Oil-rich South Sudan became the world’s newest country on Saturday, splitting away from Khartoum-ruled north after decades of brutal war that claimed some two million lives.
Glorious celebration of the long-awaited independence began in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, at midnight last night (0230 IST Saturday morning).
Frenzied people poured into the city streets, dancing, banging drums, waving flags and chanting the name of Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the new nation.As a countdown clock in the city centre reached zero, the new national anthem of South Sudan, which became the 193rd country in the world and 54th UN member state in Africa, was played on television, marking the culmination of the January independence referendum.
A host of foreign dignitaries, including Vice President Hamid Ansari, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, are attending celebrations in Juba.
Sudan last evening extended official recognition to South Sudan, calling it an “independent state”.
“The Republic of Sudan announces that it recognises the Republic of South Sudan as an independent state, according to the borders existing on January 1, 1956,” Minister of Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh said in a statement broadcast on state television.
“The government of Sudan is committed to implementing the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) and to resolving all the post-referendum issues,” Saleh said.
South Sudan had reached a comprehensive peace agreement with North Sudan in 2005, brokered by US Secretary of State Colin Powell under former President George W Bush, that stopped the bloody civil war and paved the way for the January referendum.
Some 99 per cent of southern Sudanese had voted for independence from the north of Sudan in the referendum.
While the US is leading in assistance for development from the international donors, China is reported to have undertaken building of roads, highways, schools and hospitals in the new country.
South Sudan is reported to have some of the largest oil reserves in Africa outside Nigeria and Angola. Besides oil, it has vast untapped potentials, including uranium, gold and diamond.
According to experts, South Sudan has the capacity to feed the entire population of Africa provided it develops agriculture sector optimally.
Massive investments are also expected to be made in the new country for building railway, airports, roads, bridges and low-cost housing.
India was one of the first Asian countries to open a consulate in Juba in 2007.
“It is a historic occasion. A new country is coming into existence and it is appropriate for India to be there for the celebration of independence. It is the final product of efforts of international community to bring about a peaceful resolution,” Vice President Ansari, who is representing India at the independence day celebration in Juba, said on Friday.
India has a sizeable presence in UN forces in Africa and “we have played a major role in Africa’s de-colonisation,” Ansari said.
“…We seek a cooperative relationship as we go into the second decade of this century,” he said.
Ansari said India’s presence at the historic occasion in Juba, the world’s 193rd country, reflected its age-old ties with Sudan in particular and Africa as a whole.