JUBA (Sudan), July 8: People of southern Sudan rejoiced in the streets as the region became the world’s 193rd state as soon as Friday turned to Saturday.
But advocates and diplomats warned that when the celebrations subside and the dignitaries leave, unresolved problems between the south and the northern government could spark renewed conflict along their new international border.
The government of Sudan recognised the new country soon after the clock struck midnight.
South Sudan’s secession took place at midnight (2100 GMT) — a hard-won separation marking the climax of a process that began with an internationally brokered 2005 peace deal ending decades of north-south civil war.
“The Republic of Sudan declares its recognition of South Sudan as an independent and sovereign state as of July 9th 2011,” Khartoum’s Minister for Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh told reporters, in the official English translation of the statement.
Sudan entered its last day as a united nation with rumblings of conflict along its north-south border and international concerns for the future stability of the huge, fractured and largely impoverished territory that straddles Arab and sub-Saharan Africa.
The looming independence sparked celebrations across the south — and in large diaspora southern communities from the United States to Australia — where many saw it as a moment of liberation after years of fighting and repression.
Dancers decked in South Sudan flags and leopard-print trousers marched through the streets of the southern capital Juba on Friday, counting down the hours until Sudan split into two states.
“I’m very happy for the independence,” said Gabriel Yaac, 38, in central Juba.
“There is nothing bad in the future. If you are alone in your house you can manage your own things. No one will interrupt you.”
The new Republic of South Sudan contains around 75 per cent of the country’s known oil reserves, depriving the Khartoum government of more than a third of its national revenues, the northern finance minister said last month.
Police and soldiers in Juba tried to keep a lid on the more boisterous revellers, banning celebratory gunfire, seizing weapons and searching cars, determined to protect the scores of dignitaries flowing into a city awash with small arms.
A red digital display on a city roundabout counted down the seconds to independence. “Free at last,” one message on the display board flashed.
In sharp contrast, the streets of the northern capital Khartoum were largely empty on Friday, the start of the weekend in the Muslim north.“Losing the south will be difficult for a few years after losing the oil,” minibus driver Osman said. “But all we’ve had up to now is war. It is good we are going our separate ways.”
Other northerners see the separation as a tragedy – robbing Sudan of around a third of its territory and ending a dream of a diverse nation containing a vast patchwork of the continent’s cultures.
“This overwhelming of sorrow, of sadness is wrapping around us. I cannot put my feelings into words. It is beyond expression. I am in a vacuum. I want to go into hibernation,” the spokeswoman for the opposition UMMA party, Mariam al-Mahdi, said.—Agencies