Proclaimed independent on 9 July 2011 after 98% votes in support, South Sudan was born. Sudan the Arabic word for ‘land of black people’ had experienced the longest civil war in Africa against its former oppressive government. It is now showing its young generation the way to build a new nation.
William, a proud Dinka man, was born in South Sudan and left the country at 15 years of age to grow up in Uganda and Ethiopia. He also spent 10 years in a detention centre in Kenya and there was trained as a Counsellor to help his community in the centre. He describes the day of the independence as a “very exciting moment for all South Sudanese. It was like the birth of a child in a family. You feel excitement and start to think how to raise the child”.
When it’s about celebration, Dinka people know what they talk about. The Dinka are “very unique in what they do, they celebrate everything, particularly best days”. Best days are basically the way of not taking any great days of your life for luck or granted. It is about celebrating the present and happy moments with the whole community.
This communal society represents the largest group of the South Sudanese population. It differentiates itself by keeping cattle. Their cows are sacred animals which are exchanged as a prize paid to the bride’s family. Of course the number of cows you possess tells enough about your social background but it is a common belief and tradition that transcends social classes in the Dinka society.
“South Sudanese are very warm, welcoming, outgoing and always learning new things. Visitors are always well treated and it is a community of food sharing”, says William. He also acknowledges that despite the South Sudanese uniting and finding strength to become one nation, they also face disagreements. Indeed, William explains the recent events as “very unfortunate for a country which has spent many years of civil war”. Unlike what the media reported, “it isn’t an ethnic-based conflict but one of political and leadership issues”. He goes further by saying that “an educated elite is trying to be influential over the elected presidency”.
Southern Sudan is a very wealthy country in natural resources but William stressed that “it will take a while to get the economy back on track and for government to position themselves”. The current turmoil in South Sudan are nothing more than what happened in many countries earlier in centuries. The process is therefore long before they reach the expected ‘overnight change’.
However, William holds great hopes for the future of his country, “Southern Sudan is a like a newborn child: it cannot walk straightaway, so it needs time. We can be confused but it will not stop us from moving forward”.
It really feels like the South Sudanese are now empowered to leave troubles behind in order to build a new nation. William remembers the South Sudanese being treated as ‘second citizens’ where development was held up in Khartoum. They have now ownership of their development and coveted natural resources.
Like many, he is a true representative of the South Sudanese diaspora who sadly fled the conflict but he is enjoying the opportunity to be educated in Australia to bring his knowledge back to South Sudan. The diaspora will turn this inconvenience into an advantage for the development of the country. He adds “in the next few years South Sudanese will be the most educated African community in Australia because young people are aware of this opportunity”.
William envisions an optimistic future for his country and holds great projects for himself such as finishing his PhD in Social Research at Victoria University.
Please join me in wishing the more than 30,000 South Sudanese of Australia to soon celebrate one of the best days of South Sudan.