"Everyone is drunk with happiness. People in Southern Sudan are in unity. We are one. Everyone is saying 'Hallelujah! Free at last!'" Simon Deng, moments ago.
A jubilant Simon Deng rang me from Southern Sudan just a few moments ago. The news was nothing short of a miracle. A record 99% of the Southern Sudanese people came out and voted for independence. They are free. The official results of the vote will be announced this weekend.
Simon was ebullient on the phone. If I could have frozen one moment in time, it would have been that.
What a moment! Simon was laughing. It was the sound of the divine. "If you don't believe in miracles, look to Southern Sudan. Everyone in Southern Sudan is smiling. Everyone. The country is smiling. They will be never be as happy as they are today. We are free from the victimization and islamization of the North."
"We had to sacrifice four million lives."
I have been covering the Islamic genocide by the North and the relentless fight for freedom from jihad in Darfur and Sudan since late 2004 (scroll this). Simon Deng and the lost boys have refused to accept the norming of genocide in Sudan, or the silence of the UN and the world. Simon Deng has been updating me regularly on his last visit to DC lawmakers to save Sudan from the jihadist regime in Khartoum, when he walked barefoot in the Senate. What a journey, from Simon's Freedom Walk back in 2005 after Bush broke with the UN and called Sudan a genocide.
In its 54-year history, Sudan has suffered from civil war between the north and south for 39 years. Some 200,000 south Sudanese were kidnapped into slavery. Two million Sudanese have died in the wars. Four million have become refugees. But the fact is that with the West openly supporting southern Sudanese independence, a new war's consequences will not be limited to Sudan itself. Therefore it is worth considering why such a war is all but certain and what southern Sudanese independence means for the region and the world.There were two main reasons that Bashir agreed to sign the peace treaty with the south Sudanese in 2005. First, his forces had lost the civil war. The south was already effectively independent.The second reason Bashir agreed to a deal that would give eventual independence to the oil-rich south is because he feared the US.In 2004, led by then president George W. Bush, the US cast a giant shadow throughout the world. The US military's lightning overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime frightened US foes and encouraged US allies. The democratic wave revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon were all fuelled by the world's belief in US's willingness to use its power to defeat its foes.Bashir's regime is closely linked to al-Qaida, which he hosted from 1989 until 1995.When the US demanded that he accept the south's victory, he probably didn't believe he could refuse. (Glick here.)
The Southern Sudanese never lost hope. Watch Simon here in a quick video, 2005 (full remarks here). And listen to my interview with Manute Bol, the basketball great who dedicated his life and his sports earnings to freedom for southern Sudan before he died.
"Everyone is drunk with happiness. People in Southern Sudan are in unity. We are one. Everyone is saying 'hallelujah, Free at last!'"
"We thank every person in the world who has been there emotionally, who consoled us, who stood with us, who has supported Southern Sudan, who have stood with and those who stood in sympathy with the people of Sudan, we thank you. We thank everybody. We the people of Southern Sudan have no way to thank people of good will, who opened their doors to refugees, who opened their wallet to us, we thank you.
"Everyone is anxious to receive the new baby."
"And the last thing we are asking people and free nations of the world -- recognize the child that is going to be born. Be there for that child. Support that child. When the child falls down, help that child stand up. Help the child grow. Eventually we will be strong and run like a gazelle."
When I asked Simon if he thought there would be trouble, He said "Never, G-d is with us. They sacrificed, but didnt lose hope. 4 million lives perished, but they believed in tomorrow. Tomorrow is now. We have a nation."
"Nobody could believe how everybody voted. 99% turnout."
"The Northern Sudanese have already recognized the results of the vote." The turnout was overwhelming.
"The unity was solid, like a rock."
"And for anybody in the world who doesn't believe in hope, please hear it from us, keep hope alive."
The cry for freedom and results of this vote will reverberate around the world.
UPDATE: Zilla is covering it here. Lovely.
Photo: A Southern Sudanese woman waits in a line holding her voting card