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South Sudan gains its independence

EXCITED: Sudanese hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal

THE WORLD celebrates the birth of its newest country tomorrow (July 9) as the Republic of South Sudan declares its independence from the north.

Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir and dignitaries from around the world will attend tomorrow’s celebrations in the southern capital, Juba.

Back in January a referendum saw more than 99 percent of southerners voted to split from the north of Sudan.

The split was agreed upon as part of the 2005 peace deal with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to end the two-decade civil war in which some 1.5 million people died.

Despite being rich in oil, South Sudan is one of the least developed countries in the world following the long conflict.

Earlier this week, Mr Bashir pledged his support to the new country and said he wanted South Sudan to be "secure and stable".

He told the BBC: “We will bless our brothers in the south over their country and we wish them success."

The predominately Muslim north and the south must still decide on vital issues such as drawing up the new border and how to divide Sudan's debts and oil wealth. At present, the revenues are being shared equally.

Citizenship is also a key issue which has not yet been decided.

According to the state-run Sudan Radio, the citizenship of South Sudanese people living in the north has now been revoked.

It is estimated thousands of southern Sudanese civil servants working in the north have had to leave their jobs ahead of the split.

Hip-hop artist and a South Sudan native, Emmanuel Jal, who was just eight years old when he was recruited by the rebel army in southern Sudan to fight against the government in Khartoum, said he could hardly contain his excitement, calling it “too good to be true.”

He said: “At least now I am not going to be a refugee. I am going to be a citizen now and have a country I can identify myself with.”

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