Friday, 8 July 2011

South Sudan ready to declare independence

Musicians prepare for South Sudan's independence celebrations

South Sudan is getting ready to celebrate as it counts down the hours until it becomes Africa's newest nation on Saturday 9th July.

According to the BBC, the celebrations will begin after midnight local time around the countdown clock in the centre of South Sudan's capital, Juba.

At noon, Sudan's flag will be lowered in central Juba and replaced by a giant South Sudan flag, measuring six metres by four metres. It will be raised on a 32 metre flagpole, which is claimed to be the tallest on the continent

Independence has been a long time coming for residents of South Sudan, as the country has been embroiled in civil war for much of the last 50 years.

The second civil war ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which established the mechanism through which South Sudan has achieved independence.

Southerners voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January independence referendum.

Sudan has announced its official recognition of its new neighbour, the first country to do so.

"The Republic of Sudan announces that it recognises the Republic of South Sudan as an independent state, according to the borders existing on January 1, 1956," Minister of Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh said in a statement broadcast on state television.

While violence has broken out in numerous parts of the Sudan-South Sudan border since the referendum, Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir pledged, earlier this week, to support South Sudan, saying he wanted the new country to be “secure and stable”.

“We will bless our brothers in the south over their country and we wish them success,” al-Bashir said.

Al-Bashir will attend the independence ceremonies in Juba on Saturday, which has caused considerable difficulties for the western diplomats attending.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, and Western officials generally try to avoid meeting him.

To get around the issue, while South Sudan's President Salva Kiir will sit next to al-Bashir, Western diplomats will be seated on Kiir's side to keep them away from al-Bashir. African Union delegates who are sympathetic to al-Bashir will be seated on his side, according to the Sudan Tribune.

The UK will be represented by Foreign Secretary William Hague. The French foreign minister Alain Juppe will also attend and he has specifically said that he will make no contact with al-Bashir. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also be in attendance.

South Sudan will face numerous difficulties once it has become a new country. It is one of the world's least developed countries, having suffered decades of marginalisation and war.

A strong government will likely to be crucial in fostering development, and the South Sudan parliament ratified an interim constitution on Thursday July 7th, which is an important first step. Analysts and opposition members, however, have expressed concern that it concentrates too much power in the president's hands.

South Sudan still has numerous disagreements with Sudan, including border demarcation, the ownership of the disputed border region of Abyei, and oil revenues.

Moreover, the Sudan Tribune reported that on Thursday 8th July, al-Bashir rejected the Addis Ababa agreement on Southern Kordofan state. Southern Kordofan has been experiencing widespread violence since 5th June, primarily between representatives of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and soldiers linked to the South's ruling party's northern counterpart, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N).

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and there have been reports of ethnic cleansing of the Nuba, an ethnic group that largely sided with the south during the civil war.

Sources: BBC, Guardian, Sudan Tribune

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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