South Sudan Marks Four Years of Independence but Few Find Cause for Celebration
July 9 marks South Sudan’s fourth birthday. After decades of war, the break from Sudan was celebrated across the country. From tiny villages to the new capital Juba, expectations were high.
Today the country remains mired in conflict that has displaced more than 2 million people and left more than 7 million without enough food.
Below, two CARE staffers describe their expectations for independence, and their hopes for their country’s future.
My name is Mary Andrew Ladu. On Independence Day in 2011, I was at home, six months pregnant with my daughter, Amito. It was too hot to join the crowds celebrating in the streets of Juba, but I was just as excited and just as happy.
I didn’t always live in Juba. We had a university in the south, but the war made it difficult to stay in school. Like many South Sudanese, I went to Khartoum to complete my degree, which is in food and nutrition. After I graduated, I joined CARE as a Nutrition Coordinator, and since have worked in South Darfur, and in camps that serve refugees around Khartoum.
When the vote for independence came, I knew it was time to return to Juba — which I did. I knew I was home, that I was safe and no longer the second-class citizen I felt I had been in the north.
We had our own country at last. There would be no more suffering, and good things were coming. We had our own leader, one of us who understood the pain and suffering it took to make us free.
The future looked bright.
But I was wrong.
Gone are those hopes of a better life, better health services, better education for our children. The future of this country is once again dark. We are fighting ourselves, killing each other. Where will all this fighting, this death, this destruction lead us?
My name is Chol Majok. On Independence Day in 2011, I was in Panyagor in Jonglei state where I worked as a Health Officer with CARE. It was one of the most exciting days of my life.
I thought then that all of South Sudan would be free, that we would have a better life. I had been a child soldier growing up during the war, and I didn’t want my children to grow up the way I had. We had our own country now, the promise of a better future – no more insecurity.
Now there are no hopes, the future is so bleak. People are dying – from war, disease, hunger. I didn’t think this could happen again. I fear we are no longer a nation, that tribalism and ethnicity are all that matter.
This is not the South Sudan we had at Independence. We need to think of our future and not be stuck in the past. We need to know our rights and to act on them. We need leaders who will take us forward. We are looking now at the international community, because our leaders will not find peace.