South Sudan Celebrates Becoming a Nation, Prepares to Overcome Challenges

VIDEO: ABCs Dana Hughes reports for "This Week" from Sudan.

South Sudan's overjoyed population chanted "Oyaay!" as it's nationhood was made official in a proclamation ceremony full of pomp and circumstance.

Thousands of people, including dignitaries and international media crowded into Juba, the capital of the world's newest nation, The Republic of South Sudan to help the country celebrate its independence.

People broke out into spontaneous song and dance and grown men cried throughout the celebration overcome with the emotion of this moment of freedom, a culmination of decades of war and struggle.

But once the party is over, South Sudan's government will need all the help it can get.

Decades of war have left the region as one of the world's poorest.

Roughly the size of Texas, South Sudan has less than 100 miles of paved roads, and basic infrastructure such as electricity and water are scarce.

It also has an illiteracy rate of more than 70 percent and one of the highest infant mortality rates in Africa. Since the referendum in January, the young nation has also been dealing with thousands of returnees from the north and abroad without the resources to support them.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir admitted during his speech that the eyes of the world are watching how the country will address these problems."Our well-wishers will be watching closely to see if our first steps as a nation are steady," he warned.

Congratulations From Around the World

As South Sudan celebrated its new freedom, VIP's from all over the world gave congratulatory speeches, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague and a representative for Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn," President Obama said in a statement today. "These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people."

The United States has also sent a high-profile delegation led by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that included Colin Powell.

Rice gave an impassioned speech welcoming the Republic of South Sudan to the world, and reaffirming the U.S. commitment to helping the new nation develop infrastructure and maintain peace.

She riled up the jubilant crowd by paying homage the estimated two million people who died in the 20-year civil war which led to the split.

Rice challenged the nation to honor those who are unable to witness this historic moment by "working together to build a South Sudan worthy of their sacrifice."

"For the people of South Sudan independence was not a gift that was given, but was won," she said to a cheering crowd.

The United States has been involved in the Sudanese peace process for many years.

In 2005 George Bush sent Powell, then Secretary of State, to the region to broker a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the 20-year conflict and begin the road to independence for the south.

In the years since, two U.S. administrations have worked to make sure the independence referendum was held without a hitch, appointing special envoys to the region and being intimately involved in the delicate negotiations that followed.

Rice promised that America would remain a partner and friend.

The Obama administration as already given some $300 million dollars in aid to help build infrastructure.

In September, the U.S. will host a conference in Washington D.C. to help develop private investment in South Sudan and ensure the country is ready for investment.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...