Published: Jul 8, 2011 20:47 Updated: Jul 8, 2011 20:47
KHARTOUM/JUBA: Sudan became the first state to recognize the independence of its oil-producing south on Friday, smoothing the way for the division on Saturday of Africa’s largest country into two.
Underdeveloped South Sudan secedes Saturday — a hard-won separation that comes as the climax of an internationally brokered 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war.
“The Republic of Sudan declares that it recognizes the state of South Sudan from July 9,” Khartoum’s Minister for Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh announced on state television.
The UN Security Council voted Friday to establish a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan. The new mission, called UNMISS, calls for up to 7,000 UN peacekeepers and an additional 900 civilian police for South Sudan. The vote to adopt the resolution was unanimous.
However, Khartoum has made clear it is against a continuing UN peacekeeping presence, which has caused concerns about what will happen to strife-torn Southern Kordofan region and other areas. The current UNMIS mission, which monitors compliance with the 2005 peace deal, is set to end with the south’s secession.
Looming independence already sparked celebrations across the south — and in large diaspora southern communities from the United States to Australia. Dancers decked in South Sudanese flags and leopard-print trousers marched through the streets of the ramshackle southern capital Juba on Friday, counting down the hours until Sudan split into two states.
“I’m very happy for the independence,” said Gabriel Yaac, 38, in central Juba.
“There is nothing bad in the future. If you are alone in your house you can manage your own things. No one will interrupt you.”
The new Republic of South Sudan will take around 75 percent of the country’s known oil reserves with it when it goes — depriving the Khartoum government of more than a third of its national revenues, the northern finance minister said last month.