On the ninth of July 2011, six years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, southern Sudan will become South Sudan, the world’s 193rd nation.
In Khartoum’s Friendship Hall, a far-cry from Juba’s John Garang memorial that has been the scene for most referendum-related events, people filled the room as dignitaries and journalists waited for the announcement.
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, had earlier in the day vowed the north’s acceptance of the result with Salva Kiir, the south’s president-to-be. “We will announce today in front of the world our acceptance and respect for the choice of the people of the south” Bashir said. This evening was just a formality.
But as the screen flashed up the final results — a 98.83% vote for secession — tensions did fill in the hall. One man stood, waving his fist in celebration. Another woman, from the north, started weeping before being escorted from the room by security. “Sudan is one country, not two” she wailed as men whisked her away.
Over a thousand kilometres further south, my friends and colleagues in Juba were watching the results on the television screens, broadcasting live from Khartoum. A text-message told me that a cheer went up as I strayed into the cameras behind the speaker, catching the view from their podium.
Now begins the path to independence, which will not be easy for the South. The entirety of the border that will now separate the two states has yet to be demarcated; the popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state have not yet taken place; there are the questions of debt-sharing, and of oil revenues. And then the South has to acquire the means to actually run its own country.