South Sudan chooses ‘freedom’ anthem

Hundreds of cheering southern Sudanese packed a concert hall in the regional capital, Juba, to watch contestants battle it out to provide the music for a “national” anthem, less than 80 days before a planned referendum on independence.

“This is a historic moment,” said Mido Samuel, one of three entrants who made the final shortlist after an initial field of 36 was whittled down in the competition, which climaxed late on Sunday.

“Having a national anthem for me means that I am declaring to everybody that I am now free,” he said.

South Sudan is still recovering from decades of war with the north during which about two million people died in a conflict fuelled by religion, ethnicity, ideology and resources, including oil.

Excitement is rising as the south prepares to vote on January 9 in an independence referendum that was the centrepiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.

Most analysts expect the south to vote to break away and split Africa’s largest nation in two.

“This is about the spirit of the people of southern Sudan, who have never accepted to be enslaved without resistance,” said Pagan Amum, secretary general of the south’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), speaking before the music began.

“Southerners are united by a common aspiration to be free,” said Amum, who later danced in front of the audience alongside southern army chief James Hoth.

“On January 9, we will be free, and we will extend our hands in friendship to all the people of the world, particularly to the people of northern Sudan, whose elites have ruled us in a bad way.”

Search for identity
The final shortlist will now be put to senior officials of the south’s autonomous regional government and army who will make the final choice, said Joseph Abuk, chairperson of the technical committee overseeing the anthem.

“This is part of our search for identity,” said Abuk. “That is why national anthems are so very important.”

The words for the anthem have already been chosen by a committee including government and military representatives.

“Sing songs of freedom with joy,” the lyrics run. “For peace, liberty and justice shall forever reign.”

Tensions remain high between the mainly Muslim north and the grossly underdeveloped south, most of whose inhabitants are Christian or follow traditional beliefs.

“Oh black warriors! Let’s stand up in silence and respect, saluting millions of martyrs whose blood cemented our national foundation,” another verse runs.

North and south remain deadlocked over who should be eligible to take part in a separate vote in the contested oil-producing district of Abyei on whether it should remain part of the north or join an autonomous or independent south.

The vote is supposed to take place on same day as the wider independence referendum in the south but preparations have been overshadowed by the row over the electoral register. — Sapa-AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Peter Martell
Guest Author

Related stories

Hopes mount for deal as Sudan, S Sudan meet

Sudan and South Sudan leaders have met as pressure grows to end long-running disputes that have brought the foes to the brink of renewed conflict.

Search for kidnapped aid workers in Somalia intensifies

Kenyan security forces are scoureing border regions with war-torn Somalia in the hunt for armed kidnappers who seized four aid workers from Dadaab.

Seeing the majesty in Somalia’s history

Funky dancing in a seaside bar, Vespa scooters on broad boulevards: the images of a lost Somalia are at odds with a place better known for war.

Kenya’s Kenyatta quits as finance minister over ICC charges

Uhuru Kenyatta has resigned as Kenya's finance minister after the International Criminal Court ruled he should stand trial for post-election violence.

South Sudan tribe vows to ‘exterminate’ rival group

Armed Lou Nuer youths have marched on Pibor, home to the rival Murle people, who they blame for cattle raiding and have vowed to exterminate.

Ruined cathedral offers refuge for drought-hit Somalis

Beneath the soaring arches of the bombed out ruins of a cathedral, families fleeing extreme drought build huts of rag and plastic for shelter.

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

No proof of Covid-19 reinfection, yet

Some people report testing positive for Covid-19 after initially having the disease and then testing negative. Scientists are still trying to understand if this means that reinfection is possible

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday