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South Sudan: Joy and challenges as statehood beckons

South Sudan: Joy and challenges as statehood beckons
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A massive vote for independence in Southern Sudan has opened the door to the creation of Africa’s newest state.

Hard work lies ahead to make that a reality but, for a people still suffering the effects of a devastating civil war, hope now lies ahead.

“From today onwards, this flag is going to go up,” said Juba resident Santino Riach Makel, proudly holding the south’s new colours.

“This flag, which is the South Sudanese flag, and the national anthem is going to be sung by everyone. So I am feeling very happy. I am one of the orphans and widows are here, celebrating here, right now. All of these people are victims of the war.”

Nearly 99 percent of southern voters chose to break away from the north in a poll agreed in the 2005 peace deal that ended the conflict. But where does the South go from here?

Jennifer Cooke of the Centre for Strategic International Studies said: “Southern Sudan is really building a new state from scratch – very little capacity within the government, some very smart people at the top levels – but in terms of the broader government, very little capacity. And massive development challenges.”

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he accepts the result, easing fears the split could reignite conflict over control of southern oil reserves. But the international community will have to dig deep to develop the south, which is due to go it alone in July.