Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What to call Africa's newest country

UNITED NATIONS - Today's Security Council meeting on Sudan highlights the remarkably peaceful referendum on independence that southern Sudan just completed. While much remains to be done, a peaceful transition now seems a likely outcome, something unthinkable even a few months ago.

That said, a serious problem remains: what to call the new country. According to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice today, the nation will be called the Republic of Southern Sudan. Does anyone else find this a rather blase name? Really, you don't get to be a new nation every day. Put the past behind you. Don't define yourself by the nation you were once a part of. And most of all, be creative!

Here are some helpful suggestions for the nascent state:

Option 1: North Sudan becomes Nubia (the historical Nubian kingdoms were in northern Sudan and southern Egypt), while south Sudan gets the "Sudan" moniker. And most of the oil.

Option 2: Go with the "the." It's like the Justin Timberlake scene in The Social Network, in reverse. "The Sudan" seems cooler somehow, albeit a bit more colonial, than just "Sudan."

Option 3: A long, specific and optimistic list of all the things your country will most likely not be. Eg. Shiny Happy Democratic People's Free and Independent United Sovereign Multinational Republic of Southern Sudan. A name that all but guarantees failed statehood.

Option 4: Democratic Republic of Sudan. So that generations of American schoolchildren can be even more perplexed in geography class than they were already. The Congos already do this, so why not you?

Option 5: Guarantee war with the North by either including the words "and Abyei" in the title of your country (eg. Shiny Happy Democratic People's Free and Independent United Sovereign Multinational Republic of Southern Sudan and Abyei) or, better, have a map of your country with the disputed region included on your flag. Kosovo did the latter with Mitrovica even though Mitrovica is 90% ethnic Serbs, and nobody's called them on it yet.

Option 6: To borrow from Gregg Easterbrook's solution for the Macedonian name issue, you should really call yourselves "The Greatest Country In History." The tourism ads just write themselves.

Update: Looks like Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy already sorta beat me to it on this topic.