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On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became an independent country ending years of civil war. Celebrations in the country's new capital city, Juba, were held with much fanfare and dignitaries such as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir joined the festivities. Sudan was the first state to recognize South Sudan’s independence. By July 28, 2011, South Sudan was officially recognized as a member of the African Union and on July 14, 2011, the United Nations admitted South Sudan as its 193rd member.

 Independence Celebrations

The independence struggle of South Sudan was a long and painful one spanning many decades and costing the country about 2.5 million lives. To celebrate this hard-won independence, celebrations began in Juba at midnight. As the clock at Juba city center stuck zero hours the new national anthem was telecast across the country. Jubilant crowds of people cheered and exchanged greetings. The people of South Sudan marched on the streets waving their new flag. US statesman Colin Powell, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Juba to join the celebrations. Salva Kiir Mayardit took oath as the president of South Sudan and unveiled the statue of Dr John Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

History of Struggle

Till about 1946 the British colonial rule in Sudan had divided the region into north and south Sudanese territories. By 1956, the Sudanese struggle for independence had gained momentum. After a full-fledged battle for over six years Sudan became an independent country in 1972. Liberty did not rid Sudan of its struggles, though. With the southern Sudan province and the southern Sudanese people facing discrimination and inequality, a rebellion broke out in 1983. The early agenda for the rebels was to secure equal rights and to create a unified Sudan.

As civil war took grip of the country, the people of southern Sudan moved away from their war-struck homelands and lived as refugees in the outskirts of Khartoum, the capital city.

With an end for the civil war in southern Sudan nowhere in sight, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) evolved its own army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army. The people lived in appalling conditions with the youth of the region joining the fight. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, United States started to take a keen interest in finding a resolution to the conflicts that plagued the Islamic world. The US-brokered peace talks ended in a peace resolution and an agreement to conduct a referendum in 2005. After losing over 2.5 million lives in the two Sudanese Civil Wars, peace was restored. But the referendum was postponed many times leading up to outbreak of conflict in many parts.

From January 9 to 15, 2011 the long-awaited referendum was held and over 98% of the population voted in favor of the creation of a separate state. Despite the creation of the Republic of South Sudan the two countries have a number of issues to sort out. The borders are yet to be defined and the concentration of oil reserves in South Sudan remains a major issue of contention.

Abeyi and South Kordofan have remained disputed territories and conflict is rife in these areas. A large UN peacekeeping force has been deployed in the newly founded country.

Challenges Ahead

South Sudan is rich in natural resources such as oil but economically South Sudan is one of the least developed countries of the world. The country has an estimated population of eight million. But in the absence of a reliable census an accurate figure is not known. Most of the households in the country have neither electricity nor a steady supply of water. With very poor healthcare and sanitation standards, South Sudan has a very high infant mortality rate (over 150 deaths in every 1000). One in every seven children born in South Sudan succumbs to death before five years of age. High poverty and poor education facilities plague the country. The economic upliftment of the country features high on the agenda of the new government.

South Sudan Quick Facts

With a total area of 400, 367 sq miles, South Sudan is ranked forty-two among the countries of the world in terms of area. The newly formed state, South Sudan shares 614 miles of international boundary with the Central African Republic, 397 miles with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 580 miles with Ethiopia, 144 miles with Kenya, 1357 miles with Sudan, and 270 miles with Uganda.

According to the census of 2008, South Sudan has a population of about 8,260,490. If the estimate is correct South Sudan is ranks ninety two among the countries of the world in terms of population. But it is estimated that the census is incorrect and that the population could be much higher. Juba is the capital city of South Sudan. Administratively the country is divided into ten states - Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Upper Nile.

The country is currently being governed by a transitional constitution. Salva Kiir Mayardit is the first president of independent South Sudan.


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