Women dance in the streets of Juba Friday, on the eve of South Sudan’s independence. STORY HIGHLIGHTS
- NEW: Khartoum recognizes the sovereignty of the South, within the 1956 borders
- NEW: Those borders put the contested region of Abyei in the north
- South Sudan is to become the world’s newest country on Saturday
- A new U.N. peacekeeping mission will step in
Juba, Sudan (CNN) — Sudan officially recognized Friday the sovereignty of South Sudan, set to secede and become the world’s newest nation after midnight.
"The Republic of the Sudan announces its acknowledgement of the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan as a sovereign state within the 1956 boundaries," announced Bakri Hassan Salih, minister for presidential affairs.
The reference to the 1956 boundaries, however, was controversial because that puts the contested region of Abyei in the north.
The region, the size of Connecticut, is home to the Ngok Dinka people, who are closely allied with the South, but it also serves as grazing grounds for northern Misseriya tribes.
Smooth transition for split Sudan Awaiting independence in Africa U.S. involvement in South Sudan enough?
It was a battleground for decades in the brutal civil war fought between northern and southern forces. A referendum on whether the area should be part of the north or the South has been delayed over disagreement over who is eligible to vote.
In recent weeks fighting has erupted in Abyei again, sparking fears of another war and marring preparations for the celebrations of South Sudan’s coming independence, under way in the new nation’s capital, Juba.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to send up to 7,000 peacekeepers and 900 uniformed police to the new country of South Sudan.
The mandate of the previous U.N. mission runs out Saturday with South Sudan’s independence and the peacekeepers will be a part of a new operation for the global body.
The Security Council is expected to meet again July 13 to discuss U.N. membership for the new nation.
In Juba, the mood was jubilant Friday, despite the bloodshed in Abyei and in oil-rich South Kordofan, a state in the north where many people are allied with the South.
The final bricks have been laid on the path leading through the parade ground, the flags raised half way.
Only foot traffic was allowed in the perimeter of the celebration site. Cars were waved away by sunglass-wearing soldiers.
The airport has also been closed to commercial flights to allow for the arrival of expected dignitaries who will bear witness Saturday to the birth of this new nation.
South Sudan natives voted overwhelmingly in January for independence. The referendum to split was part of a 2005 peace deal aimed at ending the decades of violence between the two sides.
The two countries look set to divorce in name only. There are no agreements on the borders, the oil, or even the status of their respective citizens.
But Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is still expected in Juba on Saturday, a gesture of pragmatism and what his office is calling a hope for brotherly relations.
The South, in turn, is responding with equal grace, reserving for him an entrance separate from other dignitaries as the anthem of the Republic of Sudan plays on sovereign soil for the last time.