By Paul Ndiho – JUBA
July 9, 2011
“Free at last! Free at last! Free at last! – Salva Kiir took the oath of office as South Sudan’s president and leader of the world newest nation. As tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on Saturday (July 9), some of their former countrymen in the north were also celebrating. The north’s Khartoum government was the first to officially recognize the new state – whose creation divides what was once Africa’s largest country.
The Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, read out the Proclamation of the Independence.
Crowds then cheered as Sudan’s national flag was lowered and the new flag of South Sudan was raised as trumpets played the new national anthem.
South Sudan became the 193rd country recognized by the UN and the 54th UN member state in Africa.
North and south Sudan fought each other for decades in a civil war fuelled by ethnicity, religion, ideology and oil. The violence claimed an estimated two million lives, forced four million to flee and destabilized much of the region.
Guns fell silent six years ago after a Comprehensive Peace Agreement brokered by regional countries with international support was signed in neighboring Kenya promising a referendum six years later, giving southerners a choice between unity or separation. In January, the southerners went to polls and more than 98 percent of southern voters chose to secede. That referendum came after of decades of war between the predominantly Christian south and the largely Muslim north.
The new state will have its capital in Juba. But analysts say recognition did not dispel fears of future tensions. Northern and southern leaders have still not agreed on a list of sensitive issues, led by the exact line of the border and how they will share oil revenues, the lifeblood of both economies.
Earlier in the day, celebrating the birth of the world’s newest country traditional singing and dancing sweep across Juba, the capital of the new Republic of South Sudan. It became a nation at the stroke of midnight, six months after the residents of the under-developed, but oil rich country voted for independence.