Too often, many speak of Africa as a single country as opposed to a complex mosaic of over 50 independent countries that make up this remarkable land. Several years ago I had the chance to spend but a short period of time in Africa and recall looking out towards the Serengeti from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and thinking what a remarkable place this was (in particular, Tanzania and Kenya).
As with any country, college or university department, success can often be linked to the leadership associated with the respective organization. Defined 1000s of ways over the years, leadership certainly includes the ability to bring alternative views and perspectives into a common vision. In Africa, four million people in South Sudan (and likely another 2 million diaspora) hope its political leadership will have this strength of vision as the South attempts to peacefully secede from the largest country on the continent.
Algonquin College’s Small World – Big Picture project travelled through and reported on Sudan several years ago. Entering in the north near Wadi Halfa and traveling across the Nubian Desert to the Capital, we were able to provide reality learning opportunities for 1000s of students in Canada. At the time, the world was finally taking note of the atrocities occurring in the Darfur region. Although while in-country, we had some difficulty in educating our students and project followers, overall we were pleased with our ability to reflect the realities and hope for this northern African country and its amazing people.
Today, we are living history as South Sudan becomes the first new nation in Africa since Eritrea gained international recognition and seceded from Ethiopia in 1993. We can only hope that the Sudanese President, General Omar al-Bashir keeps his word that Khartoum will work positively with the new Juba-based government during its six month transition phase.
Many challenges must be addressed in the coming months. These include issues related to the currency, citizenship and security protocols. Perhaps most important will be the need to agree on how the oil-rich South will be able to peacefully leverage this natural resource to help address the poverty and social challenges that lie ahead. Pessimists (or realists) might suggest that this simply will not be possible. Yet, as the South Sudan diaspora return to their homeland, one can only believe that it is through leadership in the South and centrally in Khartoum that this dream can possibly be achieved.