By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
January 9, 2013 (BENTIU) - Citizens in South Sudan’s Unity State expressed their anger on Wednesday that celebrations to mark the peace deal that led to the country’s independence and the end of decades of civil war had been postponed by the local government.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on 9 January 2005 just outside the Kenyan capital Nairobi, after years of negotiations between the Khartoum government and the former rebels that now govern South Sudan.
Six years later South Sudanese voted in a self determination referendum, choosing to secede from north Sudan by an overwhelming margin and on 9 July 2011 independence was declared.
In previous years 9 January has been acknowledge with public celebrations, marches, speeches, music and other cultural events in Bentui stadium so citizens in the state capital were surprised when there was no progamme to mark the landmark event in South Sudan’s history.
James Alex Yol, who lives in Unity State, told Sudan Tribune he was "disappointed" that nothing had been organised to celebrate the signing of the CPA eight years ago as it failed to recognise the self-determination that so many South Sudanese fought for for so many years.
He said he expected people would go to the stadium "singing a lots of songs" and that there would be a parade from the SPLA - the former rebels who are now the official army of South Sudan.
"I’m surprised everyone is rooming in the market and sitting under the shops and in Bentiu market”, said Yol.
“I would like to encouraged the people of South Sudan to make sure that they have to celebrate the 9th of January every year" prior to the independence celebrations on 9 July.
Independence day celebrations without what happened on 9 January 2005, he said, so it should also be recognised.
Younis Giel Maluoth, said he could not believe so many people were hanging around in the market as normal rather than celebrating the historical day. It was very sad about the neglect of the historical day.
Samuel Lony Geng, Unity State’s Minister of Agriculture said Thursday that 9 January and the signing of the CPA was not being commemorated this year as there were too many national days in calender.
Geng, who is Unity State of the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), says the 9 January is date for both Sudan and South Sudan, which has no value after South Sudan’s independence.
He pointed out that there were six protocols that led to the CPA all signed on separate dates, as well as the CPA signing and South Sudan’s independence referendum.
He said South Sudan had many potential national days "but we have to choose one day to celebrate and the SPLM chose independence as [our] priority.”
The CPA was backed by the international community and a UN mission was established in Sudan to help the two sides implement the deal, which lasted for a six year interim period.
The cornerstones of the deal were forming a Government of National Unity in Khartoum, as well as an SPLM government in the autonomous South were implemented, as were general elections in 2010 and sharing southern oil 50:50 for the duration of the deal.
However, many aspects were not completed before South Sudan’s secession such as demarcating the disputed oil-rich border and the status of contested areas such as Abyei.
Fighting in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile reignited in 2011 after disputed election and the failure to implement aspects of the CPA related to the "Two areas" before southern independence.
These issues have led to tensions between Sudan and South Sudan. The economy of the South has suffered for over a year after oil production was halted due to a dispute with Khartoum over transit fees.
Many people in South Sudan are hoping that independence will bring a greater dividend than it has already in terms of development and basic services.