S. Sudan’s President: A Day Forever Engraved on Our Heartsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir on Saturday told thousands of jubilant southerners that their martyrs had not died in vain and that the newborn nation's Independence Day would always be engraved on their hearts.
"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," Kiir said in a speech that was met with roars of approval.
"A happy day like this should not dwell on bad memories. But it is important to remember that for many generations this land has seen much suffering."
For decades, until a peace agreement was signed in 2005, southern rebels fought successive wars with Sudan's northern government, 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.
In his first address to an independent South Sudan, the president 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.
"From today onwards, we shall have no excuse for scapegoats to blame. It is our responsibility to protect ourselves, our land and our resources," he said.
Among the greatest challenges the fledgling nation faces is the threat posed by at least seven militia groups within its borders, with more than 1,800 people killed in violent conflict so far this year, many between the army and the rebels in states across the country.
Kiir on Saturday renewed his offered of an amnesty for all the rebels.
"Our detractors have written us off... They say we will slip into civil war, as soon as the flag is hoisted. But that flag flying there does not mean we have to fight ourselves," he said.
Another major concern for the government of South Sudan is the security situation along its volatile borders with the north, and particularly the ongoing conflict in the ethnically divided northern state of South Kordofan.
Fighting there between the northern army and Nuba militia who fought with the ex-rebel army of the south during the civil war erupted just two weeks after the Sudanese army occupied the contested Abyei border region, further enflaming tensions between Khartoum and Juba in the run-up to partition.
Kiir pledged to work for peace in all Sudan.
"I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile, South Kordofan, that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry, when you bleed, we also bleed. I pledge to you today, we will find a just and lasting peace for all."