Washington — The United States formally recognized the Republic of South Sudan on July 9 and pledged steadfast partnership as the South Sudanese begin building a new country after decades of civil war.
President Obama issued the formal recognition of the world’s newest nation in Washington as independence ceremonies and celebrations were being held in the new country’s capital, Juba, and across South Sudan.
“Today is the reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible,” Obama said. “A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn.”
“These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people,” he added.
Obama said that July 9 marks the creation of two new neighbors — South Sudan and Sudan, from which the south separated. The people of South Sudan voted in a weeklong national referendum for independence in balloting that began January 9. That vote was called for by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the president’s statement, saying, “Independence presents a new beginning for the people of South Sudan; an opportunity to build a nation that embodies the values and aspirations of its people.”
“The challenges are many, but the South Sudanese people have demonstrated their capacity to overcome great odds,” she added. “The United States will remain a steadfast partner as South Sudan seeks to peacefully meet these challenges and build a free, democratic and inclusive society.”
South Sudan’s African neighbors and the African Union played an essential part in making July 9 possible, Obama said.
“The Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be fully implemented, the status of Abyei must be resolved through negotiations, and violence and intimidation in Southern Kordofan, especially by the government of Sudan, must end,” Obama added.
The U.S. presidential delegation was led by the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Susan Rice, and included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who signed the 2005 peace accord on behalf of the United States.
“On behalf of President Obama, my fellow delegates, the U.S. government and the American people, we warmly welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the community of sovereign nations,” Rice said during the independence ceremonies.
“We salute those who did not live to see this moment — from leaders such as Dr. John Garang to the ordinary citizens who rest in unmarked graves,” Rice added. “We cannot bring them back. But we can honor their memory by working together to build South Sudan into a country worthy of their sacrifice.”
The peaceful transition to independence for South Sudan was a major milestone following nearly five decades of civil war and strife. The latest civil war, from 1983-2005, culminated in the 2005 peace accord that led to the July 9 independence. The United States played a key role in brokering the 2005 peace accord, and the United States has been the lead donor of assistance for many years.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided comprehensive technical and material assistance that was essential to the conduct of the January referendum on self-determination. USAID supported the procurement of registration and voting materials, voter education, and domestic and international observers to ensure that the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and Bureau had the capacity to hold a credible, on-time referendum.
Since the signing of the CPA, USAID worked closely with the new government to provide a million people access to clean water; helped increase children’s enrollment in schools nearly fourfold; and established tools like microfinance institutions to jump-start economic opportunities.
Later this year, the United States will host an international engagement conference to provide South Sudan leaders with a platform to present their vision for the future of their country and engage international partners on priority areas of support and collaboration, according to the U.S. State Department.
The noon independence celebration in Juba was marked by the changing of national flags from Sudan to South Sudan and with the signing of the new constitution by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit. There were military parades, prayers, receptions and street celebrations as the South Sudanese launched a new era.
Delegations from across the globe attended the ceremonies held in the center of Juba. Sudan formally recognized South Sudan and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attended and spoke at the independence ceremonies. After signing the new constitution, Kiir took the oath of office followed by the playing of the national anthem.
In a week, South Sudan is expected to become the 193rd nation recognized by the United Nations and the 54th U.N.-member nation from Africa.