About a month ago I was staring at a painting in a local art exhibition. It was abstract in detail and colour and had something about it that made it both haunting and fascinating. I stood there for so long that the artist noticed and helped me to interpret her piece. She explained that the main shape in the middle was a gun. But it wasn't any gun: it was coiling around itself in a way that if the trigger was pulled it shot in two opposite directions. She said: "The idea is of a country ripping itself apart."
Maybe she had Syria or somewhere else in mind, but I thought of my native Sudan and South Sudan - devastated by 50 years of bloody war. As a child, I saw the Khartoum government creating division between the northerners and southerners for all the wrong reasons: ethnicity, religion, oil, power and greed.
With two million lives lost and four million people displaced by war, the government had to brainwash an entire generation - my generation. They used slogans, propaganda, false religion and perverse incentives until many young men believed the lie and enlisted voluntarily. The ones who didn't were forced to fight anyway through mandatory military service. I would have been among them if I hadn't fled from Sudan to the US.
I left Sudan before service age and paid the price by losing a part of my identity. But long before I left I began questioning things around me and wondering how life was for the people in the south: people my age, living with air raids and soldiers and shooting and terror. Later a ceasefire was announced, a peace agreement signed, and the South voted to secede. So came about the came about the birth of the newest nation in the world.
This time last year, songs of freedom filled South Sudan. They were songs filled with hopes of peace, prosperity and new beginnings. It seemed to all of us that this was the end of Sudanese and South Sudanese bloodshed. We all dreamed of stability. But peace proved to be temporary. Divisions started to reemerge between Sudan and its southern neighbor over oil-rich Abyei. Soon, shocking images of corpses lying facedown in small lakes of oil depicted the new reality - the war was not over and division was still the dominant theme. Tribalism was threatening the new nation's stability, and Sudan was bombing its citizens in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
I have a dream of peace and cultural unity. I dream of us all recognising our common heritage and our African identity that consecutive Sudanese regimes systematically tried to erase. We - Sudan and South Sudan - shall remember that we've both suffered oppression and lived through woes, and that we are the survivors of the longest war in Africa. I see our separation as an opportunity for the new South Sudanese generations to determine their own destiny without being pulled back by war and chains of extremist dictatorships. If I were to forecast the future, I would predict northern people uprising and overthrowing the Government's National Congress Party.
Different revolutionary fronts will revolt in the streets of Khartoum and force the Government to step down after 23 years of corruption and failure. The killing will stop in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and those who once violated our rights will be brought to trial. I see a change coming. As an unknown child from Darfur put it in a song: "For you mama we'll learn, For you papa we'll learn.. Even if the school is bombed we'll learn... We learn - even if the bullets must become the chalk... even if the bullets become the chalk!"
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