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Election day in Juba — subdued but historic

Election day, Juba. And it’s quiet. Driving around town earlier, I saw a few polling stations with queues outside – but only of a dozen or so people, rather than the huge queues and exuberant atmosphere that I’ve seen on polling days in other African countries.

Still, for those taking part, it was a personal milestone. The vast majority of people in Southern Sudan have never voted before and until 830 this morning, that included the southern president Salva Kiir.

People seemed quietly pleased to be voting — even though there was still some confusion about which polling station they should be voting at.

“We must be a democracy,” “I want to vote for our leaders, “I want to participate,” were some of the sentiments expressed.

Today has also made me think back to when I used to come regularly to Sudan, up till the peace deal was signed in 2005. If someone had told me then, that in five years, southern Sudanese would be going to the polls, I would have considered whether they had spent too long in the equatorial sun.

Yet here we are today, talking ballots, voting systems, turn-outs…it underlines the hard-won progress that has been made in the past five years.

Of course, what matters is what the elected politicians do next, and we’re asking incoming legislators to focus on the needs of the next generation. Kids in Sudan need and deserve a sound education – and good healthcare – to help them grow up. After all, they are the future. 


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