5 July 2011 - Thousands of Juba residents today witnessed the final rehearsal parade ahead of Southern Sudan's independence celebrations, scheduled for 9 July.
The colorful parade included military, police, prisons, wildlife service and fire brigade officers. School children and members of the civil service also joined the march through the streets of Juba to the Dr. John Garang mausoleum, where the celebrations will be held.
There was also a flag-raising exercise, with Sudan's flag being lowered and the flag of the Republic of South Sudan raised. The new nation's national anthem was also played with a twenty-one gun salute.
Emotions were high at the celebration grounds, where some people expressed their happiness by ululating and others by beating drums and dancing.
"I am very happy today, said student Aken Santo Deng. "That day (9 July), I will sleep on the streets here. I cannot go home because we have been waiting for so long, so many years and we lost many people. So this day is a very important day for us Southern Sudanese."
"I have prepared myself today, I want to come and perform our traditional dance at the mausoleum where the flag will be raised," said another resident, Elizabeth Yaar. "I want the world to see out traditional dance."
The celebration is slated to start at midnight on Friday 8 July. Church bells will ring and drums will be beaten to mark the historical transition from Southern Sudan to the Republic of South Sudan.
"The flag will be raised and the Sudanese flag will be brought down," said Barnaba Southern Sudan's Minister for Information Benjamin Marial. "There will be, of course, the signing of the transitional constitution by the president and then president (Salva Kiir) will take an oath as the first president of the Republic of South Sudan."
"President Bashir is expected to make his statement finally as the president of the Republic of the Sudan, with his national anthem playing for the last time in Southern Sudan," he added.
An estimated 3,500 dignitaries are expected from around the world to take part in the celebrations. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, will be among key speakers at the independence ceremony.