Lake States Citizens Join Southerners In Celebrating Independence

Thousands of Lakes State citizens gathered at Rumbek’s Freedom Square on July 9th to celebrate the birth of a nation. The State witnessed the largest assembly ever as Gun shots and sounds of drums were heard all over Rumbek Township marking the day.

Lake States Citizens Join Southerners In Celebrating Independence
An amputee war veteran hoisting the South Sudan flag during the celebrations [©Gurtong]

By Gabriel Mayom
RUMBEK, 12th July, 2011 [Gurtong] – Thousands of Lakes State citizens gathered at Rumbek’s Freedom Square on July 9th to celebrate the birth of a nation. The State witnessed the largest assembly ever as Gun shots and sounds of drums were heard all over Rumbek Township marking the day.

At the Wulu Road ECS Church opposite Lakes State parliament and Good News Radio, dozens of faithful who were making a solemn candlelit procession around the Church burst into screams of joy when midnight struck, with some youths shouting into Good News Radio Mic, “Independence Oyeeee! Bye bye Bashir, bye bye Northern Sudan, we shall meet at the border! We will not sleep until we raise our flag!”

The Catholic Bishop of Rumbek had earlier presided over a solemn candlelit procession with some 200 faithful in attendance. The 6.30pm Friday evening procession started at the Diocesan Youth Centre and concluded at a bonfire prepared in front of the building behind the Cathedral known to be where late Fr. Arkangelo Ali was massacred during the first decade of Sudan civil war in 1965.

People started marching into Rumbek’s Freedom Square at the break of day.

By 7am, there was a buzz of excitement all over Rumbek Township. Pupils and students in their school uniform, youth groups, brightly dressed women in their various associations, indeed, different organized groups lined up in the two main streets of Rumbek town and the main roads into Rumbek town, waving mini versions of the flag, chanting songs of victory and dancing while others sang the national anthem that they now knew by heart.

The different groups carried placards showing their identity, with some of the posters bearing Independence messages. The youth of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Rumbek Deanery, held a placard with the words, “Let us shove for the Lord. He has given us freedom. Let us praise the Lord and glorify His holy name. Be happy and rejoice in him.”

The arrival of the Lakes State Governor Chol Tong Mayay was followed by the marching of the organized forces in front of the VIP Stage with the SPLA at the lead, then the Police, the Police brass band, the Prison Service, the Fire Brigade Service, the Wild Life, and then the scouts and girl guides plus other groups like the Darfuris, Rumbek Youth Union, the returnees, Rumbek Nursing School students, the East African Community, among others.

People with disabilities, among them the Speaker of Lakes State Legislative Assembly, also paraded through the square amid applauses from the cheerful crowd.

It was not until 12.45 p.m. that the official opening prayers were said; the first prayer presided over by the Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, His Lordship Caesar Mazzolari, and the other by the Muslim leader, Sheikh Abdalla Ahmed Makur.

The crowd pulsed with excitement when the Master of Ceremony announced, at 1.15 p.m. that Salva Kiir had just been sworn in as the first President of the Republic of South Sudan in Juba.

The speaker of Lakes State Legislative Assembly, Hon. John Marik Makur, read out the resolution of the State Assembly affirming the proclamation of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan.

The flag of Sudan was lowered and that of South Sudan hoisted at 1.48 p.m. by two amputee war veterans, followed immediately by the lighting of the Independence candle by the State Governor.

Among those who had a chance to speak included Rumbek Central County Commissioner, Youth League representative, acting SPLM Chairperson, US Embassy representative, UNMISS representative, the State Speaker and the Governor.

In his speech, Lakes State Governor called to mind the fallen heroes and heroines, inviting the congregation to observe a minute of silence in their honour. He described the day as a great day that sees South Sudan join the community of sovereign nations, marking the end of an era.

The Commissioner of Rumbek Central County, Matur Majok, in his speech, read out a list of people from Rumbek who sacrificed their life during the struggle for independence from 1983.

He paid tribute to Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Movement (SPLA/M), elders, widows, orphans, chiefs, and all the people of South Sudan. The MC announced that there were up to 300,000 people at Rumbek’s Freedom Square, a rather exaggerated approximation that however signifies the size of the gathering.

The Independence of South Sudan was an emotional moment for many characterized with jubilant crowds gathering to mark South Sudan’s long-awaited day of freedom.

This was a truly joyful celebration tinged with the memories of family loss.
 

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