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South Sudan Prepares For Independence

Soldiers of the Sudan People's Liberation Army march during a rehearsal for independence celebrations in the southern capital of Juba, July 5, 2011

The spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) says there is “unbridled” euphoria as the public gets ready to celebrate the birth of a new nation.

Yien Matthew Chol said Saturday’s declaration of independence shows that South Sudanese can govern themselves and contribute to the prosperity of humanity.

“[The people of] Juba… have never been [so] happy. Not only in Juba but also in so many other places,” said Chol.

He added that people are brimming with confidence and anticipation as independence day draws near.

New hotels and other facilities have been built to accommodate foreign dignitaries and the scores of people who will participate in Saturday’s ceremony, said Chol, adding that the SPLM began planning for the celebrations after southerners voted overwhelmingly for separation in a referendum last January.

“All preparations have been made. The venue is ready and advance teams from many different countries, approximately about 139 [people], arrived about a week ago, confirming that their delegations will come,” said Chol.

He said 30 heads of state have confirmed their attendance.

One of them is President Omar al-Bashir, who plans to be there despite the tension and fighting between Khartoum and the new state.

Some analysts say his presence could be uncomfortable for some of the victims of the decades-long civil war between the north and the south.

Chol said the separation of the two Sudans can be attributed to what he described as the bad policies of the northern government.

“It is a message for him [Bashir],” said Chol. “Once he comes this way, he will really understand that it is because of his wrong policies that our peoples are separated.”

He said South Sudan will promote good neighborliness in East Africa.

“[We] will contribute effectively in building and keeping peace in the region,” said Chol. “But we [also] believe the future is going to bring …economic and security challenges.”

Despite the separation of the two Sudans, the historical ties between peoples of the two countries “can never be forgotten,” said Chol.