South Sudan Readies for Independence

Posted July 8th, 2011 at 8:55 am (UTC-5)
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Performers are dancing through the streets of Juba while workers sweep and clean, all part of Friday's last minute preparations for the birth of the world's newest county.

The people of South Sudan are counting down the hours until they can mark their independence Saturday with world leaders and other dignitaries looking on. But the festivities belie (run counter to/or contradict) the challenges the new nation will soon face.

South Sudan is still trying to disentangle itself from north Sudan and the two sides have yet to resolve issues on borders and oil revenue. The north's army is currently fighting pro-southern elements in the northern-controlled state of Southern Kordofan.

To help ease a peaceful transition, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution to create a peacekeeping mission for the south. It would call for 7,000 military personnel as well as 900 international police.

Some 30 African heads of state are expected to attend Saturday's independence ceremony, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended in 2005. Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum.

On Thursday, the army of north Sudan demobilized 15,000 troops considered to be southerners at a ceremony in Khartoum.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a smooth secession and an immediate ends to clashes in Southern Kordofan.