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South Sudan Celebrates First Independence Day

  • Gabe Joselow

Members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) march during celebrations to mark the first anniversary of South Sudan's independence in Juba, July 9, 2012.

Members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) march during celebrations to mark the first anniversary of South Sudan's independence in Juba, July 9, 2012.

People in South Sudan have celebrated in the capital Juba and elsewhere to mark the country's first year as an independent nation. The last 12 months have not been easy on the new state, as lingering disputes with its northern neighbor have led to violent confrontations along the border and an economic stand-off over oil.

In an address Monday at the John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said the country still has more work to do to become self-sufficient, after declaring independence a year ago.

“Our liberty today is incomplete, we must be more than liberated if we are to be independent economically,” he said.

South Sudan's economy has been dependent on oil, which accounts for 98 percent of the country's revenues.

The country has suffered since deciding to cut off oil production in January to protest against high fees Sudan was charging for use of its pipelines and port, which the south relies on for exporting.

Inflation has skyrocketed as a result of the loss of foreign revenue, and has pushed up the cost of living, including food prices.

Kiir stressed the need for the country to grow more of its own food to become more economically independent.

"It is my belief that by 2015 we will be self-sufficient in food production," he said. "If we achieve that, then everything will be possible in South Sudan."

A recent World Food Program assessment shows 4.9 million people, about half of the population of South Sudan, will be food insecure this year.

The international aid agency Oxfam says the economic conditions are making it more expensive and difficult to provide humanitarian assistance to some 170,000 refugees in the country, and others in need.

Meantime, tensions remain high along the border with Sudan.

In April, South Sudanese forces attacked and briefly occupied the oil town of Heglig, controlled by Sudan, but claimed by both sides. The fighting brought the two countries close to the brink of war.

An African Union panel mediating talks on the disputes between the two sides has made little progress.

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