South Sudan formally declares independence

Parliament speaker: "We, the democratically elected representatives of the people, hereby declare Southern Sudan to be an independent state."

By REUTERS
July 9, 2011 13:57
2 minute read.
South Sudanese independence

Sudan 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The South Sudanese parliament speaker read out the formal declaration of independence for the Republic of South Sudan on Saturday, the final step in a 2005 deal that followed decades of war between the north and south.

"We, the democratically elected representatives of the people, hereby declare Southern Sudan to be an independent and sovereign state," speaker James Wani Igga said, reading the formal proclamation of independence.

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Thousands of South Sudanese danced in the streets earlier on Saturday to mark their long-awaited independence, a hard-won separation from the north that also plunged the fractured region into a new period of uncertainty.

The new Republic of South Sudan, an under-developed oil producer, became the world's newest nation on the stroke of midnight.

It won its independence in a January referendum -- the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.

In the south's capital Juba, people on the corners of dirt streets waved flags and danced in the lights of car headlights, chanting "SPLM o-yei, South Sudan o-yei, freedom o-yei".

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) led the rebels who fought the north until 2005 and now dominates the southern government.

Thousands packed the streets of Juba and crammed into the back of trucks, setting off fireworks, banging on plastic cans and dancing.

"Free at last," said Simon Agany, 34, as he walked around shaking hands. "Coming away from the north is total freedom."

Men and women coming out of a late night church service shook hands and congratulated each other, wishing each other "Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday."

Among the revelers was South Sudan's information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who told Reuters: "It is already the ninth so we are independent. It is now."

North Sudan's Khartoum government was the first to recognize the new state, hours before the formal split took place, a move that smoothed the way to the division of what was, until Saturday, Africa's largest country.

The recognition did not dispel fears of future tensions.

Northern and southern leaders have still not agreed on a list of sensitive issues, most importantly the exact line of the border and how they will handle oil revenues, the lifeblood of both economies.

At the stroke of midnight the Republic of Sudan lost around three quarters of its oil reserves, which are sited in the south, and faced the future with insurgencies in its Darfur and Southern Kordofan regions.


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