On Saturday 9th July, the Republic of South Sudan became an independent country. Sara-Lukey Smith, a World Vision UK aid worker tells us what happened on the day and the hopes the citizens hold for the future.
Words like ‘incredible’ and ‘amazing’ are frequently overused, but this weekend in Juba really was just that. It was remarkable to have been able to witness this ‘birth of a nation’ – the proceedings and the celebrations.
As Friday evening progressed, the streets filled with vehicles and people. Motorbikes with coloured flashing lights and cars crammed with people inside and out whizzed past waving flags and sounding their horns, while pedestrians looked on and cheered. Six months on after the referendum, their vote was to be realised and the world’s newest state, the Republic of South Sudan, created.
The atmosphere was equally electric at the John Garang Memorial on Saturday. Tens of thousands of people came together to see the raising of the flag and the speeches from national and international political leaders. Away from the grandstand, we walked through the crowds and stood quite mesmerised by the traditional dancers, the drummers striking the beats and their apparently endless stamina through the scorching heat of the day. Under the shade of canopies, mothers stood with their children finely dressed and waiting patiently for the proceedings to begin. Each time the rallying call came over the speakers, the crowds responded excitedly waving a sea of flags small and large in the air.
South Sudan undoubtedly has huge challenges ahead in terms of bringing peace, security and development to its citizens. It has to create all the additional structures and systems required of a state, while simultaneously building a cohesive nation. Expectations among its citizens are high, yet it will take many more years toroll out quality basic services and extend economic opportunities to all. Sustained support from donor governments, multilateral organisations and NGOs will be vital. On Saturday pledges of support from world leaders flooded in, and I hope that they live up to this rhetoric. World Vision remains committed to ensuring that every child here grows up in a stable environment with access to food and clean water, a quality education and decent health care.