On July 9th 2011, South Sudan formally proclaimed its independence. In the capital Juba, in front of a cheering crowd, it officially announced the birth of the new African State, followed by the oath of office uttered by the new president of the republic, Salva Kiir. After last January's referendum, in which the people of South Sudan gave unanimous support to secession, South Sudan, with a Christian and animist majority, separated from the Muslim North. The secession came after fifty years of wars between Southern rebels and the Sudanese central government in Khartoum that caused the death of millions of people.

The ceremony was attended by 80 foreign delegations and by about 30 heads of state, including the president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir. Yet, his presence and his recognition of the new neighboring State did not wipe out the tensions over the relations between North and South Sudan: the two sides have still to find an agreement on vital issues resolution of which is urgent.

No final agreement has yet been reached on the tracing of a border line separating the two countries: most of the oil reserves lie in the contested areas. With independence, South Sudan acquired about one third of the surface of the parent country but also 75% of the oil reserves of the region. Although oil fields are mostly in the South, refineries and pipelines are only in the North. This does not mean that the two parties need one another; South Sudan plans to have its own pipeline for exporting purposes. "It will be quite easy to have our own pipelines," said South Sudan Minister of Transports Anthony Makana, adding that arrangements for their construction are in the making.

Abiyei, the contested region

A day after South Sudan's independence, during an interview with the BBC's program, "Hardtalk," Al-Bashir said that the disputed oil rich region of Abyei, a border area claimed by both north and south, is a source of potential conflict and that hostilities could be renewed. The Sudanese President then added that Abyei is part of Sudan and could only join the south with the "approval of nomadic Arab tribes in a future referendum" -- an unlikely scenario.

Abyei is inhabited by members of the African southern tribe of the Ngok Dinka, but the Northern and Arabic tribe of the Misseriya also exploits those lands to feed cattle. Abiyei along with the bordering state of Southern Kordofan have been at the center of heavy clashes between and North and the South, which lead to the displacement of thousands of people. During the independence ceremony, Salva Kiir said: "I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry. When you bleed, we bleed."

The "African Yugoslavia"

The future of this region remains uncertain. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged North and South to resume peace talks. Northern Sudan does not want to give up southern oil rich regions, while he also keeps on fueling the conflict on the west side of Sudan: Darfur. Talha Gibriel, a prominent Sudanese intellectual, said that Sudan is doomed to be the "African Yugoslavia;" that it cannot survive as one single State, as it is a country with Arabs, Africans, several ethnic groups, religions, and over 200 dialects. "Since our Independence in 1956 from the British Empire, Sudan has failed to build national unity; in fact we are not one nation. We have become one country only because the British Empire decided our borders, but the reality on the ground is another one. The other main problem causing conflicts in the country is the lack of democracy. The government in Khartoum thinks that using power will give stability to the country. However, the regime has never taken into consideration that democracy and the use of dialogue could be the solution to the crisis in the Sudan," Gibriel said. Following the principle of the "African Yugolsavia," the independence of South Sudan might inspire other Sudanese regions such as Darfur to follow the same path towards secession and free themselves from the rule of Khartoum.

Future of South Sudan

There is much hope in the birth of South Sudan, but many challenges are awaiting this new African State. The Qatari channel, Al-Jazeera, reported that South Sudan not only has to face tensions with the North, but also inside its own borders. The new state will not just have to build new infrastructures, a new economy and deal with law and order issues, but also to find solutions for power struggles among South Sudan's 60 ethnic groups. One of the most difficult challenges of the South Sudan president Salva Kiir, from the Dinka tribe, will be to create a national unity and work toward bringing together all the tribes in the country. "You may be a Zande, Kakwa, Lutugo, Nuer, Dinka or Shiluk, said Kiir at his swearing-in ceremony, "but first remember yourself as a South Sudanese. There will be equal access to existing opportunities for all."

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