New country means a new beginning for South Sudan

Sudanese refugees across the world stood in line to vote on the Sudanese referendum Jan. 9. Results from the election show that a large majority of South Sudanese voted to split from the North, which will allow for the formation of the Republic of South Sudan on July 9, when the Comprehensive Peace Act expires.

Katherine Marcheski

For some ISU students, home became the newest country in the world Monday: The Republic of South Sudan.

“It is overwhelming. It was an opportunity for the people,” said Joseph Lomoti, junior in biochemistry.

Voting took place from Jan. 9-15 in all of Sudan and eight other countries, including the United States. 

“The North did not prove themselves as peaceful neighbors, and we ended up being marginalized like our ancestors. [The vote] gave us a new opporotunity,” Lomoti said.

Being born into the chaos of war, Lomoti said, didn’t leave many opportunities for a fulfilling life. His options were to stay in Sudan in the war-torn region or escape for a chance at a better life.

“I left for Kenya with my sisters, to go to high school,” Lomoti said. “They went back to Sudan, and I came to the United States, finished high school in Des Moines and came to Iowa State.”

It’s been 12 years since Lomoti has seen his family in Sudan, but he says he plans on going home in May and staying until July, when he can witness the true and finalized South Sudan.

The recent reactions in Sudan have been of jubilation and relief for the referendum news and the excitement for a hopeful future in South Sudan.

“Everyone is happy,” Lomoti said. “People were dancing and singing and dressed in traditional clothing. It was a 99 percent vote for separation. We’re not against people of the North, but there is nothing for us to be attatched to them.”

Twenty-two years of conflict between North and South Sudan was finally addressed in 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Act was initiated to offer a referendum vote for the fate of the country.

The act stated that in 2011 the Sudanese people would vote to decide if Sudan would stay united or split, allowing South Sudan to be a separate, sovereign nation.

The peace act also implemented a transitional government that will allow members to assume positions once the separation becomes official in July and the country holds its first elections as its own nation. Currently the country is being run by a central government, army and police department.

There were fights that broke out across the border between the North and South during the voting period, but there were few casualties, and these fights were said to be an act of distaction during the referendum process, Lomoti said.

The transition to two separate countries is hoped to be a smooth and peaceful one, offering a fresh start to South Sudan and its citizens.

“Oh yeah, [I will return] of course,” Lomoti said. “I love America – it’s the land of opportunities, as they say, but I will definitely go back to Sudan. If there is an opportunity for people to advance themselves, then I will go back. I’m going to finish my education here and use it to help my own people back home.”

A question that remains posed to many is the forver-pending Darfur conflict, Lomoti said. While the North and South have found a certain level of peace, the East and West are still left in turmoil.

“For awhile the Darfur region was backing the North with attacking the South, but now Darfur is starting to break away and realizing they don’t want to be tied with the North anymore,” Lomoti said.

Like many other Sudanese, as the 99 percent succession vote proved, Lomoti hopes for a fresh start as a nation.

“[I hope for] a country that is new — we have learned from other countries around us, and I hope South Sudan will be the most peaceful country and offer stability and peace in the surrounding area, like the Congo and Uganda,” Lomoti said.

Another ISU student from Sudan is Maurice Aduto, senior in animal ecology, who also hopes for permanent peace in his native country.

“It is a new, reformed country, and we are going to try to do anything to make sure there is no destruction, only growth and development,” Aduto said.

Aduto also explained the enormous amount of happiness and anticipation for the new opportunities South Sudan will offer, and the people who will no longer be considered second-class citizens.

The Declaration of Independence of the Republic of South Sudan is expected to be put in place July 9. Political figures are expected to assume powers in the time of transition until new candidates can run for election.

“We can do it – we’ve never been given the chance, so now we are trying to show the world we can do it,” Aduto said.

Despite the separation the people voted for, Aduto stressed the importance of the ties between the North and South.

“We will be helping each other,” Aduto said. “I don’t see future war conflicts, because there are strong relations and we will be sharing resources.”

Aduto hopes that the South will be able to take care of their own problems when it comes to military issues but also hopes for support from the international community, if needed.

In a news release Monday, President Obama said the United States intends to recognize South Sudan as a sovereign nation in July, when it is expected to receive its independence.

“As I pledged in September when addressing Sudanese leaders, the United States will continue to support the aspirations of all Sudanese — North and South, East and West,” Obama said. “We will work with the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to independence.”

July 2011 will mark the final goal that the South Sudanese have been waiting for. Obama offered support for the people of Sudan in his statement, along with encouragement for the Sudanese. 

“And while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States,” Obama said.