13 July 2011
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Monday, 11 July 2011 22:39

Thousands turnout in Rumbek for independence celebrations 

Written by  Sudan Tribune

July 12, 2011 (JUBA) - Tens of thousands gathered at Rumbek’s Freedom Square on Saturday to celebrate the birth of the new nation, South Sudan, the largest assembly ever witnessed in the history of Rumbek with prayers from Christian and Muslim leaders.

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Chol Tong Mayay, governor of Lakes state, July 9, 2011 (ST)

The Saturday gathering was preceded by an ecstatic night of celebration that kicked off at exactly midnight, greeting the birth of the world’s newest country.

Gun shots, ululations, loud joyous screams, sounds of drums and empty jerry cans rent the air all over Rumbek town, signifying a happy ending to a protracted struggle.

At the main Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) in Rumbek, the deafening sound of a gun blast shocked the congregation with the gathered members including the bishop falling to the ground in the ensuing commotion that lasted several minutes.

At the Wulu Road ECS Church, opposite Lakes state parliament and Good News Radio, dozens of faithful made a solemn candlelit procession around the Church, bursting 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. At 6.30pm on Friday the 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 in 1965 during the first Sudan civil war.

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

By 7.00am, there was a buzz of excitement all over Rumbek town. Pupils and students in their school uniform, youth groups, brightly dressed women in their various associations, and different groups lined up in the two main streets of Rumbek, waving the new Republic of South Sudan (RSS) 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 ECS, 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 poster by Ager Gum Primary school pupils read, “Celebrating Independence Day for Unity, Peace, Prosperity, Development and Democracy of South Sudan,” while that of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) War Veterans read, “Vision: Freedom, Mission: Struggle, Objective: Independence”.

The official ceremony that was scheduled to start at 10.00am began 2 hours late when the Guest of Honor, Lakes State Governor Chol Tong Mayay, arrived at the VIP stage amid tight security.

The arrival of the governor was followed by the marching of the organised forces in front of the VIP stage with the SPLA at the lead, then the police, police brass band, prison service, fire brigade service, wildlife service, scouts and girl guides plus, Darfuris, Rumbek Youth Union, returnees, Rumbek Nursing School students, 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 12.45pm that the official opening prayers were said; the first prayer presided over by the Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, His Lordship Caesar Mazzolari, and by the Muslim leader, Sheikh Abdalla Ahmed Makur.

The crowd pulsed with excitement when the Master of Ceremony announced, at 1.15pm that Salva Kiir had just been sworn in as the first President of RSS in Juba.

The speaker of Lakes State Legislative Assembly, John Marik Makur, read out the resolution of the State Assembly affirming the proclamation of the independence of RSS.

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

After the hoisting of the flag a good number of people started leaving the square singing and dancing towards the town while speeches went on at the VIP stage. Among those who had a chance to speak included Rumbek Central County Commissioner, Youth League representative, acting Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Chairperson, US Embassy representative, UNMIS representative, the state speaker and the governor.

Bishop Joseph Maker Atot presided over the closing prayer.

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 as reflected in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

The commissioner of Rumbek Central County, Matur Majok, in his speech, read out a list of people from Rumbek who sacrificed their lives during the struggle for independence from 1983. He paid tribute to the SPLA/M, elders, widows, orphans, chiefs, and all the people of South Sudan.

The independence of South Sudan was an emotional moment for many characterised by 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.

(ST)

Read more http://www.sudantribune.com/Thousands-turnout-in-Rumbek-for,39507

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