The population is approximately 10-12 million people. Sixty indigenous African languages are spoken, the commonest being Nuer, Dinka, Bari and Zande. English is spoken by those with formal education. Juba Arabic, a modified form of Classical Arabic, is the main trade language.close
A Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South was signed on January 9, 2005 granting autonomy to the south – rebuilding began, schools reopened, crops were planted and hope returned. Six years later, a referendum was held and 98.83% of the population of the South voted to become a new nation. On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became a reality – Africa’s 54th nation and the world’s 193rd nation.
Yet amidst the celebration and optimism, there are complex challenges. Consider the following quotations, from A look at the history and people of South Sudan, by the Associated Press, Saturday, July 9, 2011:
“[South Sudan] is one of the least developed regions in the world, where an estimated 85 percent of the population is illiterate. The U.N. says a 15-year-old girl in Southern Sudan has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school.”
“There was only a mile or two of pavement in its capital just a little over a year ago. Food prices have soared in recent months and unemployment is high: Many southerners are self-sustaining cattlekeepers or farmers, while others subsist off small sales of tea and other goods.”
“Of more than 200 ethnic groups, the majority practice traditional or indigenous faiths and Christians remain in the minority. The percentage of southern Muslims is much smaller, though immigrants from the north who practice Islam are well represented in the southern capital.”
These are just some of the realities facing this young nation. Free now….to rebuild!
South Sudan needs rebuilding on every level one can think of – education, roads, energy, health care, security, food, business, agriculture, policy, governance, employment…… – to name a few.
Personally, we feel drawn to this need. It shocks us, but it does not overwhelm us. We believe there are good reasons for hope. Here are a few that strengthen us personally and increase our optimism.
1. This nation began with an election. This cannot be said about every African nation, and it is no guarantee that the love of money and the love of power will be resisted by those tempted towards corruption. But the people have spoken, and their will and their freedom have been respected.
2. There is resilience amongst the people. Tragedy will always be tragic, but good can triumph over evil. All over South Sudan, there are examples of this. There are survivors working to make their nation worth their survival! There are returnees returning to make their nation worth returning to! There are orphans growing into adults with dreams of building their own family and living in freedom! We have met many Sudanese people who are shouldering the responsibility for the future of this nation – they inspire us!
3. There are many from outside this nation who have been moved to help the Sudanese people. A nation must be responsible for its destiny, but to rebuild on its own is a slow and lonely journey. Investment is happening, help is being given, and partnerships are being developed.
4. We know that God has not ignored the plight of the Sudanese people during the tragedies of its recent history. It grieves Him to see what we humans are capable of, at a personal and corporate level, when we follow our own ways. As we are exposed to the extremes of human tragedy and sin, His desire is that we would humbly return to Him, be healed from our broken-ness and then learn to walk in His Ways. He is the expert in peace and reconciliation. He gives life and hope when others see only death and despair. Ultimately, there is hope for South Sudan, because God is God and He is Good!
The South Sudanese government specifies that the colours of the flag are to represent the South Sudanese people (black), peace (white), the blood shed for freedom (red), the land (green), and the waters of the Nile (blue). The gold star represents unity of the states of South Sudan.
The description in 1990, by the late Dr John Garang de Mabior, leader of the southern rebel army (1983-2005) and First Vice President of Sudan (2005), gives a sense of the price paid by many southern Sudanese people, for the flag to fly free.
“First, the black color over the top, symbolizes the black people of the Sudan which means in Arabic words ‘arzy el sudd’ or ‘the land of black’. Second, the white color symbolizes peace in Sudan among us, because with peace, we will be able to enjoy our resources in our land. Third, the red color symbolizes the “the Bloodshed” which we just did during our 190 years of struggle. We had to shed our blood to achieve an eternal peace and we hope our country remains peaceful for ever to enjoy our resources.”
“Fourth, the second white represents an eternal peace, harmony and unity in our new country, the Republic of South Sudan. If I can elaborate on the peace issue, we have to have the peace and harmony in South Sudan in order to enjoy our resources and to have a prosperous nation during these challenging times around the globe. Fifth, the green color introduces our many resources and prosperity. These resources include the oil reserves, the water resources, the agriculturally fertile land, our life stocks, the wildlife, our minerals…etc. Sixth, the blue triangular color symbolizes the waters of the Nile and promotes our progress and aspiration for freedom. Lastly, our yellow star in the triangle is the guiding principle towards our freedom.”
The flag now flies freely – may God bless the Republic of South Sudan and all its people!close