Wild celebrations in Juba as country becomes independent

From Christine Acen in Juba

Unmistakable hapiness is etched on the faces of South Sudan as the country becomes the 54th member of independent African states.

After 28 years of a bloody struggle that claimed the lives of almost two million men, women and children, there is a frenzy of wild happiness and jubilation as South Sudan becomes the 193rd independent nation on earth. Started when this writer was barely two years old by a man many of us grew knowing and reading about in our classrooms, John Garang, the atmosphere here in Juba the capital of this new nation, is nothing but simply unbelievable. Men, women and children spent a sleepless night simply dancing, laughing and at tomes shedding a tear here and there as the reality of their dreams finally came true. Many drove their cars wildly and hooting while their passengers hang on for dear life while perched either on the roofs of cars or in half-open car doors. The police and army joined in the celebration and for a moment, the fear of an attack from terrorists was briefly forgotten as everybody joined in to celebrate Africa’s 54th independent nation.

While the official language for the time being remains Arabic, many of us could not understand the words that were coming out of the mouths of the crowds but one didn’t need a translator as the English word ‘independence, independence, independence’ kept coming out of the ululating crowds. Rumours that Juba had run out of beer may have been premature. People here have taken out crates of beer, gin, wine and other liquors waiting to celebrate the big day in their history. The whole night was spent by south Sudanese drinking, holding street parties and smiling at everyone they met as if we were all long lost friends.

While the new country remains one of the poorest in the world and has no electricity to lights its houses and streets, it looks like one businessman from Japan who has sold generators to this new country may have indeed made a killing. There are Japanese generators in almost each and every house. Thousands of south Sudanese patrolled the streets alongside forces of the United Nations Mission In Sudan (UNAMIS) who are here to keep law and order. Many are from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Eritrea, Burundi and Rwanda and seem to behaving incredibly well.

The confusion and disorderliness that met us when we had just arrived in the country Thursday seem to have disappeared. The London Evening Post was quickly issued with a press pass that has enabled us to be at the centre of all the action. We were able to attend what was supposed to be a press conference by the country’s new information minister but when he turned up all he managed to tell the waiting press from all over the world was that he had called the press conference to talk about international relations. Officials who on Thursday were acting rather stiff and rude to visitors here have changed for the better. It looked like somebody had just told them there were visitors in the country and they had to treat everyone nicely.

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