I write this, five hours into the life of the Republic of South Sudan, not from the new nation's capital Juba, but from – New York.
Not being in Juba was a conscious choice. Being in New York was not.
I decided a while back not to put myself in Juba for the celebrations. My M/O on my Sudan coverage this past year has been to focus as much as possible on the "under-reported" angle. With the exception of the referendum, this meant being in Sudan when others who fly in from Western capitals weren't there. And thanks to the support of some wonderful editors, I have had the opportunity to write some stories outside of the mainstream. Tonight, with the world media pushing Juba's limited hotel accommodations beyond breaking point, South Sudan independence celebrations will, to my great joy, be very well covered.
Less well covered will be the view from Khartoum. Or for that matter anywhere else in the new northern country of Sudan. That was where I wanted to be on this historic moment in the life of a country I have spent so many years involved in. Unfortunately, the Sudanese government had other ideas. Since the visit when I was detained late last year I have not been able to get another visa to the north. I have been told I have "spent too much time in Sudan" already.
So here I am in New York – feeling the enormity of physical distance, notwithstanding skype, twitter, and all the other tools that keep me in daily contact with Sudanese friends and colleagues. While it's the right call for me not to be in Juba professionally, on a personal level I feel regret at missing the wonderful (and far-beyond-deserved) festivities. Witnessing the referendum from Bentiu, South Sudan, was one of the most memorable moments of my life and I'll feel forever privileged to have had that opportunity.
But perhaps the even greater regret is not to be able to be in the north right now. Which is why I couldn't be happier to be able to share #LoveFromSudan. This is a courageous project conceived by Mo Elzubeir [who you can follow on twitter @eluzubeir], with contributions from many Sudanese. Unlike some other worthy projects also out there right now, this one wasn't months in the planning. It was a spontaneous, human response by ordinary citizens to the loss of part of their country.
The introduction they have posted sums up the spirit of #LoveFromSudan:
It is with a heavy heart that we send our warm wishes to the people of South Sudan. This video is a message from the people of Sudan to the people of South Sudan. No potlics [sic], no games. A heart to heart message to a new beginning . . . So here, to a new beginning. May you learn from our mistakes and may we learn from ours.
You can also watch the video and see the original message here.
Too often in the media we fail, through limited word counts, the need for simplification, or just through a lack of thoughtfulness, to always highlight the distinction between the views of the hardliners within the Sudanese government and the diverse views of the people they rule. I hope the media will grab the opportunity #LoveFromSudan presents, to notice some of the many ordinary Sudanese out there whose voices we rarely hear.