South Sudan gains independence

At 0000 EAT Saturday (2100 UTC Friday), the Republic of South Sudan achieved independent recognition, becoming the newest country on the planet. The parliament speaker for the new country recited a formal independence declaration. After independence was declared, the South Sudanese flag was lifted for all to see, with Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement secretary general Pagan Amum stating: “Today we shall raise the flag of South Sudan to join the nations of the world”.

Thousands of jubilant people celebrated in the new country’s capital Juba. They danced in the streets, sang songs and waved flags. Churches rang their bells at midnight as independence arrived. People crowded to the official ceremonial site, held at the mausoleum of John Garang, leader of the rebellion who died several months after the peace deal was signed with Sudan, ending the bloody conflict. Many of the celebrants spoke emotionally of their family members who died in the long struggle with Sudan.

George Garang, an English teacher, said he lost his father, grandfather and eleven brothers. “My whole body feels happy,” he said. Valentino Achak Deng, who was a refugee during the war, said: “Really in my heart what makes me happiest is that from today, when people ask me where I am from, I do not have to say Sudan.”

Flag of South Sudan

Salva Kiir Mayardit has assumed the role as president of South Sudan. Kiir swore to pledge true alliance and faithfulness to South Sudan. In a speech, Kiir declared amnesty for any who have taken up arms against Sudan.

Kiir insisted that martyrs for the cause of the new country did not die in vain, although South Sudan waited 56 years to be free. The southern Sudanese had agitated for more rights, even before Sudan became free from its British colonizers in 1956. Sudan was divided into three seperate demographic groups, with the southern part of the country home to Christians and animists and the northern part dominated by Arab populations and those of Muslim faith. Kiir said to people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, who remain part of Sudan, that “we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed. I pledge to you today that we will find a just peace for all.”

Amongst those attending the event were Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations and Omar al-Bashir, the current president of Sudan. The latter was the guest of honour, despite the fact that the International Criminal Court has a warrant out for his arrest based on offences of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.

“We congratulate our brothers in the south for the establishment of their new state,” al-Bashir said at the event. “We share their joy and celebration. The will of the people of the south has to be respected.”

Two million individuals died in the civil war between the two territories of Sudan and Southern Sudan and four million more exiled, a war that was waged for decades. Control of south Sudan’s oil rich reserves was the primary reason for the fighting. An agreement of peace was signed in 2005, effectively bringing the war to an end, and Sudan became one of the first countries to recognise South Sudan. Under the regulations of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Sudan held an independence referendum. In excess of 99% of those participating in the vote agreed to the concept of independence for South Sudan.

Meanwhile, the United Nations plans to make the independent state its 193rd recognised country and its 54th African U.N. member state. United States president Barack Obama formerly recognized the new nation on behalf of the US and acknowledged the enormous struggle of its people to achieve independence.

South Sudan remains a desperately poor country, with one in five of its inhabitants chronically hungry, only one third having access to safe drinking water and with the world’s highest rate of maternal death. The country lacks infrastructure such as roads and railways. It remains torn by ethnic and tribal rivalries and many problems with the north remain unresolved, including the exact boundary line. Important revenue for Sudan has come from the rich oilfields of the south, keeping the country afloat and essential now for both economies. A formula remains to be developed on how to split these revenues between the two areas.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said today that the peace process between Sudan and North Sudan could come apart if issues such as the division of the oil revenues and the border location are not solved soon.

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World leaders react to death of Osama bin Laden

Leaders and officals around the world have issued varied reactions to the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed during a U.S. military operation in Pakistan. NATO has insisted it will continue fighting against militants in Afghanistan, and the United Nations said the death of bin Laden marked a “watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.”

Announcing that the al-Qaeda leader had been killed by U.S. special forces during a forty-minute raid on a compound in Abbottabad, near the capital Islamabad, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was “a good day for America.” Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate winners of the Medal of Honor, Obama praised the “anonymous heroes” who took part in the operation. He said: “We may not always know their names, we may not always know their stories, but they are always there on the front lines of freedom and we are truly blessed. As commander-in-chief, I could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform.”

Barack Obama announces the news that bin Laden had been killed. He said it was "a good day for America." Image: White House.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the chief of NATO, vowed the organization would remain fighting in Afghanistan despite the death of bin Laden. “As terrorism continues to pose a direct threat to our security and international stability, international cooperation remains key and NATO is at the heart of that cooperation,” he said in a statement. “NATO allies and partners will continue their mission to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”

The U.N. and the European Parliament also welcomed the news. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said: “The death of Osama bin Laden, announced by President Obama last night, is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism. The crimes of al-Qaeda touched most continents, bringing tragedy and loss of life to thousands of men, women and children.”

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said the news “will be welcomed right across our country” and was a “massive step forward,” but warned the death of bin Laden “does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror.” Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi said: “This is a great outcome in the fight against evil, in the fight against terrorism, a great outcome for the United States and for all democracies”.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the killing of bin Laden was a “decisive strike” at al-Qaeda. “At his command and in his name, terror was enforced into many countries against men women and children, Christians as well as Muslims,” she said. “Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion.”

Several Asian countries also said bin Laden’s death was a step forward in the war against terrorism. Chinese spokeswoman Jiang Yu said “China has taken note of the announcement. We believe the death of Osama bin Laden is a milestone and a positive development for the international anti-terrorism efforts.” Japan, Malaysia and Singapore also welcomed the news.

Australia pledged not to withdraw forces from Afghanistan after the announcement. “Osama bin Laden declared war on innocent people and today he has paid the price for that declaration,” Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, said. “The mission in Afghanistan will continue,” she added, saying al-Qaeda “will continue”. Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, said bin Laden was a “promoter of the ideology of hatred and was the chief of a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of victims, especially in Muslim countries,” and “justice has been done” for the victims of al-Qaeda attacks.

Cquote1.svg Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion. Cquote2.svg
—Angela Merkel
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