It’s a good night to be awake in East Africa. One of those things that mean’s many things is happening. With a flag, an army, and an enemy withdrawn to the gates, a new state is born. This time it’s during my own lifetime and out of conditions that were well, slightly different from the ones that Uganda herself was born.
The Union Jack came down in Kololo and up went the Ugandan flag with hopes. It still flies high but the history of independence has little to do with it. So forgive me if I look to national borders with suspicion. It is out of practice. Someone called it the Weberian trap. Even in the age of FaceBook and Twitter, and Wikileaks of course we are still no more citizens beyond the oddly drawn national border.
And thus forced to raise the glass to something called the 54th state of Africa- I do but am not celebrating statehood alone for Southern Sudan. I raise my coffee cup ( its 12:45 am on this momentous day) to a rejection of racism and chauvinism, the idea that one is a Kaffir, a lowly human, a slave that came parceled in the domination of the North, falsely presented as a religious contest between Islam and an animism (grrr) whatever that means.
It’s worth celebrating the opportunity to civilize oneself, ones people even if as the history of the state in these parts as shown- that is a whole different ball game- raise a glass to the idea of freedom.
Indeed the symbols of state in Africa and hereabouts have been about territory, land and other inanimate objects less about feeling and humanism- the sort that connects people in one land to ideals of that land. A flag, gun-salute and diplomatic convoy are just as dead to the emotion that serves up hope and a common humanity sometimes as the act of killing to protect ones state, one’s borders, one’s loot.
No doubt freedom being celebrated tonight will be interpreted in familiar terms tomorrow. But as the night is young and happiness like a second drink stirs strong, many will say lets have tonight, others will have tomorrow.
And speaking of which- I intend to return here to write about Uganda’s fabled economy (South Sudan is much a part of that story) and the vultures circling above as it begins to feel dizzy, reach out for a steadying hand and stumble.
But for tonight let us give it up for a new dawn- and the shapes revealed as the sun rises in the South and the shadows retreat to Khartoum.