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Saturday
Jul092011

South Sudan: Amid Violence, a New Nation Is Born

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(KHARTOUM) -- The Republic of South Sudan is entering the world as its 193rd nation with an overjoyed population that views this moment of freedom as decades in the making.

Officials from all over the globe are taking part in the celebrations Saturday. Even the Vatican has sent a representative. The United States has also sent a high-profile delegation led by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Colin Powell.

South Sudan has gained its independence just six years after ending a bloody civil war with the north that killed more than two million people.

The United States has been involved in the Sudanese peace process for many years. In 2005, George Bush sent Powell, then the U.S. secretary of state, to the region to broker a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the 20-year conflict and begin the road to independence for the south. In the years since, two U.S. administrations have worked to make sure the independence referendum was held without a hitch, appointing special envoys to the region and being intimately involved in the delicate negotiations that followed.

But after the party is over, real questions remain about just how viable this new country will be. Decades of war have left the region as one of the world's poorest. Roughly the size of Texas, South Sudan has less than 100 miles of paved roads, and basic infrastructure such as electricity and water are scarce. It also has an illiteracy rate of more than 70 percent and one of the highest infant mortality rates in Africa.

Since the referendum in January, the young nation has also been dealing with thousands of returnees from the north and abroad without the resources to support them.

For all the bleak indicators, the people of South Sudan, who voted almost unanimously for independence, remain hopeful. They say that even with all of the problems, freedom from Khartoum's repressive regime now gives South Sudan the chance to determine it's own destiny. A right it hasn't had for more than 50 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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