Juba, July 9 (IANS): South Sudan has become the world's newest nation -- 193rd country recognised by the UN and the 54th UN member state in Africa -- after a peace deal that ended a long and bloody civil war, BBC reported on Saturday.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were among international dignitaries attending the celebrations in the capital, Juba. Sudan earlier became the first state to officially recognise its new neighbour.
The south's independence follows decades of conflict with the north in which some 1.5 million people died.
The BBC's Will Ross in Juba said the new country's problems were put aside for the night Friday amid an air of great jubilation.
People were in the streets, cheering, waving South Sudan flags, banging drums and chanting the name of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, he added.
A formal independence ceremony was due to be held later Saturday. The Speaker of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, James Wani Igga, is expected to read out the Proclamation of the Independence of South Sudan at 0845 GMT. Minutes later Sudan's national flag will be lowered and the new flag of South Sudan will be raised.
In addition to Bashir and Ban, attendees will include former US secretary of state Colin Powell, the US permanent representative to the UN, Susan Rice, and the head of the US military's Africa Command, Gen Carter Ham, BBC said.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a referendum was held on independence, which was favoured by more than 99 percent of voters.
The new country is rich in oil, but one of the least developed countries in the world, where one in seven children dies before the age of five.
Unresolved disputes between the north and south, particularly over the new border, have also raised the possibility of renewed conflict.
On Friday, Sudan's Minister of Presidential Affairs, Bakri Hassan Saleh, announced that it recognised "the Republic of South Sudan as an independent state, according to the borders existing Jan 1, 1956", when Sudan gained independence from Britain.
Celebrations in Juba began at midnight (2100 GMT). A countdown clock in the city centre reached zero and the new national anthem was played on television.