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Jubilation Spreads in South Sudan Ahead of Independence

VOA News July 08, 2011

The celebrations have yet to start in South Sudan, set to declare its independence in just hours, but already the soon-to-be nation can rejoice.

Sudan officially recognized South Sudan's independence Friday in a statement by Minister for Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh carried on state television.

South Sudan will become the world's newest country on Saturday with a ceremony in the soon-to-be capital of Juba. Some 30 African heads of state are expected to attend Saturday's independence ceremony, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also be in attendance. To help ease a peaceful transition, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution to create a peacekeeping mission for the south. It would call for 7,000 military personnel as well as 900 international police.

Preparations for the south's independence day continued Friday with performers dancing through the streets of Juba while workers cleaned the area around the venue. But the festivities belie the challenges the new nation will soon face.

South Sudan is still trying to disentangle itself from north Sudan and the two sides have yet to resolve issues on borders and oil revenue. The north's army is currently fighting pro-southern elements in the northern-controlled state of Southern Kordofan.

On Thursday, the army of north Sudan demobilized 15,000 troops considered to be southerners at a ceremony in Khartoum.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended in 2005. Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.



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