On 9 July the world witnessed the birth of a new nation. There were daunting challenges ahead for South Sudan but the world, including many in Sudan, joined in the celebrations. After years of being second-class citizens, the South Sudanese were finally free to self govern.
One year on, stability is elusive and many issues critical to ensuring peace remain outstanding, including demarcation of the border, the disputed territory of Abyei, and the issue of citizenship.
This is in part because the social implications of separation were not addressed in the peace agreement. Efforts were made to "make unity attractive" but there was little emphasis on "making separation attractive" once it became a reality. It is also because most people in the Sudan - whether in the South, West, East, Center, or North - are marginalized. For years the liberation struggle of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army was erroneously portrayed as a "Southern problem". But lack of basic human rights, economic freedom, equity, justice, and good governance are issues that affected - and continue to affect - all Sudanese.
In January 2012, when South Sudan decided to halt oil production following disagreement with Sudan on transit fees, many said that South Sudan had scored an own goal. But an unintended consequence of economic austerity for both countries is that the issues of political transformation and accountability are now being raised.
In South Sudan many citizens do not see the benefits of oil revenue, though the government relies heavily on it to pay salaries and support the army. For decades we fought for liberation, yet we are dismayed to see our leaders commit some of the same practices they fought against: corruption, arbitrary detentions, harassment of the press. In response, we are now trying to hold the government to account and demanding transparency.
In Sudan, the economic austerity measures are also making citizens think differently. They are questioning the cost of wars, including expenditure on military and security forces and demanding real change. People are fed up with the propaganda, corruption, and abuse of power. And so we see the start of the Sudanese Summer: not a continuation of the Arab Spring, but as Sudan's third revolution, a continuation of the people's ongoing struggle against marginalization, and for justice, rights, and economic freedom.
What is clear from both countries is that the citizens are tired of war. They know more than most the human costs. Although tensions between and within both countries remain high, the two nations need each other to be at peace. With peace, neither government will have an excuse for not addressing internal conflicts, transformation in the political process, and service delivery.
Despite a year of challenges and conflict, I am optimistic that the youth will lead the way to a better future for both of the Sudans. Historically excluded from political processes, young people are now able to engage - in part through social media. Together, from both sides of the border and around the world, we are sending a strong message: that we choose peace. Because we know that despite the political rhetoric and what our passports say we are united in our "Sudaness". We chose peace because we know it's the only real way for a true transformation, good governance, economic freedom and growth to occur.
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