"Bye bye Khartoum": A final dance for secession

Asmaa El-Husseini in Juba, Saturday 8 Jan 2011

A large banner at a popular festival organised by SPLM in the courtyard of Juba University on the eve of South Sudan's referendum captures the popular mood: “Bye bye Khartoum”

Southern Sudanese dances in Juba rally 7 January 2011. (Reuters)
Southern Sudanese dances in Juba rally 7 January 2011. (Reuters)


Activities throughout the five hour festival all incited secession. Lifting high a large poster with symbol of partition drawn in grand size, sound effects were put together directed to the same end.

The whole mood was hysterical, like a carnival where people take on new personas. Prominent tribes in the south all sent folkloric groups each wearing its own costumes with one objective: to tell the North 'our culture did not die in the face overwhelming Arab-Islamic culture than has reigned from the north for decades.'

Groups performed traditional folk dances accompanied by loud drums pushing everyone to celebrate and dance.

For its part, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) group played a military national anthem and enthusiastically lifted "one hand" posters representing secession as opposed to two hands entwined representing unity.

All chanted songs for freedom; freedom for which blood was spilled and where peace and equality can prevail. “We have been blackmailed three times before by northern leaders who convinced us of the necessity for unity, but we will not let this happen again,” said one southern leaders.

Arabic has traditionally been the official language between different tribes which each have their own local language. If they got stuck with vocabulary they would resort to English, which will be the official language in the state of South Sudan upon partition.

Suddenly amidst the celebration there was a change in tempo with the arrival of the seemingly victorious secretary general of the SPLM Pagan Amum. Amum was surrounded by hundreds of youths who wanted to give Khartoum a slap in the face for a legacy of marginalisation, slavery, Arabism and Islamisation.

Amum was euphoric as he went roaming the corridors of Juba University declaring that 90 per cent of eligible voters will vote for secession or else they “would be viewed as traitors to the blood of our martyrs who fell during decades of civil war, as well as betraying our future generations".

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