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South Sudan becomes world's newest nation

July 09, 2011 17:29 IST
Joyous people poured onto the streets, danced and kissed the earth to mark the oil-rich South Sudan becoming the world's newest country on Saturday, with international leaders, including Vice President Hamid Ansari, witnessing history unfolding in the country's capital in Juba.

Splitting away from Khartoum-ruled north after decades of civil war that claimed nearly two million lives, South Sudan was declared a sovereign nation by its President Salva Kiir Mayardit at a colourful noon hour ceremony attended by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. The new nation has become 193rd country to be recognized by the UN and the 54th member state from Africa.

India immediately moved to say that it would appoint an ambassador to the new country after the two sides sign an agreement in that regard, Indian officials said.

"Oyee South Sudan (Long live South Sudan)," chanted thousands of people lining on the streets next to the podium where the main function was held, ushering in the youngest nation.

Mayardit formally assumed the charge of the new government of the South Sudan, which came into existence after a 21-year-old war that preceded the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between north and south.

"Never again shall South Sudan be oppressed for their political outlook," he said in his message.

Ansari, who arrived in Juba from Kampala to join the celebration as head of the Indian delegation, first laid wreath at the mausoleum of the leader of the freedom struggle John Garang.

On his arrival in Juba, Ansari was received by Indian army officers who are  a part of the UN peacekeeping force. India has got two battalions as the part of the UN force.

Ansari on Friday said that India is giving priority to cooperation in hydrocarbon section in the new nation. Besides Ansari, a host of dignitaries from across the world, especially Africa, attended the ceremony. The list included a high-powered United States delegation led by Susan Rice, US permanent representative to the UN.

"We, the democratically elected representatives of the people, based on the will of the people of South Sudan, and as confirmed by the outcome of the referendum of self-determination, hereby declare South Sudan to be an independent and sovereign nation," South Sudan Parliament Speaker James Wani Igga told thousands of cheering people.

Security was tight at the venue, and indeed across the capital. Private vehicles have been barred from driving on main roads in the new capital, and dozens of police and soldiers have encircled the mausoleum.

South Sudan was painted in bright colours and spruced up for the occasion. Airport has been closed for traffic for two days to allow world leaders and foreign guests to travel for the independence function unhinged.

Mayardit hosted the reception for Ansari and other world leaders after the celebrations. Emotionally charged people of South Sudan watched as their flag was hosted for the first time and their national anthem played. India did not take side in the over two decade long civil war fought or during the previous one.

South Sudan has vast untapped potential, one of the largest oil reserves in Africa outside Nigeria and Angola. It is also rich in mineral resources, uranium, gold and diamond.

South Sudan's independence comes six months after a January referendum in which nearly 99 per cent of South Sudanese voted to separate from the north. The ballot was mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 2005 deal aimed at ending decades of civil war.
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