As the historic polling kicked off on that bright Sunday morning of January 9th, 2011, I could not help but recall the wise words of two great Southern Sudanese statesmen: the late Dr. John Garang and President Salva Kiir Mayardit. In his speech on January 9th, 2005 during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Dr. Garang stated that the CPA: "will change the Sudan forever. Sudan cannot and will never be the same again as this peace agreement will engulf the country in democratic and fundamental transformations…"
This statement was equally echoed by H.E Salva Kiir Mayardit when he repeatedly reassured Southern Sudanese that the CPA was a vehicle without reverse gear. Indeed, as the people of South Sudan cast their ballots on that 9th day of January, 2011, exactly six years after the signing of the CPA, I realized that not only will the Sudan never be the same again but also the CPA has indeed been a vehicle without reverse gear. Despite many challenges faced throughout the interim period, we have successfully reached the decision day during which we, the Southerners, will for the first time have an opportunity to freely decide our destiny.
It has truly been a long time coming for the people of South Sudan to realize their long cherished dream of self identity and nationhood. Indeed, a new nation is now born; congratulations to Southerners for finally joining community of nations. Not many people would believe in 2005 that the referendum would come to pass. However, history has proven such skeptics wrong.
Looking back at South Sudan's dark history, marred with death and destruction, one can only see a whole new meaning in this once-in-a-life-time exercise. The historic exercise has not only been about deciding and forging a new identity, but it has also been about reflecting and remembering millions of brave men and women who laid down their precious lives in the course of the liberation struggle that began in Eastern Equatoria State town of Torit in 1955.
We Southerners owe a lot to our heroes and heroines who paid the ultimate price in the course of the half century long conflict between the North and the South. The only way Southerners could thank these martyrs for their sacrifices was by voting for separation which they overwhelmingly did during the just ended referendum. Just to underscore this point, for example, the people of Aweil Town voted for separation at a rate of 99.75%.
On this historic occasion, therefore, we, the beneficiaries of hard won freedom, feel obliged to pay special tribute to millions of men and women of Southern Sudan who willingly and bravely gave up their dear lives in order to free us from long years of marginalization and oppression.
Finally, I never dreamt that I would live to see this day come to pass, especially after experiencing and surviving the horrors of bush life. The long journey has ended with the birth of a new nation for the people of Southern Sudan and a whole new journey full of uncertainties is just beginning. As we embark on the difficult mission of building a new nation state, let us always remember that our unity is of paramount importance. Together, we shall prevail.
William Kolong Pioth
Aweil Town, South Sudan