South Sudan watch out for slippery surfaces.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:EDITORAL
 
FREE EXCERPT

We join millions of people in Africa and around the world to offer our congratulations to the people of the world's newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan - born out of pain, blood and fire - on the 14th of July. African heads of state, ministers representing governments around the world, ambassadors, businessmen, academics, artists and writers, the heads of dozens of NGOs and church and mosque leaders gathered in sweltering Juba to welcome the new addition to the world s community of nations.

"We congratulate our brothers in the south at the establishment of their new state," said Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, finally cutting the umbilical cord that had kept the two entities so unhappily joined together for 55 years.

The flag of the new nation was raised and Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, took the oath of office. A four-metre-tall statue of John Garang, leader of the rebel SPL A/M and the true liberation hero, was given pride of place. Garang died in a helicopter crash in 2005 shortly after the peace deal with the north had been signed.

The day belonged to the people - most of whom had never expected to see the south gain its freedom. The dancing, the singing and the celebrations were an overflowing of joy and pride. Many, with tears running down their cheeks, said that, at last, they could stand tall - their dignity had been reclaimed.

But the party is now over and it is time for the reckoning. I visited Juba about a year ago and was struck by the gulf between expectation and the reality on the ground. While the city itself was being given a makeover with new tarred roads, spanking-new buildings, restaurants, hotels, large villas, banks and other commercial structures, you only had to travel 15 kilometres out of town to feel the threat of marauding gunmen preying on the thousands of returnees.

There was also a world of difference between the well-off in their sparkling 4x4s and the grinding poverty of the masses. The city looked like the venue for an NGO convention - I have never seen so many different NGOs and church groups collected in such numbers in one place.

Then there were the fawning businessmen with their false smiles and bulging briefcases engaged in whispered conversations. What sort of deals were they making? They say the modern world's human vultures...

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