South Sudan’s flag raised at independence ceremony
Will Ross describes the scene as the South Sudanese flag is raised in Juba
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have watched the raising of the new country’s flag at an independence ceremony in the capital, Juba.
Salva Kiir signed the constitution and took his oath of office in front of the jubilant crowds, becoming president of the world’s newest nation.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were among dignitaries watching the events.
Sudan earlier became the first state to officially recognise its new neighbour.
The world’s newest nation was born at midnight local South Sudanese time (2100 GMT), the climax of a process made possible by the 2005 peace deal that ended a long civil war.
The south’s independence follows decades of conflict with the north in which some 1.5 million people died.
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At the scene
Peter MartellBBC News, Juba
A sea of people filled Freedom Square in Juba, next to the mausoleum of the late John Garang, the rebel leader who led the South Sudanese during the civil war. They waved flags and screamed in happiness as South Sudan officially became with world’s newest nation.
The wild crowds surged forward, dancing for hours in the baking sun. Several people fainted in the heat but the mood was ecstatic. When the giant flag of South Sudan rose on the 30m flagpole, men cried, women ululated and thousands waved flags in a blur of colour.
A host of world leaders spoke on the podium, but the real party was at the back of the site where thousands danced to traditional drum beats.
Saturday’s independence ceremony was held at the mausoleum of the late rebel leader John Garang, who died just months after signing the peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running conflict.
The BBC’s Will Ross in Juba says people flocked to the event on a baking hot day – some of them climbing trees to get a view.
The Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, read out the Proclamation of the Independence.
Crowds then cheered as Sudan’s national flag was lowered and the new flag of South Sudan was raised as trumpets played the new national anthem.
Afterwards the master of ceremonies told the crowd that President Kiir has decided not to hand over the flag of the Republic of Sudan.
“It shall be kept in the archives of South Sudan in recognition of the common history that we have lived together,” he told the crowd.
Our correspondent says people in the crowds said it was a moment to celebrate but they were also talking about the many lost relatives who died during the war.
“Our martyrs did not die in vain… We have waited for more than 56 years for this day,” President Kiir said.
“It is a day that will be forever engraved on our hearts and minds,” he added, before extending an amnesty to those who have taken up arms against the government of South Sudan.
There are at least seven active rebel groups in the south, one of the many challenges the new country faces.
Mr Bashir, who agreed the 2005 peace deal with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), also spoke at the ceremony congratulating his “southern brothers”.
“The will of the people of the south has to be respected,” he said, adding that he hoped the south’s independence would lead the US to lift sanctions against his country.
Other dignitaries attending the celebrations included former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice.