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As South Sudan says hello to independence some in north say good riddance

posted 9 Jul 2011, 07:10 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Jul 2011, 07:14 ]

As tens of thousands of South Sudanese celebrate independence -- some of their former countrymen in the north say they're happy to see them go.


As tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on Saturday (July 9), some of their former countrymen in the north were also celebrating.

"We, in the Peace and Justice Forum are happier than the southerners about separation," said Mustafa el-Tayeb, the controversial leader of a campaign group based in the northern capital of Khartoum.

"Why? Because we believe this marks our real independence. The 1956 independence was not a real independence because it was a grouping of antagonistic parties in a marriage of inconvenience. This is why it was a failed marriage. We believe that we have, on this day corrected a historical mistake which occurred when the British decided to include the South to the North," he said.

The under-developed oil-producer won its independence in a January referendum -- the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of fighting with the north -- and tens of thousands were celebrating in the streets of the southern capital of Juba on Saturday (July 9).

But in Khartoum, the capital of the north, the signs of celebration were more subdued.

"We are, we are happy because, we let everything be natural. We let them go, and chose what they like, and I think after this separation, we will live peaceful lives, and we will think deeply about our progression and development and about how to build our country again." said Adil Abbas, a schoolteacher who had lost many of his students after they packed up to head to the south.

North Sudan's Khartoum government was the first to recognise the new state on Friday, hours before the split took place.

But recognition has not dispelled fears of future tensions.

Northern and southern leaders have still not agreed on a list of issues, most importantly the line of the border, the ownership of the disputed Abyei region and how they will handle oil revenues, the lifeblood of both economies.

At the stroke of midnight the Republic of Sudan lost almost a third of its territory and about three quarters of its oil reserves, which are sited in the south.

The United Nations Security Council voted on Friday to establish a force of up to 7,000 peacekeepers for South Sudan.

Mostly Muslim Sudan and South Sudan, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs, fought each other for all but a few years since the 1950s in civil wars fuelled by ethnicity, religion, oil and ideology.