With faith in our nation in tatters, many threw up their arms in despair and declared they could not celebrate independence. So, why will I?
“At the heart of our mass co-operation networks, you will always find fictional stories that exist only in people’s collective imagination… There are no gods, no nations, no money and no human rights, except in our collective imagination.” – Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.
I read an article in the Guardian entitled, “Has Europe lost its hold on our collective imagination?” and a similar thought suddenly crossed my mind. Has South Sudan lost its hold on our collective imagination?
On the 9th July, we will be celebrating the fourth anniversary of our nation’s independence. Many see little to celebrate and instead have opted only to ‘mark’ the occasion. For the remainder, the celebrations will be tinged with sadness. Though they may dance and drink and laugh and socialize, deep down, the tragedy which has befallen the nation will nag at the back of their minds, worrying away at their enjoyment as a termite burrows deep into unprotected timber and ruins its strength.
And as I help prepare for this year’s celebrations, I can’t help but ponder.
Four years ago, I was full to brim with pride and hope and optimism. Along with countless others, I found our new nation birthed something exhilarating in me – a sense of new found aspiration. A sense that anything was possible, indeed even probable. A golden moment, between reaching out for something desirous and being just about to grasp it.
Four years on, and there is precious little to be proud of. Hope has been proven time and time again to be an unkind prankster and optimism akin to delusion. But worse, that sense of aspiration has been lost. We were never special or blessed after all. Our weaknesses are all too human and our frailties in these four short years have knocked us from the very pinnacle of boundless opportunity to the lowest depths of human savagery and cruel barbarity.
South Sudan has often tested my faith. It continues to do so. But one date I shall always hold dear is 9th July. As a youngster, I was an unashamed secessionist. I had no time for the New Sudan rhetoric. I remember drawing maps of an independent South Sudan, wondering how a landlocked country would cope, imagining how we would organize our polity. I imagined a country at peace with itself, driving forward into modernity and finally free from the shackles of colonial legacy and the terrible burden of the Berlin Conference.
Four years ago a part of this dream was realized. But as it turned out, just a small part. The rest lives on in my heart. That South Sudan will never lose its hold on my imagination. There it thrives and reminds me that what we have right now is but a pale shadow of what we can have. On Thursday 9th July I celebrate that South Sudan of my childhood and the small step we took 4 years ago to making it a reality.
I am reminded of a verse from scripture.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”
I do not stop praising the almighty in times of hardship. Neither shall I stop celebrating the dream of South Sudan in times of crushing turmoil. For the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. And time shall in due course wash away the present to make room for the future.