South Sudan Becomes World’s Newest Nationإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Celebrations erupted in South Sudan on Saturday as the world's newest nation proclaimed formal independence and turned the page on five decades of devastating conflict with the north.
"Our martyrs did not die in vain... We have waited for more than 56 years for this day. It is a day that will be forever engraved on our hearts and minds," President Salva Kiir told tens of thousands of jubilant southerners at the official ceremony in Juba.
Earlier, parliament Speaker James Wani Igga read out the declaration of the south's secession from the north following a near unanimous vote for separation in a January referendum.
"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," Wani Igga told the cheering crowds.
South Sudan's national flag was then raised, to wild applause, tears and song.
"I should cry for the recognition of this flag among the flags of the world," shouted one tearful man.
"We have been denied our rights. Today, no more shall that happen."
The declaration of independence affirmed the new state's democratic and multi-ethnic and multi-confessional character, and its commitment to friendly relations with all countries "including the Republic of Sudan."
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, guest of honour at the ceremony, watched a parade by thousands of members of his former military foes, the SPLA, whom he failed to defeat as head of the northern army for 16 years.
In a conciliatory speech, Bashir repeated his wish to see the newborn nation succeed.
From early morning, revellers had gathered at the venue amid tight security for the ceremony which was attended by dozens of African leaders and senior Western officials.
It was the largest international gathering ever seen in the war-damaged former garrison town on the White Nile that lacks even basic infrastructure, and army generals were asked to vacate their seats to make space for foreign guests.
International dignitaries attending the ceremony included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague
More than a dozen African leaders also attended.
Recognition of the newly independent state flooded in from around the world, with US President Barack Obama vowing to support South Sudan in the "hard work" of nation building.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called it a historic day "for South Sudan and the whole of Africa."
Ban hailed the new state's birth "after a struggle that destroyed so many lives for so many years," and said it was an important day for the United Nations which has been engaged in promoting peace in Sudan for many years.
South Sudan's independence came exactly six months after southerners voted almost unanimously to split with their former civil war enemies in the north.
For decades, until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with the north, leaving the region in ruins, millions of people dead and a legacy of mutual mistrust.
The independence ceremony was held at the mausoleum of the late rebel leader John Garang, who died just months after signing the peace accord that ended Africa's longest-running conflict and opened the door to nationhood.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lokudu appealed for reconciliation after the long years of civil war.
"We pray for a new mentality of mutual understanding and cooperation between our two new neighboring nations," he said.
Some at the ceremony were critical of Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, Sudan's war-torn western region.
Around 200 supporters of Darfur rebel leader Abdelwahid Nur held a banner reading: "The new beginning," and "Together we must stop genocide in Darfur, Nuba Mountains."
The Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan state in the north have seen deadly clashes in the run-up to southern independence between northern troops and pro-southern militia.
But Khartoum was among the first countries to officially recognize the fledgling nation, which now needs all the help it can get to meet the challenges of building a stable and prosperous future.
For this, it must strike a cooperative relationship with Bashir, given the strong ties that continue to bind the two countries, and despite the strain on relations caused by the bloodshed in the Nuba Mountains.
Bashir said it was the joint responsibility of both nations to build confidence and reach agreement on outstanding issues that were not resolved before partition, during talks in Addis Ababa.
Kiir called on his people to forgive those who had caused them suffering and urged them to take responsibility for building a "strong foundation" for their nation.