their own, we don’t even bother wasting electricity on them.

After watching the national anthem for about 60 times, we watched catchy songs recorded by South Sudanese musicians and a mini documentary featuring North Sudanese express their thoughts on secession.

At night, we headed to Nile Street. In recent years, Nile Street has grown to become the most popular hang-out spot for youth in the weekend. You sit on colored plastic chairs sipping ginger or cinnamon flavored tea or Ethiopian coffee made by Sudanese and Ethiopian tea-ladies (Sittat Chai) alike.

On the way to the end of Nile Street where we usually gather with friends, the streets were packed. Hundreds of cars were blocking the way, people were walking on all pavements and the majority was waving Sudanese flags. Cars were decorated with Sudanese flags and even the old Bahri Bridge was painted red, green, and white and black, the colors of the flag.
“What are they celebrating?” I asked my friends.

When the road gets less blocked, we would drive really close to cars waving Sudanese flags and I would roll down my window and blast my South Sudanese flag to their faces. They would, of course, get utterly shocked and ask me “why?” and tell me to raise it again. This led to being harassed by two guys, one of which had blow-dried hair and couldn't stop commenting on my hairband...

I put my flag down when we reached a busy area that was reserved for celebrations by National Congress Party (NCP) supporters. With their huge posters of President Bashir and huge flags, they probably didn’t know that the prices have already increase and many gas stations have no petrol. I wish them luck in finding petrol for their land cruisers.

I also saw a poster of the notorious “Just Peace Forum”, the controversial pro-independence Northern group headed by Al Tayeb Mustafa, the uncle of President Bashir and the owner of Al-Entbha, a newspaper I believe promotes racism and makes up news.
We stopped a guy selling water and asked him about the four flags he is showcasing.

“What are you celebrating”, I asked him, matter-of-factly.

“I’m celebrating today, the secession of the south,” he replied
“Why?” I asked again
“We are not going to have drunk people anymore,” he replied

I asked him if he ever saw a drunken Southern Sudanese in Khartoum creating problems and if this is the only reason and if he is thinking about the future of the North after secession. He was confused.

I sat with my sister and my best friend discussing the misinformation of people in the north. How they don’t grasp the enormity of the situation, Sudan was split into two countries and we are losing cultural diversity and an abundance of resources.

We were joined by more friends. A friend brought a cousin and when I started conversing with him, I was filled with sadness.

He was also celebrating independence because the Southerners were planning to “enslave the Northerners and torture us,”
“This is why John Garang was assassinated, he was evil, and he wanted to enslave us. You would have worked as a maid in his house, “he told, looking as convinced as ever.

“I don’t know where to start. How do you know John Garang was “assassinated” and for this exact purpose. The Southerners do not have an evil plan to enslave us or torture us. We treated them horribly and still do, but they are above that,” I told him.

I felt sick to my stomach, I found myself too angry to engage in a further discussion with him. I pulled my chair away and told my friend the shocking story. He, surely, continued telling me conspiracy theories. In a few seconds, he mentioned the US and Israel.

Of course.

The United States and Israel are the reason why Sudan has been embroiled in Africa’s longest-running civil war; they are also the reason why Northerners feel superior to Southerners. They are the root cause of all our problems.

As much as secession is painful, I feel that the attitudes of young Sudanese people from the north are even more disturbing than Sudan splitting. I think I have a few white hairs from what I heard over the past few weeks. At work, from relatives and at public gatherings, not only do they not feel any responsibility towards the fate of Sudan, they also feel that the over-burdening Southerners have left and now, the north is free to become a developed and peaceful country.

“It is not about the south separating. Now that the Southerners have their own country, we will still abuse other groups, we are free to harass people from west Sudan, whom we refer to as “gharabba”, said my friend.

She is right, stay tuned to the North VS. the rest of Sudan.


h.tai said...

sad that these are the kind of thoughts ppl have about Garang. I feel that the idea of unity died when he died as he was the only one with some sort of vision.

I was also disturbed by such comments. I was in Khartoum a few weeks back and had a very troubling conversation with a taxi driver.

Hind Malik said...

I am really saddened by your report on Sudanese Youth reaction to the succession of Southern Sudan. This is really bad considering that both nations now must try and work together as neighbors who share much in common, including economic interests. It is shocking to see that this is the reaction of our youth, the future of our nation and leaders of tomorrow. I am glad to say that here in the US, at least among those I know, I was happy to see a mature understanding of the matter and mutual support among both Southern and Northern youth.