- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Andreas Markessinis has an intriguing post on the Nation Branding blog wondering just what the new country that will likely be created next week will be called:
One possible option is ‘New Sudan’, but some oppose the idea as that name would associate the new country with the actual Sudan, which is considered a pariah state. For a weak, new country with weak influence, getting the world population to distinguish between ‘Sudan’ and ‘New Sudan’ would take aeons. Many people still confuse South Korea with North Korea and don’t remember which one is the rogue state, so any combination of names including the word ‘Sudan’ will probably be counter-productive to the new country, nationals say.
In fact, another suggestion most Southern Sudaneses don’t like either is ‘Southern Sudan’. They discard it because the name raises fears that this name would also confuse people, as many people would think that ‘Southern Sudan’ is the Southern region within Sudan, and not a different country.
But while there are ones who oppose the ‘Sudan’ word, there are others who don’t want to lose it. The latter consider their region to be the real ‘Sudan’, while the Northern part, which has become arabized and islamized, is not. They unpolish semantics to substantiate it. ‘Sudan’, they say, etymologically means in Arabic ‘land of the black people’, which is how fairer-skinned Arabs called the lands of conquered black tribes under their power. So this would justify that the name ‘Sudan’ makes more sense in the blacks-populated South than in the Arab-occupied North.
Other possibilites up for consideration include plays on the Nile river, the area’s main geographic feature, such as Nilotia, Nolotland, or the Nile Republic. Cushitia or Azania — archaic geographic and ethnic names — are other possibilities, though also fraught with uncomfortable overtones.
I have a feeling that intertia may dictate that "South Sudan" stays, given that it’s already how the international media is referring to the place. But despite its past significance, I’d have to think that at this point dropping "Sudan" — with its contemporary connotations of genocide and famine — from the name would be a wise branding move. I doubt anyone in Bangladesh wishes today that the country had stuck with "East Pakistan" after independence. Most of all, Southern Sudan should be sure to avoid the nomenclatural abomination that is the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Nile Republic isn’t bad, though as Markessinis notes, Egypt is pretty protective of the Nile brand, raising the possibility of a FYROM situation. Maybe the country could go the Altria route and just make up a name? Not the worst idea for a place badly in need of a fresh start.