Calling all poets: Southern Sudan needs a new national anthem ahead of vote on secession

JUBA, Sudan (AP) — Calling all poets and writers in Southern Sudan: new national anthem needed.

Officials in Southern Sudan issued a call this week for citizens to compose lyrics for a new national anthem.

The government and many citizens here hope the anthem will be needed after a vote in January that could see the south break away from the Khartoum-based northern Sudanese government.

If the south votes for unity, then no new anthem is needed. But if the push for secession wins, then the Juba-based government will need a new country name, a new flag and a new anthem, said Malaak Ayuen Ajok, a member of the Committee for South Sudan National Anthem.

Ajok said Thursday the committee has held workshops to determine the needed content for the anthem and has examined questions such as "what are our people proud of?"

The title of the anthem has already been chosen: "Land of Cush," a biblical reference to the ancient Kingdom of Kush in southern Sudan. The themes of the anthem are to include history, land, struggle, sacrifice, and destiny.

The competition to choose which poem will be turned into the anthem will take place later this month, with writers and poets delivering their submissions before a neutral panel, Ajok said. Music to accompany the lyrics will be chosen later.

More than 2 million people died in the North-South civil war in Sudan, which ended in 2005 with the signing of a landmark peace accord that promised the southern referendum in 2011. Worries are rising that mistrust between the northern and southern governments could affect the chances of a free and fair vote.