Celebrations are getting underway in South Sudan as the region prepares to declare its independence from the north on Saturday.
The secession is part of a peace agreement after Africa’s longest civil war, which lasted nearly half a century.
Hundreds of traditional dancers, together with military parades and marching bands, have been making final preparations for the birth of the new nation.
One of the dancers, John Amuri Rual, called on the estimated 1.5 million southern Sudanese who have been displaced, to begin to return.
He proudly declared, “The war that we fought for 48 years is over. So whoever is in the diaspora should come back and develop our country.”
South Sudan’s relations with the north are still strained. Khartoum is negotiating for a bigger share of the lucrative oil revenue, even though more than 85% of Sudanese oil output is produced in the south.
Meanwhile violence between the Sudanese army and south-friendly rebels continues along its northern border area.
On Saturday, President Salva Kiir will be joined in the new capital Juba by more than 30 African leaders, including Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Organisers are planning Africa’s tallest flag pole as a symbolic gesture to mark the beginning of the world’s youngest nation.