Amid great jubilation, South Sudan today became the world's newest State, formally seceding from Sudan to attain independence in the culmination of a United Nations-facilitated peace process that ended decades of conflict.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was among the dozens of dignitaries from across the world attending the independence ceremony in the new country's capital, Juba, congratulated the people of South Sudan, pledging that the United Nations would help the new nation establish effective institutions of governance.
“We have been engaged in the quest for peace in Sudan for many years – through peacekeeping and diplomacy, through humanitarian assistance and development.
“Together, we welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the community of nations. Together, we affirm our commitment to helping it meet its many responsibilities as a nation,” said Mr. Ban.
The huge crowd that gathered in Juba to witness the independence ceremony erupted in loud cheers and ululations as the Sudanese flag was lowered for the last time and the new colours of the Republic of South Sudan were hoisted, following which Salva Kiir took the oath of office as President and signed a new interim constitution.
“We gather in celebration, but we are mindful of the enormous challenges ahead – deep poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and institutions of government, political insecurity,” said Mr. Ban.
“And yet, at the same time, we must not underestimate South Sudan's remarkable potential – its resilient and talented people, abundant natural resources, huge areas of arable land, and the great Nile running through it. With these assets, South Sudan could grow into a prosperous, productive nation capable of meeting the needs of its people,” he added.
He noted that South Sudan cannot meet the challenges it faces nor realize its potential alone. It will require the support of the international community.
The Secretary-General urged both Sudan and South Sudan to reaffirm their common heritage and mutual interdependence, saying South Sudan's sovereignty was an opportunity to renew the two States' commitment to building peaceful and productive relations.
“So today, let this be a moment for North and South to declare – unequivocally – that they remain committed to addressing the unfinished business of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Let differences be resolved around the negotiating table,” said Mr. Ban.
He stressed that South Sudan's independence was both a right and a great responsibility.
“South Sudan's success will be measured by how well it serves its citizens. The basic rights of a modern, democratic State must be guaranteed – free expression, full political rights for all, including women and young people, inclusive institutions of government that can provide stability and opportunity. South Sudan is wonderfully diverse. It should find strength in that diversity,” said the Secretary-General.
On the eve of South Sudan's independence, the Security Council voted unanimously to set up a new United Nations mission to help Africa's newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.
The Council's resolution 1996 (2011) established the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year. Headed by the newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson of Norway, the peacekeeping mission will consist of up to 7,000 military personnel and up to 900 police personnel as well as a civilian component.
UNMISS will take over from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which was created following the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the north-south civil war and paved the way for the referendum through which the people of South Sudan chose independence.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, speaking in Juba, stressed the need for the people of Sudan and South Sudan to live in harmony.
“The United Nations is ready to support the two partners in this endeavor. It is ready to support them to implement peaceful solutions to the outstanding issues for the peace process,” said Mr. Deiss. He said General Assembly will proceed swiftly to admit South Sudan to the UN, upon receipt of the recommendation from the Security Council.
In his congratulations to the new nation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said he was pleased that the parliament of South Sudan had passed a nationality bill, which he said would to prevent statelessness as the new State emerges.
“I am hopeful that the Government of Sudan will likewise adopt policies minimizing the risk of statelessness for individuals remaining in the north and continue its long tradition of generosity to refugees from other countries,” said Mr. Guterres.