Speaking after he swore an oath as president of Africa’s newest state, Mr. Kiir said the emerging republic would promote security, justice, liberty and prosperity.
“In order to develop our country and deliver on the important aspects of our national development plan, it is critical that we must wipe out corruption,” he said.
Government dignitaries present at the event included Vice-President Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Legislative Assembly Speaker James Wani Igga, President of the Supreme Court Justice John Wol Makec and the widow of Dr John Garang de Mabior, Rebecca de Mabior.
Also attending the celebration were hundreds of foreign heads of state and regional organizations, including the European Union, League of Arab Nations, Inter- Governmental Authority on Development and African Union.
Other dignitaries included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss.
“Today, we open a new chapter – a day when the people of South Sudan claim the freedom and dignity that are their birthright,” Mr. Ban told the gathering.
“Together, we welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the community of nations,” he added. “Together, we affirm our commitment to helping it meet its many responsibilities as a nation.”
Proclaiming the independence of South Sudan, Mr. Wani declared, “We, the democratically elected representatives of the people, based on the will of the people of South Sudan, and as confirmed by the outcome of the referendum of self-determination, hereby declare South Sudan to be an independent and sovereign nation.”
Emotions ran high as the Republic of Sudan’s flag was lowered and that of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) was raised for the first time. The RSS flag was the same one used during the liberation struggle by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army.
“My husband was the first person to raise this flag in Boma Mountain in 1990. I was really touched when this flag was lifted up,” said Bonguot Amum, government Chief Whip and Chairperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Caucus in the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA).
“Though he is dead, I am very happy for the total freedom and liberation of South Sudanese. I want to see united South Sudanese, development, equality, transparency and accountability to our people,” said Ms. Amum.
As the country’s first President, Mr. Kiir signed the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan and then took his oath.
Calling on disputing Ethiopia and Eritrea and war-torn Somalia to find peace, President Kiir promised troubled states of Sudan that they would not be forgotten.
“I want to assure the people of Abyei, Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that we have not forgotten you. When you cry, we cry; when you bleed, we also bleed,” he said.
The atmosphere of the event was punctuated by ululations and the sound of trumpets, with many eager participants pushing to reach the front to view visiting dignitaries.
People waved RSS flags and many wore jackets bearing its colours, despite the intense heat. Several youth had even shaved their hair off and painted their heads with the flag’s colours.
As crowd members witnessed the new nation being born, their comments were various.
“I have waited … for this day to come” said 24-year-old University of Juba student Stephen Kuong. “Now that freedom is here I can celebrate … We have been deprived of freedom for long.”
Some, like 50-year-old Mary Keji, were purely interested in witnessing the event. “I came here at 6.00 this morning because I want to (see) the declaration of South Sudan as a nation. This is what I have been waiting to see in my life.”
Forty-five-year-old Thomas Obura was relieved to actually be present on Independence Day. “I was not sure if I would reach this day. I was born during the war and grew up during the war until the CPA was signed.”
The celebration concluded with a 21-gun salute and the South Sudan national anthem.