South Sedan celebrates independence
Juba, South Sudan (CNN) — South Sudanese wept openly as they celebrated their independence today, cheering, whistling and dancing down the streets in a ceremony fitting for the birth of a new nation.
“We are free at last,” some chanted, flags draped around their shoulders.
A man on his knees kissed the ground.
The red, white and green flag of the newborn nation, readied at half-mast the day before, was hoisted over the capital of Juba.
Among the world leaders bearing witness on this historic day: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South African President Jacob Zuma.
“This is liberation, a new chapter,” said Abuk Makuac, who escaped to the United States in 1984 and came back home to attend the independence day activities.
“No more war. We were born in the war, grew up in the war and married in war.”
South Sudan’s sovereignty officially breaks Africa’s largest nation into two, the result of a January referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters.
The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war pitting a government dominated by Arab Muslims in the north against black Christians and animists in the south. The war killed about 2 million people.
Amid the independence celebrations, some residents paid tribute to relatives killed in the war.