“South Sudan Oyee!! South Sudan Oyee!” The joyful call and response of cheers for the world’s newest nation filled the entire Washington, D.C., street last Saturday morning. Members of the South Sudan community and diaspora gathered in front of the new Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan for a morning full of dancing, clapping, singing, and widespread embraces to welcome their new nation. Others—including families, journalists, activists, passersby, supporters, and ambassadors—also joined the ceremony and festivities.
A man in military uniform shouted, “Happy Birthday, South Sudan!” as he led the opening celebrations to the flag raising ceremony. “When the music part comes,” he instructed the crowd, “make sure you can sing, or at least go with the flow. Make some noises!”
The crowd erupted with laughter and praise; this was a day that many thought might never come. Individuals stepped up to the podium to offer remarks. “The war is over! The hunger is over! The suffering is over! This is our victory!” And although the new nation of South Sudan and its people still face many challenges, this was a day for celebration.
At 11 a.m., an eager silence fell over the crowd as the new flag of South Sudan was proudly raised towards the sky. Women moved towards the flagpole, reaching out to touch it while crying tears of staggering relief and poignant exaltation. The crowd joined in singing the nation’s new national anthem, followed by ‘The Star Spangled Banner” to honor the United States as the host country of the celebration.
To welcome the new country into the international community, ambassadors from nations around the world made congratulatory speeches to express their continued solidarity and support, among which included: Egypt, Liberia, Turkey, Chad, Chile, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Kenya. A representative from the U.S. State Department read a statement from President Obama: “Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn.”
The ambassador of Sudan extended his gratitude to the international community members who have contributed to the peace process and pledged that the government of Sudan will continue to cooperate with South Sudan.
The words of the ambassadors were moving and met with great appreciation. The ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo remarked, “It is easy to give birth. It is much more difficult to raise a child,” calling upon the international community to grant its support, protection, and guidance towards the new nation. After more joyous dancing led by women in traditional South Sudanese clothing, the ceremony concluded with a reception and an invitation for everyone to tour the new embassy.