Two months ago, when I broke my leg, I naively thought (although perhaps it was partly shock) that by the time South Sudan voted in their referendum I would be free from my crutches and living a normally paced life. Alas, the referendum is finished and I am still here in Nairobi with my crutches, walking slowly and carefully.
The preliminary results of the referendum, which has been reported as peaceful and fair from news agencies and our friends, show astounding results of over 95% of votes cast for separation. Kaitlyn has documented the results and the timeline well on her blog. The results are not a surprise for us, nor I’m sure, for our Sudanese friends who have been waiting for this moment for their whole lives.
I didn’t realize how much muscle I would lose after six weeks of not using my leg. I didn’t realize that my body would forget how to walk and that this would be a skill I needed to relearn. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to triumphantly throw my crutches in the air one day and walk away without a limp. I didn’t realize that it would be a slow process – from walking on the tip of my toes, to walking flat-footed, to walking with as much weight as possible with two crutches, to walking with one crutch, and finally, finally, walking timidly forward.
Now that the referendum is finished the hard work has to begin. There are a crazy amount of things that need to happen to start a new country: name, constitution, resources, borders, flag, and of course, a national flower. Also, the new country will be one of the poorest in the world, with a significant lack of infrastructure, and amazingly high expectations from the people.
As a recent Guardian article aptly said:
“Popular expectations are running absurdly high. People on the street believe that independence means jobs, roads and a better life, and believe these things will arrive without delay. It is the government that will first face discontent when these do not materialise.”
I imagine that many southern Sudanese people are like me when they envision their own freedom – throwing their proverbial crutches in the air and walking forward confidently and unhindered. I am worried that in actuality the going will be slow, it will be difficult, perhaps painful, and need lots of patience.
Yesterday I got an email from my Dad saying that he had heard that it takes a year for a bone to fully heal from a break. I wonder what south Sudan will look like in a year. We appreciate all the prayers that were given during the referendum week and we ask you not to forget about Sudan in the coming months.
We are returning to Rumbek tomorrow, crutches and all, to walk slowly with the Sudanese people – with the returnees who have come from the north, with vendors in the market, with leaders in the church, with the people who have lived through so many years of war and yearn for peace.