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.

%d bloggers like this: