South Sudan becomes Independent Country & U.N.’s 193rd Member
Wild celebrations erupted in the streets of Juba, the capital city of the world’s newest country. According to the BBC and the New York Times, the Republic of South Sudan has become the 193rd member of the United Nations after separation from Sudan was officially recognized yesterday. South Sudanese independence is the culmination of years of negotiations that followed a 2005 peace deal that ended a decades-long civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south that claimed more than a million lives.
The Sudanese government in Khartoum became the first to officially recognize South Sudan as an independent nation. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the many international leaders and dignitaries on hand in Juba to celebrate this momentous event.
A countdown clock in central Juba ticked off the moments to independence, with jubilant celebrations beginning just after midnight as the new national anthem played on television. South Sudanese flags waved in the air, the beat of pounding drums resonated and ecstatic people chanted the name of their President, Salva Kiir Mayardit. “FREEDOM!” was a frequently heard cry throughout the night.
Later in the day, a formal ceremony was held. James Wani Igga, speaker of the new country’s parliament, read the Proclamation of Independence. The flag of Sudan was lowered and the new South Sudanese flag (almost identical, but with a star added) was raised as the crowd roared. “Mabrook Janoob Sudan!” they shouted. “Congratulations South Sudan!”
Sudanese President Bashir signalled Khartoum’s “readiness to work with our southern brothers and help them set up their state so that, God willing, this state will be stable and develop.”
But despite the jubilant celebrations today, the new country faces staggering obstacles ahead. Although rich in oil, war-ravaged South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. And despite years of negotiations, the border between the north and south still hasn’t been completely worked out, raising the prospect of renewed conflict.
Details regarding the division of oil wealth and debt also loom large, as does the issue of citizenship. The Sudanese National Assembly has stripped southerners of their citizenship, prompting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to urge both governments to prevent statelessness.
A UN force of 7,000 peacekeepers should help with any north-south disputes, as should 4,200 Ethiopian soldiers that will soon arrive.
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