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South Sudan Shrugs off Gloom to Celebrate Year of Freedom

Dancing and singing, South Sudanese on Monday put aside dire warnings over the stability and economic viability of their fledgling nation, the world's newest, to celebrate its first year of

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قديم 07-10-2012, 04:43 PM
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افتراضي South Sudan Shrugs off Gloom to Celebrate Year of Freedom

Dancing and singing, South Sudanese on Monday put aside dire warnings over the stability and economic viability of their fledgling nation, the world's newest, to Celebrate its first Year of independence, reports AFP.

Celebrations began at midnight as crowds took to the streets of the capital Juba, with people crammed into cars driving around the city and honking horns to mark the first anniversary since separating from former civil war foes Sudan.

"We have fought for our right to be counted among the community of the free nations and we have earned it," South Sudanese President Salva Kiir told a crowd of several thousand, gathered in the baking sun for hours at a military parade.

Grossly impoverished South Sudan has spent the past Year wracked by border wars with the rump state of Sudan, as well as internal violence and the shutdown of its vital oil production in a bitter dispute with Khartoum.

But Kiir, speaking at the grave of the late rebel leader John Garang, said the fledgling nation must do more to cut corruption, and learn to step away from the massive donor support that props up the war-ravaged country.

"To the extent that we still depend on others, our liberty today is incomplete," Kiir told the flag-waving thousands. "We must be more than liberated, we have to be independent economically." Crowds cheered as dancers and military bands played music, while army helicopters flew over trailing giant South Sudan flags.

"Today is the day we Celebrate when the people came out from the Arabs and liberated themselves," said Michael Kenyi Benjamin, a student, as a dancer dressed as a white dove of peace raised cheers from the flag-waving crowd.

While massive steps forward have been made, South Sudan remains one of the world's poorest countries, where even the most basic infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and water distribution networks, is lacking.

The early euphoria of independence on July 9, 2011, has since given way to a harsh reality. "Next year, when we Celebrate the same occasion, we must be in a better shape than we are today," Kiir added. Khartoum's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahudin Wanasy Mohammed Khair attended the celebrations, congratulating the South on its independence in a speech that was received with muted response.

Kiir said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir -- the first to recognise the nation last Year -- had turned down his invitation to attend the military march.

Tension remains high with Khartoum after heavy border fighting in March and April along oil-rich disputed frontier regions, and officials held out collection boxes at the ceremony to raise funds for frontline troops.

"We have lost many of our comrades and today we are thinking of them," said James Hoth, chief of staff of the South's army, recalling both those who died in the decades of civil war with Khartoum, as well as clashes earlier this year.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the crowd he understood the struggle with "the short man from Khartoum" and that South Sudan's "sisters and brothers" in Uganda would support them.

Other guests included former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating slow-moving AU-led talks between Sudan and South Sudan.

South Sudan Shrugs off Gloom to Celebrate Year of Freedom


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