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Republic of South Sudan celebrates its Birth

July 8, 2011


Church bells rang at midnight to mark the birth of the world’s newest nation – the Republic of South Sudan.

Despite the excitement of the independence celebrations and a mood of joyful expectation in its new capital – the Nile River city of Juba – the emerging country faces grim realities: It is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the planet and has only a 15-per-cent literacy rate. Most citizens live on $1 a day. Education and health facilities are sorely underdeveloped, and fears of renewed conflict abound.


The division of Sudan

The peace deal South Sudan’s independence is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war and granted the south wide autonomy and the right to secede. North and south Sudan fought each other for all but a few years from 1955 to 2005, over ethnicity, religion, ideology and oil. South Sudan is mostly animist and Christian, culturally more akin to sub-Saharan Africa than northern Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim and dominated by Arabs. The war claimed two million lives and destabilized much of the region. Successive Khartoum governments left the region in ruins with a legacy of mutual mistrust. The 2005 peace deal guaranteed a referendum six years later, when southerners would choose whether to stay part of Sudan or break off and form their own nation. In January this year, southerners chose to secede by more than 98 per cent of the vote.

Independence Day ceremonies On Saturday at least, politics were on the backburner as Africa welcomed its 54th state, the latest since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993. UN chief Ban Ki-moon was one of many foreign dignitaries including 30 African leaders who arrived Friday for Saturday’s ceremony. “The people of south Sudan have achieved their dream. The UN and the international community will continue to stand by south Sudan. I am very happy to be here,” Mr. Ban told reporters. Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, a deeply unpopular man in Juba, is also expected to attend, a gesture of pragmatism and what his office is calling a hope for brotherly relations between the north and south. Mr. al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, has pledged to accept losing half of his country’s territory, one that contains valuable oil fields. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, led the delegation from London. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, was to represent the Obama administration. The main ceremony included military parades, prayers, raising the newly proclaimed Republic of South Sudan’s flag and the country’s first President, Salva Kiir, signing the transitional constitution.

Keeping the peace The UN says cattle raids and rebel battles have killed nearly 2,400 in the south this year. Insecurity is such a drain on resources that under the current budget, the government of South Sudan spends about $700-million on security-related matters – more than the budget for education, health care, electricity, roads and industry combined. On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan. The council authorized the deployment of up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police, plus an unspecified number of UN civilian staff including human rights experts.

The UN Secretary-General has recommended that the new mission should focus on protecting civilians – with force, if necessary – and on reforms to the police, army and justice systems. There are fears that, from its outset, the world’s 193rd country will be unable to police its territory adequately, guard its borders or protect its citizens.

Oil wealth and woes Despite independence day festivities, there are fears the conflict could be reignited because troops from the north and south are facing off in the contested oil-rich border region of Abyei. South Sudan produces about 375,000 barrels of oil each day, and although negotiators are still working on the specific formula of how the two Sudans will share the oil, the south stands to make billions from its reserves. In the contested region of Abyei, South Sudan’s oil, for now, still has to flow through the north’s pipelines. One observer noted that the problems South Sudan faces are “bigger and harder than what any other country in Africa faced” when most nations on the continent gained independence from the colonial powers in the 1960s.

Facts on South Sudan, the world’s newest country

Official name

The Republic of South Sudan


It’s the former emblem of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – black, red and green horizontal stripes, with a gold star in a blue triangle.


Salva Kiir Mayardit, 60, a former army officer, who often wears cowboy hats. He is the head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political wing of the rebel army that fought with the north before a peace accord was signed in 2005.


Mostly Christian (Anglican, Catholic), but many practise traditional African beliefs.


An estimated 8.5 million citizens. At least 80 per cent are illiterate – rising to 92 per cent for women – the majority of civil servants did not finish secondary school and there are estimated to be fewer than 500 trained doctors. More than three million people, nearly 40 per cent of the population, need food aid to survive.


A landlocked 580,000 square kilometres, roughly equal to France or Texas. Formed from the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is a land of expansive grassland, swamps and tropical rain forest straddling both banks of the White Nile. In contrast, Sudan in the north is mostly desert. Infrastructure is still lacking – with only about 50 kilometres of paved roads. Water remains a luxury in most communities.


Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan.


Oil. However, South Sudan has the potential to be among the largest food producers in Africa. The country also has hardwood timber, gold, chromium, iron ore and a host of other minerals.


Not yet decided. Currently the Sudanese pound

New national anthem

God Bless South Sudan, with verses dedicated to the motherland and the great patriots, is an upbeat tune that has people humming and can be heard on people’s cellphones. Students and teachers at Juba University won the anthem-writing competition.

Oh God! We praise and glorify you

For your grace on South Sudan

Land of great abundance

Uphold us united in peace and harmony

Oh motherland!

We rise raising flag with the guiding star

And sing songs of freedom with joy

For justice, liberty and prosperity

Shall forevermore reign

Oh great patriots!

Let us stand up in silence and respect

Saluting our martyrs whose blood

Cemented our national foundation

We vow to protect our nation

Oh God, bless South Sudan!

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