In Dorm Daze 2 (a 2006 film), Robin Daniels (China Shavers) is incensed when Chris Owen (Booker McFee) and Rachel Hubber (Gabble Carr) take love quarrels onto the stage while playing in a college play.
In the same movie, the two lovebirds split before joining the cruise ship; but in the play within the movie, Death by Blackout, the two must kiss at some point. “Whatever the two of you are going through personally I don't care,” barks Daniels. “In less than an hour these seats will be filled. So kiss already.”
That was a fictional moment. In the case of Sudan, this a reality as Southerners prepare to cast their votes to decide between unity and secession. There are apparent signs that the vote will split the country; the two are in their last moment kisses, forced by circumstances.
A few things make for the kissing. Southern Sudan see itself as a nation born into a boom rather than a bust. For the past six years the region and its people have been depicted, wrongly sometimes, as inefficient, ineffectual happy-go-lucky bunch not prepared to self-govern.
Challenges are enormous. First, the southern leaders will preside over a landlocked nation. And except for the oil, which accounts for about 98 per cent of the national budget, the country, if it’s born, will lack a diversified economy necessary for a firm foundation. Oil, the mainstay of the economy, is a shared responsibility. The north will inherit the only sea route available to what is until now Africa’s largest single country. And the north, thanks to the strategically built oil pipeline, will still have a say in the south’s oil wealth for years to come.
It is no wonder that Bashir will be met by a red carpet in Juba when he arrives today. At the airport, fighter jets will be waiting on the runway, and it doesn’t matter that the jets are from Khartoum. Under the Peace Agreement, Khartoum rules the airspace.
Not just the fighter jets. The government in the south is not hiding its intentions to give President Bashir a warm welcome. The Sudanese leader, initially demonised in the South, now seems to have acquired a new status.
But why all of a sudden? Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin had the answer.
“We have asked the security organs, including the army and the police, to allow the people to come out in large numbers to welcome president Bashir especially after his statement when he said that he would be the first President in the world to recognise southern Sudan if the people voted to secede,” said Barnaba, as he announced the impending visit at the end of the week.
Those who have a good memory will easily tell you that this is the first time that Bashir has said this. On December 28 last year, in an address to the nation on Sudan’s Independence Day, the leader said he would be the first to accept an independent Southern Sudan.
That has the Southerners excited. In a church last weekend, Salva Kiir, the President of the Government of Southern Sudan, urged: "Come out and give Bashir a warm welcome."
There must be something more to this spectre of officials falling head over heels to please the man who, for the last six years, has been perceived as the arch devil.
That Bashir’s statement comes only days to the referendum with a number of issues still unresolved, including how to share the oil, how to treat the contested north-south border region of Abyei, and the north’s delay in contributing money to the referendum process, may imply one or two things.
First, that the two sides see light at the end of the tunnel as regards the unfinished business. In the past month, the two sides have signed a raft of agreements, according to the African Union, which is taking the lead in these negotiations.
One of them is to have soft borders between the two countries. While nobody seems to know for sure what ‘soft’, in this instance, stands for, the statement points to a decision by the two countries to work together in ways yet to be thrashed out.
The two sides have also agreed to have joint military operations in the oil areas, an obvious concession from the south. And on Monday, Justice Reec Chan, the deputy chairperson of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, announced that they had good news that the President was coming with money for the referendum.
Until now, the south has nearly single-handedly funded the process. The international community only provided for training, according to the chairperson.
Second, and implicit in all this, is an apparent acceptance by the two sides that what unites them is much bigger than what divides. Families will live on either side of the divide. The south relies largely on the north for a lot of its merchandise. At the border state of Aweil, for instance, trucks move south with goods ranging from sugar to cement to grains every day.
And Eyat, a north Sudan construction firm, is ubiquitous in the southern Sudan road construction industry, building both major and minor roads in both cities and rural areas.
President Bashir may need the south as a market for the goods from the north, but also, starved of friends amongst neighbours and hunted by the International Criminal Court, the thinking abounds that the Sudanese President sees in the south a possible friendly neighbour.
To salvage the peace agreement, the south has had to deal with the north. It even sent diplomats right after the ICC indictment across Africa to plead the case against the indictment. It’s hard to see how that would change in the event of secession.