Juwama vs. the Nile Republic – South Sudan searches for a new name
What’s in a name? An entire cultural and national identity if you are from Sudan’s oil-producing south.
The region of southern Sudan is now less than seven months away from a referendum on whether it should split away to form Africa’s newest country.
One of the biggest unanswered questions hanging over the vote is what the new nation should call itself if, as widely expected, embittered southerners choose to secede.
The easiest option would be to stick to what people call it now — South Sudan or Southern Sudan.
But there are some serious branding issues. Say “Sudan” to most outsides and they will immediately think of a list of nasties — Darfur, the never-ending north-south civil war, military coups, militancy and crippling debt.
A new nation might be grateful for a new name with a clean slate.
Equatoria has a nice ring to it. But that would associate the entire diverse territory with just three of its current states — Western and Eastern Equatoria, together with Central Equatoria, the home of the capital Juba.
New Sudan is catchy but perhaps a little presumptuous. Old Sudan would not be happy.
Steve Bloomfield, author of the recently published “Africa United: How Football Explains Africa” has already plumped for The Nile Republic, after the White Nile that cuts through the territory and seeps through its vast Sudd swamplands.
Calling the new country the Nile Republic could instantly transform its image. It is a positive, popular brand known all around the world … The Nile Republic would also have to come up with a way of describing its citizens. The word “Nilotic” already refers to ethnic groups in Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.
Not bad. But, as Bloomfield points out, it might create a few jitters downstream in Egypt where the authorities are growing increasingly paranoid about other Nile-side countries’ efforts to take some their share of the river’s water.
Benjamin Goro Gimba on Monday threw a whole list of options into the mix in a column in the Citizen newspaper. Kush, the Nile State, the Anyidi Democratic Republic all had differing historical precedence. He wrote:
I came across an underground name for southern Sudan – Juwama. This name was derived from the first two letters of the regional capitals of Juba, Wau and Malakal … I will personally go for the Democratic Republic of Juwama.
Any other ideas? The debate has just begun.
(Photo: South Sudan President Salva Kiir casts his ballot during election in Juba, south Sudan, April 11, 2010. Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)