Early returns show that southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly for secession in the recent referendum. Once the results are verified, the southern government will have less than six months to resolve a host of difficult issues that must be dealt with before independence. At least one issue is likely to be easily settled though – the new country’s name.
Many names have been suggested, but consensus seems to have formed around the name “South Sudan.”
South Sudan is already a widely used and familiar name, said Marial Benjamin, the minister of information for southern Sudan and a member of the steering committee on choosing the new name.
“For the last six years we have been having an interim constitution identifying the south of our country as southern Sudan. So people have been used to this,” he said. “And more than that, you have, like the police, these structures which are established, we call it South Sudan Police Force, for example.”
Over a dozen names have been proposed over the years, according to Benjamin. He noted that names like the Nile Republic, Azania, the Kush Republic and Juwama have been considered, but many people seem to prefer South Sudan.
Those people include the southern Sudanese that our reporters spoke to in Juba and Aweil.
“I suggest that South Sudan should be better because it is a historical name. The Sudan refers to the blacks, so, for me, I suggest that new country should be South Sudan,” said one.
“This country has to be called South Sudan. Because the geographical location of the new country that’s going to be in Africa is south of the old Sudan,” said another.
Benjamin stressed that no name has been chosen yet, and that there is still room for debate. But he also said that the committee wants to move quickly to select the country’s name.
“Whatever name we have, we have only about five months to go up to the 9th of July when actually the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] will end and we will have the new country coming out. So the name which is appropriate will be hurriedly chosen in the light of the short period of time and the possibility that the names of a country can always be changed at any time,” he said.
The committee will also decide on the national flag, anthem and emblem.
An independent southern Sudan will have many other internal issues to resolve, including security, infrastructure and social services. Some cross-border issues with the north, such as citizenship rights and oil revenue distribution, are also yet to be negotiated.
Official results of southern Sudan’s referendum on independence will be announced in mid-February, but provisional returns show that 99% of voters supported secession.