JUBA – South Sudanese wept openly as they celebrated their independence Saturday, cheering, whistling and dancing down the streets in a ceremony fitting for the birth of a new nation, CNN said. “We are free at last,” some chanted, flags draped around their shoulders. The red, white and green flag of the newborn nation, readied at half-staff the day before, was hoisted over the capital of Juba.
Among the world leaders bearing witness on this historic day: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South African President Jacob Zuma.
South Sudan’s sovereignty officially breaks Africa’s largest nation into two, the result of a January referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters. The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war pitting a government dominated by Arab Muslims in the north against black Christians and animists in the south. The war killed about 2 million people. Salva Kiir Mayardit, a former rebel leader who is South Sudan’s first president, said his people cannot forget years of bloodshed but must now forgive and move forward. He vowed his people would never again be marginalized.
In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement recognizing South Sudan’s sovereignty. Leaders across the globe have also been sending their congratulations to South Sudan. Statements recognising South Sudan’s nationhood flowed from the US, UK, Russia and others, the BBC said.
The Romanian Foreign Ministry also welcomed South Sudan’s proclamation of independence and announced in a press release that Romania is recognizing the new country. The release also voiced hope for close bilateral cooperation with South Sudan.