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AT midnight East Africa Time (2100 GMT) on 9 July 2011 the world welcomed a brand new country, The Republic of South Sudan.

The flag of South Sudan. Black represents the people, white represents peace, red represents the blood shed for freedom, green represents the land and blue represents the Nile. The gold star of Bethlehem represents unity of the states in South Sudan.

The Emblem of South Sudan. The Eagle signifies: strength, resilience and vision. The shield and spears represent protection of the state.

South Sudan had existed as an autonomous part of Sudan for on-and-off periods in between the civil wars between the Arabic/Muslim North and African/Christian South. But when Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil war (over 20 years in duration and 1.5 million people – mainly civilians through starvation – dead) ended with a peace agreement. Said agreement offered the people of the South of Africa’s largest nation* a chance to vote in a referendum on independence.

This referendum was held in early January 2011, with a landslide result in favour of independence. Out of the 3,837,406 valid votes cast, 3,792,518 (98.83%) were for separation.

The ballot paper as used in the referendum.

The new map of the two Sudans.

The President of Sudan (which is still called Sudan and not ‘North Sudan’), Omar al-Bashir (who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the Darfur conflict in Western Sudan) accepted the result and vowed to let the South go peacefully. Well as peacefully as possible when the two nations were in dispute over the oil rich areas which now cross their boarder. The South accused the North of bombing the Abyei region a month before they seceded, but I believe the U.N. bashed their heads together and the two nations will continue to split the oil profits 50-50, just as they did in the six years between the end of the civil war in 2005 and the South’s independence.

On Independence Day itself, people of all walks of South Sudanese life partied in the streets like it was 1999. In the capital city, Juba, a large sign read: “Congratulations, free at last, South Sudan.” State TV played the new national anthem ‘South Sudan Oyee!’ which had won the national competition to be the new nation’s anthem in honour of the occasion. It was written by students and teachers of Juba University and had been played on the Radio for weeks so as the population could learn the words.

In a ceremony later that day, the Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, proclaimed his nations independence and
the flag of Sudan was lowered, replaced by the flag of South Sudan. The first elected President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit stood with President al-Bashir before proudly showing the state’s new constitution to his people.

The two Sudan Presidents, President Kiir Mayardit (L.)with President al-Bashir (R.).

President Kiir Mayardit with the Constitution of South Sudan.

A statue of John Garang was also unveiled to the delight of the crowd who had gathered for the most popular divorce of the year. Garang was the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (the South Sudan Army) in the civil war and is regarded as the father of the nation. He died in a helicopter crash just six months after peace was declared.

Father of the nation, John Garang.

As part of the celebrations, the South Sudan Football team made their debut against one of Kenya’s top clubs, Nairobi’s Tusker FC (who represented Kenya itself) in Juba Stadium. South Sudan took the lead within the first ten minutes thanks to a James Joseph goal, but the Bright Stars went on to lose 1-3. South Sudan’s Basketball team also made their debut when Uganda came to Juba on the same day. I have yet to find the result of the match.

On 14 July 2011, after a meeting of the U.N. general assembly, South Sudan was elected as the 193rd United Nations member state. The last new member state was Montenegro on 28 June 2006.

South Sudan has applied to join the Commonwealth of Nations and plans to apply for membership of the African Union soon as well as the East
African Community, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is also eligible to be in the Arab League should the government so wish, but personally I can’t see this happening.

There is also no doubt about South Sudan soon becoming a member of the major African and global sporting organisations such as the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and CAF (Confederation of African Football).

But looking into the future, South Sudan is going to need all the help that it can get. The Horn of Africa (which South Sudan boarders) is currently in a draught that is being called the biggest ‘humanitarian disaster in the world’ by the U.N. and South Sudan is felling its effects.

South Sudan is also one of the world’s least developed countries and its health facilities are some of the worst on Earth. The under-5 mortality rate is 112 per 1,000, while the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world at 2,053.9 deaths per 100,000 live births. At times in the past, there has only been one doctor per 500,000 people. More than 90% of the population live on less than $1 (63p) per day. And according to UNICEF, less than 1% of girls complete primary school education in South Sudan. Girls who do attend school are outnumbered 1:4 by their male counterparts, but many children under-13 aren’t in school anyway. South Sudan also has the highest female illiteracy rate in the world at 84%.

However I’m determined not to end on a downer.

GOOD LUCK SOUTH SUDAN. MAY YOUR GOD BLESS YOU AND GUIDE YOU TO MANY GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS IN THE FUTURE.

Population = 7.5-9.7 million. 8.2 million at last census in 2008, 94th in world in between U.A.E. and Honduras.

Land Area = 619,745Km2 (239,285 sq mi), 45th in world between C.A.R. and Ukraine. *Algeria is now the largest nation in Africa, the DR Congo is now second largest, then Sudan. South Sudan is larger than Spain and Portugal combined.

Official language = English (all indigenous languages recognised).

Currency = Sudanese Pound (SDG).

Time Zone = East Africa Time (EAT), UTC+3.

Borders = Ethiopia to the East, Kenya to the South-East, Uganda to the South, DR Congo to the South-West, Central African
Republic (C.A.R.) to the West, and Sudan to the North.

National Anthem = South Sudan Oyee!

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