The new Republic of South Sudan enters the world with great economic potential but faces huge challenges in its quest for peace and prosperity.
The country possesses large oil reserves that made the former unified Sudan the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
Its population – estimated at between 8 million and 13 million – is strongly united in favor of independence. In January, 98 percent of voters chose to split from the north, with whom the south fought a 21-year war.
But the new nation has been wracked with violence in recent months. The United Nations estimates that more than 2,300 south Sudanese have died in tribal and rebel violence this year. At least seven rebel militias operate on southern territory.
In addition, the country could plunge back into war with the north unless the sides can settle disputes over the Abyei region and how to share oil revenue.
South Sudan is also one of the least developed countries on the planet. The capital, Juba, has only a few dozen kilometers of paved roads, and most of the country’s people cannot read.
Despite the obstacles, southern Sudanese are hopeful for their country, and tens if not hundreds of thousands are expected to take part in the independence celebrations.
South Sudan became Africa’s and the world’s newest nation on Saturday.