8 July 2011

South Sudan: UN Chief, Bashir Expected to Attend Celebrations

Juba — Thousands of people in South Sudan on Friday thronged churches and public squares to light candles and say prayers to mark the official birth of the new nation this Saturday.

At 10 am this morning, the Speaker of the South Sudan Parliament, James Wani Igga, will proclaim the independence of South Sudan.

The flag of the old Sudan will then be lowered, and the flag of the new Republic of South Sudan will be raised.President Omar Al-Bahsir is expected to attend and witness the raising of the flag of the new nation among other leaders and Heads of State.

This has stirred heated debate both in the North and South, with Bashir's aides denying that the South has sent any official invitation to Bashir.

Bahsir is wanted by the international Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.Some 30 African Heads of State, leaders of regional and multi-lateral organizations as well as foreign ministers are exxpected to attend the independence cerebrations.

Also expected is the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President of the UN General Assembly, AU Chairman and IGAD, Arab League, European Union and government representatives from Asia are on the main speakers' list.

Countries that have sent high profile delegations include Zimbabwe, Malawi, Denmark, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Kenya, Swaziland, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Liberia, Namibia, People's Republic of China, Brazil, Poland, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Serbia and Eritrea, among others.

"At midnight last night, bells were rung throughout the new nation and drums sounded, to mark the historic final break of South Sudan from the North. The new republic of South Sudan becomes the world's 193rd country," Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the Minister of Information said.

Security has been beefed up throughout the land to ensure that the cerebrations run smoothly. "We are working hard to ensure that Juba is secure ," said the Inspector General of Police, Acuil Tito Madut.

The country's police force, prison, wildlife staff and fire brigade have been put on high alert to ensure security.

The independence of South Sudan is part of a painstaking peace deal signed in Naivasha, Kenya, which ended decades of civil strife that pitted the largely Muslim North against the Christian/animist South in a conflict fueled by religion, ethnicity and resources.

The agreement which expires today, provided for the January 9 Referendum in which the South chose by 98.83% of the votes cast to secede from the North and establish the new sovereign state of South Sudan.

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