SOUTH SUDAN CELEBRATES FIRST ANNIVERSARY AS INDEPENDENT STATE
Thousands assemble in Juba, look forward to better days in country’s future
Courtesy UN photo
The world’s youngest country turned one on Monday, as South Sudan celebrated the first anniversary of its declaration of independence. Celebrations were held throughout the capital city of Juba, where a military parade marched before civil leadership, and thousands of South Sudanese citizens congregated under the city’s larger than life statue of John Garang, a hero and martyr in the country to celebrate.
“The year to come will be hard, but we will prevail in all of this,” said South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. “I ask that the international community stays with us. We are a new country and they should not just abandon us now that we are independent. The commitment we showed in creating our nation is the same commitment we will show in developing it.”
The people of South Sudan have had a tumultuous year. Rising tension with Sudan, the country from which South Sudan seceded last year, boiled over in the violent skirmishes along borderlands. Some territorial disputes remain unsolved, and, more ominously, the two country remain very far apart on the critical issue of oil rights (most of the oil is in South Sudan, while refineries are in Sudan).
The country also remains menaced by poverty. Many South Sudanese live below the poverty line, and jobs and housing remain scarce in large swathes of the country.
These issues will not fade away as South Sudan enters its second year of nationhood – but they were also not reason enough to forget the critical steps forward that South Sudan has made as it grows and matures as its own independent nation.
“A lot has been achieved since independence but a lot also needs to be done,” said Hilde Johnson, who serves as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan. “The road ahead will not be without challenges, but I am confident that with the resilience of its people and the wisdom of its leadership, South Sudan will overcome any obstacles.”
This was also the sentiment among the crowd assembled. One man speaking anonymously called for his nation to succeed in blazing its own path forward, and in so doing provide a guideline to other beleaguered Africa countries – if South Sudan can do it, so can you.
“Let us work in united, let us work in peace,” he said, “let us really embrace peace as the tools that we can use so that we can be a good example to other countries in Africa.”