JUBA, South Sudan, July 9 (UPI) -- South Sudan became the world's newest country Saturday with raucous celebrations and ceremonies in the capital, Juba.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was among international officials on hand to mark the new independence for the African state, CNN said.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the birth of the new nation on behalf of Americans.
"Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. "A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn.
"These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people. The eyes of the world are on the Republic of South Sudan. And we know that southern Sudanese have claimed their sovereignty, and shown that neither their dignity nor their dream of self-determination can be denied."
Obama went on to "the Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be fully implemented, the status of Abyei must be resolved through negotiations, and violence and intimidation in Southern Kordofan, especially by the government of Sudan, must end."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it a "historic day is a testament to the tireless efforts of the people of South Sudan in their search for peace."
"We commend South Sudan's current leaders, including President Salva Kiir Mayardit, for helping guide Southern Sudan to this moment," Clinton said in a statement release by the State Department. "And we recognize the determination and courage of the many southern Sudanese who never abandoned their hope that peace was possible and who stood in long lines on Jan. 9 to cast their votes."
She said the United States "will remain a steadfast partner" with South Sudan as it works to surmount the challenges facing it "build a free, democratic and inclusive society."
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir also arrived from Khartoum to establish diplomatic relations with the new South Sudan government.
Bashir's government and the new government have yet to formalize exact borders and rights to oil resources.
The new country is about the size of Texas and is religiously composed of mostly animists and Christians, while Sudan is predominantly Arab-Muslim. Fighting between the north and south traces back to the mid-1950s and at least 2 million people were killed in the violence, the BBC said. Several internationally brokered peace agreements did little to end the conflict.
In January, a referendum for independence in the South was overwhelmingly approved in favor of dividing Africa's largest country in half.
However, the new country faces significant challenges, as it is markedly much poorer than the North. CNN said few roads are paved and water and sewage infrastructure is poor, and poverty and illiteracy are widespread.