9 July 2011 - As South Sudanese independence celebrations kicked off in the capital of Juba, heads of state continued arriving at Juba International Airport, where they received a warm welcome by the government and residents of the world’s newest nation.
Dozens of commercial jets and others with national flags landed at the city’s newly renovated airport, which witnessed it busiest ever moment to the backdrop of a reception ceremony and marching band.
North Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir, who was received by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, as well as heads of state from Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon and Ethiopia were among dignitaries who arrived Saturday morning.
Delegations from the United States, China, India, Malaysia, Italy, Turkey and Qatar and others from around the world also arrived to congratulate the new nation on its Independence Day.
Outside the airport, cultural groups in traditional Bari outfits sang both to welcome the guests and to express their delight at the historic day.
At Juba Teaching Hospital, nurses celebrated what they said was a “long-awaited special day” on hospital premises in their uniforms. They would have been happier to join the crowd at John Garang Memorial, where independence celebrations were being held, but had to look after their patients, the nurses said.
“This is a day that shapes the future of our children so that they can leave in peace, go to school and enjoy a better life,” said nurse Jaclyn Mathew. “We suffered a lot during the war. We lost our brothers and fathers and I believe this will not (occur in the new nation).”
Shops and business centres around Juba were closed. Areas like Juba Town, Kongo Kongo, Melekia and others far from the celebration were quiet with few people on the streets.
Closer to the celebration, many people carried the new South Sudan flag and sang happily walking to or from the celebration. As the heat increased after mid-day, most people returned from the historic event, still singing and chanting.