By Kim Pozniak
When I arrived in South Sudan’s future capital Juba yesterday, the joyous preparations for independence were immediately apparent.
Landing at the airport, another passenger pointed out the newly installed lights along the runway to allow for night flights. Everywhere you look there are small signs of progress.
Driving along Juba’s bumpy, dusty roads, you see women cleaning the streets. Signs for the long expected independence have been put up along small storefronts, on crumbling walls and white washed tree trunks.
Spending my first day in Juba, I spoke with many people about their hopes and dreams for the new nation. I want to tell you about two of them.
Taban Benneth, 25, works as a driver for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and plans to see the celebrations firsthand so he can tell his children and grandchildren that he was there when the flag was raised for the first time.
“I’m really happy to see our first president of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit. signing the constitution and raising the flag of South Sudan,” he said. “As southerners, we need to unite so that we can built a new nation. Without forgiveness we won’t build a new nation. We have to see those coming from the outside as brothers and sisters because the new nation needs joined hands. We can’t do it alone.”
I also spoke with Satimon Luate, a 43-year-old father of five who works as the warehouse manager for Catholic Relief Services.
Satimon plans to spend the day with his family to “witness this liberation”. He wants the new nation to bring a bright future for his children. He hopes that they won’t see the same suffering as people of his generation. They witnessed a civil war that plagued Sudan for decades and cost millions of lives.
“We’ve been waiting for this day,” said Satimon. “Independence means freedom, and we’re going to get all that we never had before. We will be free to do anything in our new country.”
Although Sudan is experiencing heightened tensions and even conflict in some of its border regions, the people in Juba seem reluctant to let this reality cloud their hopes for the big day on 9 July. Satimon, who was one of the nearly 4 million people who voted in South Sudan’s referendum in January, describes the mood in Juba as festive, with people slaughtering goats and dancing in the streets.
As the sky over Juba is growing darker and darker tonight, signaling a heavy thunderstorm, the preparations for South Sudan’s big day continue, and with it the hopes and dreams that so many here share.
This blog post was written by Kim Pozniak, Communications Officer for Catholic Relief Services, a Caritas member, who will be blogging for CI on South Sudan’s Independence on July 9.