On Monday, February 7th we were determined to be part of history.
We were determined to be with the people when the announcement was officially made (everyone knew what was coming).
So on Monday at 11am (The announcement was scheduled to be announced at 9. Our Sudanese friend told us 11 was more likely) we loaded up our car and went into town, into Freedom Square, to hear that the southern Sudanese people had chosen to create a new country.
An aside: We came to Rumbek one year ago – in the first week of February when the heat decides to crank itself up a few notches. We are excited for the new year, knowing what to expect a bit more, understanding the language and culture a bit more, knowing how to deal with the heat a bit more. But the best thing about celebrating a 2nd anniversary in place, I realized as we walked through the square, is that we now have more people in our lives to celebrate these times with.
There is Mary, the 16 year old daughter of our language tutor, who’s style more resembles a hip-hop boy than a Sudanese teenager (many girls her age are married with children). There is Matthew, the young man who is waiting for the school to start by coming to our office to borrow books to read. There is Elizabeth, the exuberant woman from St Monica’s women’s group who kisses us repeatedly while laughing every time she sees us. There is David, a seminarian, who likes to be called DVD.
But back to Freedom Square where we greeted all these people and more as we walked through the hot sun and jubilant atmosphere. I am still using one crutch, which seems to be a greater concern for people other than me, and so it was deemed unacceptable by the general public that I should have to stand and wait for the announcement. It probably also didn’t hurt that our entourage was primarily white khawajas. Begrudgingly, as we hadn’t really come to the square to be the centers of attention, we were escorted through the happy riot police, soldiers, and cadets to the front of the stage and given chairs to sit in front of the very important looking and happy military men (whom we apologized profusely to although it seemed a greater insult would have been to refuse the chairs).
In every Sudanese celebration I have gone to in the past year there is always dancing. So as we sat down and took out our cameras (taking pictures in public is a sensitive issue in Sudan but with these guys’ (the ones behind us) permission and the festive atmosphere we felt comfortable) we were treated to music and dancing by at least 3 different groups all at the same time.
Then, in a surprisingly short amount of time, someone came to the podium. It was time for the announcement!
This was the English version of the announcement:
Thank you for all coming today to the this great event. Because Khartoum is not announcing the results until later in the day we decided to do the same. You are all required to come back tonight at 6 for our announcement at 7pm.
At this everyone got up and left. In a very orderly fashion.
That evening we couldn’t go to the announcement, despite the requirement and my determination. We were welcoming the Fathers and Sisters to Rumbek for our annual Diocese Assembly. And at 9pm we were told the announcement still had not been officially made. So, it is probably ok that we weren’t there because that is when I start getting ready for bed.
I am not sure when the official announcement was officially made but I do know that it is now official. On July 9, 2011 Africa will welcome a new country to this continent.