South Sudan formally declares independence as Africa and the world react in total embrace


Omaha, Nebraska (NSV) - Thousands erupted into dancing across the diaspora hours after South Sudan declared independence on Saturday July 9, 2011. Here in Omaha, some South Sudanese spent the whole  of Friday night tracking the news from back home. They were  watching SSTV, the only national television based in Juba, which was broadcasting the news of  South Sudan independence.

At daybreak, foreign heads of state and dignitaries were seen arriving at Juba International Airport, just in time to witness the birth of Africa's newest state---country no 54 to be exact---and number 193rd in the world. Thousands began converging at the late Dr. John Garang Mausoleum as the day progressed from a cool, pleasant morning to the typical temperatures of Juba.

President Omar Al Bashir arrived a little late  in a presidential plane adorned with two flags: one for the north and the other for the South. He was received by the new president of South Sudan, Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit.

The declaration of independence was the last piece of the 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of north- south civil war.

Ban Ki- Moon of the UN, US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, representative of Chinese government, UK, Norway gave rousing speeches, declaring their abiding support and recognition of the new nation.

In the most rare gesture of support, the US, UK and China  announced they were  opening their embassies in Juba immediately.
Flag rising high in Juba

Minutes after he was sworn in as President of South Sudan, after he signed the constitution, Mr. Kiir , the man of the hour, projected great confidence for his people, calling on the new nation to prepare  for " a new beginning of tolerance"  among  their diverse ethnic groups. He reminded the new nation of the hard choices, the magnitude and slew of challenges ahead.

"This republic is at the tail end of economic development," Kiir said. "On all indexes of human welfare it is at the bottom of all humanity."

The final moment of the 6-year peace deal came  when a sea of humanity roared at the lowering of the  flag of the old Sudan, followed by the concurrent hoisting of the venerable flag of South Sudan.

Reading the formal proclamation of independence, speaker James Wani Igga, said: "We, the democratically elected representatives of the people, hereby declare Southern Sudan to be an independent and sovereign state."

President Bashir showed his recognition for the new nation, saying the two countries will work to achieve  many great things.
Pearls of diaspora

Perhaps in the best show of happiness and soaring patriotism, people came wearing  huge smiles on their faces.  Beads of sweat from people dancing, and from the heat of summer became part of the celebratory exercise at this huge hall belonging to an Omaha Church. People cheered ,hugged, and embraced each other as they filled the hall and parking lot.

Women came wearing dresses made from the flag of the new nation. One young woman even spoke with the eloquence reserved for a special day like this , when she rhetorically asked: "who would  want to wear suits on this special day?", referring to her approval of costumes worn by dancers.

It was a day like no other. Everyone, young and old, exchanged heart-felt, sometimes congratulatory phone greetings.They danced to the tunes and theme songs from the revolutionary era to the present. They danced to tunes of traditional songs, including music by diverse groups of veteran and young artists. The celebrations in Omaha were just a microcosm of what has been going on across the US, where South Sudanese are holding independence parties.

The excitement began building for days, from reactions on Facebook in anticipation of this day to now when everything has come full circle. People said  they are just excited and humbled to be witnesses to this historic day.In an embodiment of nationhood, even the very young children who could not express their feelings represented the best of the day. The way the children  played was an expression of the uniqueness of  this historical moment, one person suggested.

In the midst of independence celebrations, another theme that resonated with those in the diaspora and back home is  that the legacy of civil war runs deep. It has its roots in the colonial legacy because when the British left the north in charge, a system of dominance and neglect was just starting. It is that system that caused civil wars which over the decades resulted in the loss of over two million lives.

It is that loss which Ayak Reec termed as feeling of "emptiness", when she talked to CNN on Saturday, July 9, 2011, referring to the fact that even while people are celebrating independence, they, too are mindful about all the lives lost during the war.

It has become part of history.

"We have resolved to overcome the past and face the future with a renewed sense of purpose, and it has stirred a forgiveness and reconciliation," Mr. Wani Igga, the speaker of South Sudan Legislative Assembly, said.

Reaction from supporters and friends

One pastor who came to express his support for South Sudan, saw "lots of dancing of joy," he said, adding,  "after people suffered for so long, finally, freedom and human rights have come to the people." He intoned, "Thanks be to God."

An old woman by the name of Rosemary said, "when i see people dancing in their beautiful dresses, looking on their faces, i think it was like this when Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation that freed the slaves."

Other reactions from the rest of Americans, like the readers' comments from  the New York Times, were generally positive.

One reader's comment went: "Dear South Sudan. Congratulations. This is the easy part however. The more difficult part will be to resist the twin temptations of power and money. You must stay focused on the moral and the good as you grow so that you become a modern nation and not a dictatorship that steals from its own people. You must show kindness towards all your citizens and more so when they least deserve it. Avoid war, waste, theft, corruption and become that example Africa needs."

Timeline of events leading to Independence Day

MAY 16, 1983 - The first bullet of the revolutionary war was fired.

JANUARY 9, 2005 - Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, ending Africa's longest civil war.

JANUARY 9, 2011 - South Sudanese voted in a self-determination referendum, registering a 99% in favor of secession.

JULY 9 ,2011 - South Sudan formally declared independence.

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