A letter from Nancy McGaughey in Sudan
For many people in South Sudan, the day was like any other. Recent rains indicated a change in the seasons and they were up early, plowing fields, sowing groundnuts, working to ensure a food supply in the coming months. But the early morning hours were not indicative of events to follow later in the day. For this was to be the day all had waited for, fought for, prayed for – the Independence of the Republic of South Sudan, 55th country in Africa, 196th country in the world. People gathered in various locations – in Juba, the capital of the new nation, in state capitals and in county headquarters to mark the occasion. I chose to commemorate the occasion with my co-workers and friends in Aduel, headquarters of Rumbek East County, Lakes State, South Sudan.
Around 10 a.m. we travelled the short distance to Aduel. I was surprised to find so many people there ahead of us. Music was playing, people were dancing, others sitting around talking, remembering the war(s) leading up to this day. One war widow remarked, “This day makes me proud. My husband’s death has brought about a good thing.” Songs had been composed by different women’s groups who took turns entertaining the multitudes as we waited the auspicious moment. Military and civilians were dancing. I must admit it was a strange site to see the soldiers, AK-47s slung over their shoulders, dancing to these songs! After some hours, our county commissioner arrived and it was time to begin. We moved from under the shade of the mahogany trees to the parade grounds. Military groups marched, church leaders, youth groups and women’s groups. Two disabled war veterans took their assigned places at the flag poles for the lowering of the old flag and the raising of the flag of South Sudan. And there in the hot sun, we waited again. A long time we waited. There was a protocol to be observed – first the new flag was to be raised in Juba, then in the state capitals and only after that could it be raised in the counties. Finally the time came. Many of us had tears in our eyes as the old flag was lowered and the new one raised, followed by a 21 bullet (as opposed to gun) salute to the new country. A red bull was slaughtered near the flag pole (to chase away evil and bring good luck) and we returned to the shade for speeches.
I was sitting next to one of my co-workers who was also a veteran of the war. He looked at all of the local chiefs sitting across from us and was reminded of a time during the war. Food for the soldiers would be collected by local chiefs (one tin of grain for each male member of the household) and stored until the army came to collect it. Andrew was often sent by his commander to get the supplies. One time, one of the chiefs asked him, “Are you REALLY going to win this war?” “Of course we are,” he replied. “Probably not in our lifetime,” the chief responded. How awesome that he was there to witness this birth of his nation.
The war is over, but many battles remain – battle for unity of the many tribes and clans across the nation; battle against poverty; battle against corruption; battle for health and education for all – so many struggles ahead of these people.
Before I end with the words of the new national anthem, I want to inform you I will be in the USA from mid-September until end of January, 2012. My address will be 304 N. Harrison St, Russellville, IN 46175.
Please continue to pray for these people and their new nation.
Oh God, we praise and glorify you
For your grace to South Sudan.
Land of great abundance
Uphold us united in peace and harmony.
We rise, raising flag with guiding star,
Singing songs of freedom with joy.
For justice, liberty and prosperity
Will forever more, reign.
Oh great patriots
Let’s stand up in silence and respect,
Saluting our martyrs whose blood
Cemented our national foundation.
We vow to protect our nation.
Oh God bless South Sudan